Jukes: People lose jobs and it’s sickening

Danny Tickle is dejected

Leigh boss Neil Jukes questioned how the Million Pound Game could sit with rugby league’s policy on mental health.

Tears were shed from both sets of players after Catalans Dragons’ 26-10 victory over Leigh which preserved their Super League status and sent their opponents back down to the Championship.

Both coaches, Jukes and Steve McNamara, condemned the concept of the Million Pound Game which was introduced three years ago as part of the move to restore promotion and relegation to the game.

Jukes said: “This was all about not losing a game. The uncertainty surrounding this situation is ridiculous.

“You talk a lot about player welfare and mental health but that comes around job security so this is hypocritical of what we stand for.

“There’s got to be a way for clubs to get up but ultimately people lose jobs and that’s sickening. There are guys in the changing room who are tough men and they’re crying.”

Although Leigh owner Derek Beaumont has pledged to top up the reduced £750,000 central funding in order to maintain a full-time club in the Championship, Jukes expects to lose players following their relegation.

“No doubt the agents will be back on because I know they’ve been touted out to other clubs,” he said. “We’ll have to see who wants to stay. It’s an absolute minefield.

“We’ll just have to regroup and probably look at doing what Hull KR did last year.”

The Dragons, embroiled in a relegation fight despite finishing three places off the bottom of Super League, salvaged their spot with a second-half fightback highlighted by a brace of tries from full-back Lewis Tierney, but the celebrations were muted.

“There’s lots of tears in the dressing room,” McNamara said. “They’re tears of relief, there was a release of a huge amount of tension from everybody involved.

“I thought our players showed huge respect at the end of the game and I was pleased about that.

“We probably produced our best performance of the season under the most extreme pressure.”

Although the Million Pound Game once more generated an enormous amount of interest, McNamara and Jukes both called for the concept to be scrapped.

“If you want promotion and relegation, take the gloves off and have no salary cap,” McNamara said. “Let the clubs spend what they want.”

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