Betfred Super League has the balls to become a better competition this year, Castleford Tigers loose-forward Adam Milner says.
Much has been made of the revised laws introduced for 2019, including a reduction in the number of interchanges, shot clocks to speed up scrums and drop-outs, abolition of the free play and golden point extra-time at the end of drawn matches.
But the competition has also changed its match ball supplier this year from Rhinos to Steeden and Milner reckons that will be welcomed by most players.
Steeden is the match ball in Australia’s NRL and has a reputation for being easier to hold on to than the rival product used in Super League since 2014.
“Coming back into pre-season, when we found out we were back with the Steeden it was a bit of a relief,” Milner confirmed.
“Everyone was pretty happy to have them back.
“I have seen a bit of criticism of the Rhino balls, but they weren’t too bad in dry climates.
“But as soon as the balls get wet they were like a bar of soap.”
Teams have been using Steeden balls in training and pre-season matches ahead of Super League’s big kick-off next week.
Milner added: “So far so good, but we have had a pretty dry run with the weather.
“We will get to see in the games, but there should be no excuses with these balls now.”
Better handling makes for more exciting rugby and Milner said: “People are saying it is the greatest game, but you can’t be playing the greatest game with a bar of soap.
“It is probably for the best and hopefully we can get some entertaining rugby no matter what the weather is.”
Milner played his first game of the year last weekend when Tigers won 26-24 at Leeds Rhinos in Kallum Watkins’ testimonial.
He is aiming to build on a season of progress in 2018 which ended with him being capped for the first time by England, even if he wasn’t entirely happy with his form.
“I have said before I don’t really think I had the best of years with Cas last year,” he insisted.
“I was fortunate to creep into the England squad and it was an absolutely fantastic experience for myself.
“I managed to get a couple of games, limited minutes, but I have taken the experience on board and it gave me a real taste of international football.
“That’s something I will certainly be looking to reach this year.
“I want to go better than I did last year and it is a massive incentive for any British player to get in the Great Britain squad.
“A tour Down Under is something you’ll certainly look back on as a highlight of your career if you achieve that.”
Milner believes it is “too early to say” if he has become a better player for his time with England, working under coach Wayne Bennett.
“I feel like I learn a lot from the experience of it,” he said.
“But I won’t really know until we start playing.
“It is up to me to prove myself.
“You start from scratch every year, that’s the way I see it.
“You take the experience, but it is all down to me for this year.
“It is up to me if I get in that GB squad, but first and foremost it comes from playing good rugby at Cas which I will certainly be looking to do.”