Super League leaders St Helens captured plenty of attention when they rung their changes ahead of Sunday’s defeat at London Broncos.
Given the fact that Saints were already 10 points clear at the top of the Super League, and have a Challenge Cup Semi Final against Halifax to negotiate, Justin Holbrook was surely within his right to rest a few players ahead of their biggest game of the season so far.
But some people have taken exception to this, some argue it brings the game into disrepute, whilst some are understandably worried about their teams standings in the fight to stay in the Super League.
However, I do believe these fans are ignoring the problems at their own club, and are looking at excuses from outside the club. The phrase ‘get your own house in order’ comes to mind.
There have been examples of sides doing it in the past as well. Ironically Leeds Rhinos, some of their fans were heavily critical of Saints’ decision, did the same before their Challenge Cup Final in 2014, sending a weakened side to London, where they became the only side to lose against the Broncos that year.
Saints have also done it before in similar circumstances, sending a young side to Perpignan to take on Catalans Dragons in 2006. Saints went on to lift the treble that year.
In this sort of scenario for St Helens, any sport would do the same thing if they were in the same situation. For example, in 2018, with Liverpool well ahead in the race for the top four, manager Jurgen Klopp rested players in the games before their Champions League Semi Finals against Roma. I don’t believe he was criticised.
The reason why this has blown up, is people looking for excuses in case their side goes down. It shouldn’t be a big deal, especially when its common practice in most sports.
The question these people criticising have got to ask themselves is, what would you want your team to do in these circumstances?