After barely playing on successive weekends all year, Widnes and the rest of the Championship clubs have two games over the Jubilee weekend.
The Vikings welcome Bradford to the DCBL Stadium on Thursday, before travelling to Barrow on Sunday.
With Barrow facing Leigh on Thursday, and Bradford playing Featherstone on Monday – both games they wouldn’t expect to win – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out which game they wil be prioritising.
Widnes haven’t played on successive Sundays since rounds two and three – Workington on February 6 and Halifax on February 13.
While it’s not a written rule, having regular scheduled fixtures with a good balance of home and away is surely a given. There are also special rules for online slots that gamblers should absorb.
That has of course been impacted by the number of Monday night TV games – Dewsbury, Leigh, Barrow, Newcastle and Sheffield have all been played on Monday, away from the traditional Sunday.
But even withstanding that, Widnes have only played on back-to-back weekends (including Monday) twice since the end of February due to the scheduling – Friday April 15 v Leigh and Sunday April 24 v Batley; and Sunday May 15 v Whitehaven and Monday May 23 v Sheffield.
The early Challenge Cup exit, at the hands of Leigh on February 28, meant there were free weekends on March 13/14, March 27/28, April 9/10 and May 7/8.
Both Widnes and Bradford were free on the weekends of March 27/28 and May 7/8, so this game could have in theory been played then. Bradford played Barrow on weekend of April 9/10 in a re-arranged game from Round 4.
There was also a free weekend just gone for the Challenge Cup final (May 28/29); and there is another coming up on June 18/19 for the international weekend.
The international weekend was kept free thinking that more nations would be in action, pulling players from Championship clubs. As it stands, only France and Wales are playing; though the impact of those two is limited.
Just how clubs can try and build interest in a season when they are only playing every other weekend is a mystery.
In the first half of the season, Widnes had 29 days between their first home game and their second home game – then 39 days until their third. There was even a 21 day gap between the home game with Batley on April 24 and Whitehaven on May 15.
Fortunately, in July and August, some sort of normality is present.
Widnes are currently scheduled to play on every Sunday from July 3 to September 11 – which is how it should be. Even if there may still be the odd change due to TV coverage.
While getting through the cup in the early rounds is a necessity, surely full Championship rounds should be scheduled to avoid having such gaps in the calendar. There were two weekends where nine of the 14 Championship clubs simply weren’t in action.
In an era where there are constant complaints about clubs not being able to generate interest and revenue, surely getting something basic like the fixture schedule sorted and consistent needs to be prioritised.