Last week we ruffled a few feathers in the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union and elsewhere. HKRFU executive director Allan Payne took exception to our view that First Division clubs were not fielding their best sides and were in cruise mode in the just-concluded first stage of the Super Sixes competition. 'I do not believe any club will be choosing the cruise option - quite the contrary, clubs will be fielding their best teams in order to win their games,' said Payne. He added that even Rugby Post had supported this Grand Championship format last season. True, we did support the format last season, but simply because the clubs were able to field more competitive teams. Has Payne forgotten the number of top players who have gone missing this season? Just to jog his memory, let's take a quick count - Kowloon lost Stephen Kidd, Nigel D'Acre, Dave Lewis and Riaz Fredericks. Club have lost Chris Yates, Roger Leeson, Rob Newnes-Smith and Will Wild. Where is Valley's Luciano Afeaki, brothers Sean and Liam O'Hara and that Kiwi centre, what's-his-name? Aberdeen's Beijing trio have not returned. Luke Nabaro and Wassi Batibasaga are also distant memories. And what about those who have 'retired' or had enough for the moment? This is just the surface. What about all those lesser-known players, still important because they made up numbers, who have gone AWOL? The point of all this is that these players made for a more competitive First Division last season. And while Club, Valley and Kowloon were more or less in a league of their own, the remaining spot in the Grand Championship was always a contest between DeA and Aberdeen. As such there was interest until the very end. And with Club, Valley and Kowloon meeting each other a number of times, it gave us more top games while keeping the lure of the prize intact until the very end. And as we all agreed, that format was good - for last season. This season, we have four clubs assured of places in the Grand Championship - Club, Valley, Kowloon and DeA. The top players have gone, leaving us with relatively mediocre fare. It all adds up to games without any real meaning because all these clubs know they will be in the Grand Championship at the end of the season. In our view, clubs are now just going through the motions. The crunch games will only happen later. If the old system, where winning every game mattered, were brought back, then some urgency would return rather than the 'we lost, so what?' feeling that is in the clubs now. As for Payne's revelation that the Knockout Cup was placed in the middle of the League to 'reflect the requirements of the clubs', all we can say is how nice. What a pity the HKRFU did not heed the requirements of the clubs some seasons ago when they wanted to turn the League into a semi-professional one.