WHICH is the Knights' better achievement - topping the 2014 League One table or coming fourth in 2015 in a tougher competition?

It's a difficult question to answer in truth, so here's hoping the forthcoming play-offs can provide one of its own given that promotion is probably the biggest indicator of accomplishment.

Winning any league should never be sniffed at but, prior to the rugby league restructure, League One only had nine teams last season and, in reality, with the majority being expansion clubs, the title was always going to be three-way race between York, Hunslet and Oldham.

For the Knights to head them both was no mean feat, though losing to both in the play-offs meant it was York's rivals who had the last word, arch-foes Hunslet going up.

This year, with Rochdale, North Wales Crusaders, Swinton, Keighley and Barrow all coming down, with Newcastle gaining new resources, and with York and Oldham still in the mix, it meant no fewer than eight teams held promotion aspirations.

The fact the Knights, with a rookie coach taking over, were tipped by many to finish at the bottom of that octet - even before all the off-field issues caused by the community stadium saga made life harder - suggests that finishing fourth this year is no mean feat either, comparable to lifting last year's league leaders trophy.

Second-row star Ed Smith, who has missed only two matches in the past two seasons so is in a good place to proffer an opinion, made a good point when asked about it.

"Winning the league is a big achievement no matter who you play," he said. "It was definitely a highlight of my career.

"Finishing fourth this year I would not say is more of an achievement but you do get more of a sense of testing yourself week in week out."

Highlighting his focus on what is to come, he added: "Those tests prepare you for these tougher (play-off) games a lot better than what we had last year.

"We've had a few more tough games this season so we've had a bit more experience of such matches which will hopefully stand us in better stead than last year."

ED SMITH, meanwhile, would gladly swap any potential personal plaudits that come his way if it meant the Knights got promoted.

The 22-year-old was talking about The Press Player of the Year award, which is set to go down to the wire between him and old mate Greg Minikin.

Smith sits three points behind long-time leader Minikin in the rankings but, with tomorrow's game, in which our man of the match collects three player of the year points, to be followed by the Player of the Month accolade, which also comes with three points, then there could yet be a twist.

Smith, though, underlined the very ethic that has got him high up the leaderboard when asked if the prestigious end-of-year award was a target.

"I live with my brother and he likes to keep up with that kind of stuff, so he has told me I'm near the top," he smiled, referring to big brother and team captain Pat Smith.

"But it doesn't come into it at all. The team always comes first.

"I would much rather come bottom in those standings and get promoted with York than win that award and fall out of the play-offs."

*NB There would of course be another man of the match award available should the Knights win tomorrow's semi-final but we didn't want to tempt fate in any way by mentioning that.

ORGANISERS of the relaunched YCK Squad Builder Fund are running a supporters' bus to tomorrow's semi-final away to Swinton. It will leave Station Rise in York city centre (outside the Cedar Court Hotel) at 11.45am and costs £10 per person. To book, phone 07814 716195 stating your name, contact number and how many seats you want.

THE Championships should receive a shot in the arm from the shortlist for Super League's Steve Prescott Man of Steel announced this week - having produced two of the three nominations.

Firstly, there's big Alex Walmsley, 25, who regularly rampaged for Batley Bulldogs - trying to stop him charging down that hill at Mount Pleasant was virtually impossible - before moving to St Helens where he has since been a revelation.

Then there's Zak Hardaker, 24, who starred for Featherstone Rovers before being signed by Leeds Rhinos, since when he has become England's full-back.

The other player shortlisted for rugby league's most coveted individual honour, presented to the player who has had the biggest impact on the season, is Adam Cuthbertson, who has been a huge success in Leeds' pack since joining them at the turn of the year from Australian club Newcastle Knights.

That none of the three came through a Super League academy is no slight on that system but it does show quite clearly the quality the Championships can produce and possess.