WHISPER it very quietly, but the Giants already look a very good bet to be awarded a Super League franchise for the 2009 season.
Relegation is, of course, not an issue at the end of the Super League XIII campaign.
Instead, what will determine the top-flight status for clubs next year is how they shape up on the Super League criteria.
And those who are successful will then retain their top-flight status for the next three years.
The general feeling at this stage is that the competition will be extended to 14 clubs next year, with the existing 12 members being joined by two new ones.
Rugby Football League chief executive Nigel Wood has outlined 10 general criteria that will be used to measure the quality of applications from clubs, with a decision on which clubs have been successful expected around July time.
The RFL has made it clear it will classify clubs into three categories – A, B and C – with clubs that fall into Category A earning eight or more points, Category B clubs having five to seven points, and Category C clubs having four or less.
It is likely that any future relegation from Super League will apply only to clubs that fall into Category C.
Obviously, all those clubs who have applied for a franchise are keeping their assumed scores incredibly close to their chests.
But it would appear the Giants are at least a strong Category B side.
The general feeling is that champions Leeds Rhinos are top dogs, qualifying on every criterion other than No9 – geographical location. They fall on that score because they are not more than 20 miles from their Super League neighbour.
Obviously, London-based Harlequins RL and French club Catalans Dragons have no problem on that front!
The Rhinos’ opponents in last season’s Grand Final, St Helens, are likely to be classified as a grade B club, with six or seven points. They have rightly lost a point because they have breached the salary-cap rules in the past three years.
Saints’ nearest rivals,Wigan and Warrington, are likely to fare better, however, with at least eight points each. Hull FC are also expected to be classified as a grade A club.
The Super League clubs who are most likely to be currently classified as grade C include Wakefield, Castleford and Hull KR.
All 12 current Super League clubs must apply, while Toulouse, Celtic Crusaders, Salford City Reds and Widnes Vikings are among those vying for the extra places.
The League will reserve the right to relegate a failing club or even increase the league to 15 teams in 2011when the licences are due for renewal.