LAST year was the most political in our lifetime generally and, in sports terms, none more so than in the world of rugby league, writes columnist Tony Colyer.

Governance of the sport is now in the hands of RFL CEO Ralph Rimmer and Super League boss Robert Elstone.

Months of discussions and disagreements finally came to a head when the new structure and rules were agreed by the majority of clubs and we all hope that the changes improve the rugby league brand, attracting greater audiences at grounds and on TV.

I personally think the structural changes are positive as the Super Eights introduced too much jeopardy to the detriment of the Super League. There is still going to be a Championship play-off for the top-five clubs, with one guaranteed promotion to Super League, so the opportunity is there for ambitious clubs such as Barrow Raiders.

Last month a new set of rules for the upcoming season were released and there are some big changes, aligning Super League with the NRL in Australia where these rules have been implemented with success over the last few seasons.

With the shot clock rule, players are given 30 seconds to perform drop-outs and 35 seconds to feed scrums. The shot clock and golden point rule will not apply to the Championship, but the reduction in interchanges will.

This could come at a cost to player welfare, which Barrow’s coach Paul Crarey has made a point on in the Mail recently.

I hope the reduction in interchanges improves the spectacle, but in support of Paul I would like there to be a regular review on the impact on players welfare with the players having a voice.

Another exciting concept is the introduction of the 1895 Cup for Championship and League One clubs, which culminates in a final at Wembley alongside the Challenge Cup final.

Barrow at Wembley would be a fantastic experience not witnessed since 1967 when we lost to Featherstone Rovers. We have every chance of success, so this is a really positive move by the RFL.

So, much to look forward to – and congratulations to Steve Neale and the board for being bold with their quality signings during the close season. It’s all looking good, but a lot rests on the standard of the three Papua New Guinea signings.

If they are as good as their videos suggest we should be aiming for a play-off spot and hopefully we might get a glimpse of their talent at tomorrow’s first run out of the season against Oldham.

We won’t be playing our other regular friendly against Keighley though as the club have been placed in special measures and are unable to recruit signings for this season, and their existence is under serious threat. Let’s hope new investment can save the club.

See you tomorrow.