I won't moan about the Sky Coverage (other than to say from a visual point of view it's great - it's just the god awful commentary and punditry that offends me) but I will offer up some opinions on what we saw from the first two televised games of the season.
Widnes Vs Wakefield
It seems like the main talking point was the pitch (if you'd played a drinking game where you'd took a shot every time they mentioned that on commentary you'd still be in a coma now) but I was quietly impressed with both teams considering I have them pegged as "bottom three" sides.
Wakefield looked sharp in patches, which was all the more surprising given their huge efforts in reshaping the teams. That my old mate Tim Smith got man of the match, however, seemed more down to the fact that very few other players really shined and he at least set up one try and scored another. I thought he was fairly anonymous for the first hour or so.
Widnes had a good first half, but faded badly. Perhaps if they'd taken some chances first up they may have had enough to hang on but it just wasn't to be. If they can get their fitness sorted and get used to the Super League pace they will pick up some wins but I'd be very surprised if they became serious challengers for the play-offs.
Salford Vs Castleford
You'd like to think the weather contributed to the rather average crowd but I just worry that Season Ticket holders and people who bought tickets but couldn't face the weather would normally be included in announced crowd figures. If so, there's not much of a base for Salford (even allowing for the fact that I wouldn't want to be travelling from Yorkshire to Salford in these conditions and so the away support may have been down on what you would expect) to work on which is worrying considering the tales of just what average crowd they need to break even...
As for the team, they tried and had moments of great class. Matty Smith's try was a good move and their consolation try at the end was arguably the best try of the match. Losing Wayne Godwin so early was a blow and the weather was atrocious so I wouldn't write them off completely just yet but you'd still have to think it will be a long season ahead of them and whether they can avoid the wooden spoon might be dependent on winning on nights like this.
Castleford, for all their bluster last season, didn't finish in the top 8 and even with Agent Millward in charge I'd be surprised if they do this season. But wins like this are just what they need if they are going to have any chance of doing so. You just worry their squad is a bit thin and light on experience. On another note, I presume that much like last year's "if Wigan win, give the MotM to Sam Tomkins" scenario we must be facing a "if Cas win give the MotM to Rangi Chase" directive this season. I'd have gone for Danny Orr, a much underrated player in my view who is the controlling influence in that team and did much to guide them in this match.
I had both away teams for wins on the coupon, so these went pretty much as I expected. It's clear though that with a little more clinical execution both Widnes and Salford could have come away with something more. It's a lesson they'll have to learn quickly.