Rugby League, like all sports, can be repetitive. Repetitiveness does not, however, equal tedium.
There is short-term repetitiveness: five drives and a kick, for instance. There’s the team that loses every week, the team that wins every week, the coach who always blows up about the referee.
But there is also repetitiveness that spans years, or decades, or generations. Our minds don’t process these things as monotonous because we see things in terms of our own lifespans. We see them as “cycles”.
Perhaps in the view of the central character of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil”, the entire history of Rugby League would seem like a single set of six.
One of the cycles we see in rugby league equates to the old saying “you’ve got to lose one to win one”. There is a deep-seated belief that no matter how well a team is travelling in a given season, lack of big game experience will count when the blow-torch of a sudden death game is applied.
Salford will find out the veracity of this “cycle” when they meet Wigan in the semi-final of the Challenge Cup on July 30 at Halliwell Jones Stadium.
For Castleford, their elimination from that competition at the hands of Hull on Sunday would seem to prove the maxim – and Hull coach Lee Radford showed himself to be a believer after the 32-24 success.
DP: I thought it was a poor performance from us, we made a really bad start to the match. pic.twitter.com/iIr4L8GvnL— The Challenge Cup (@TheChallengeCup) June 18, 2017
“Knock-out football is where you’ve got to be at your best,” Radford said, after discussing the need – leared by bitter experience – to “peak” at certain times in a campaign.
“I don’t think the media gave us any opportunity, gave us a chance.
“When the draw came out, the amount of pumping up of their (Castleford)’s tyres they’ve had leading into this game, lit a fuse with some of our players, I thought.
“They’re top of the tree in the competition, and rightly so. Daryl’s done a fantastic job with them.
“All the year, we’re banging the drum about peaking at the right time.”
LR: This is the juicy bit of the year now, this is where the excitement starts. If your spiking in these games, that's when it counts. pic.twitter.com/mXoK2RJCPj— The Challenge Cup (@TheChallengeCup) June 18, 2017
The question now is whether Cas’ can learn enough from one sudden-death loss to avoid a repeat in the Super Eights.
“There’s some key lessons for us to learn,” said their coach, Daryl Powell. “One thing we have done this year is when we’ve lost, we’ve responded pretty well.
“You lose big games, disappointing games, but you’ve got to bounce back quickly.”
With the likes of Wigan and Hull getting key players back from injury, the “trendy” sides like the Red Devils and Tigers will be under intense pressure over the next two months.
Over the course of a generation, these events will seem like a blink of the eye. But if these sides, unfancied at the start of the season, can hold their nerve then the balance of power in Super League will be changed in a meaningful way.
One piece of repetitiveness – the exclusive coterie of Super League-winning clubs – could be banished forever.