First published in League Express, Monday 12th Aug 2013
Huddersfield Giants are a very good Rugby League team, as they have been showing us all season, and as they emphasised on Friday night at Wigan.
They are not necessarily the best team in the competition.
We’ll find out who that is at Old Trafford on the first Saturday in October.
But on Friday’s evidence the Giants must have a good chance of being involved in the Grand Final.
They are blessed with a number of players who are great to watch, and who should be a very obvious draw for spectators from far and wide, who should be hammering down the doors of the John Smith’s Stadium, demanding to be let in, but being refused entry because the stadium is constantly sold out.
Think of Danny Brough, Luke Robinson, Eorl Crabtree, Shaun Lunt and the 2011 Albert Goldthorpe Rookie of the Year Jermaine McGillvary, among others, and the Giants have a group of players who should be eminently marketable assets, drawing people in from far and wide to see their remarkable skills.
So why are their crowds so stubbornly refusing to rise much beyond around 5,500 core supporters?
No one can say with any certainty, but I suspect that part of the reason is that the Giants spend too much time almost begging people to come and watch them.
In recent seasons the Giants have come up with some amazing season-ticket deals, giving people the chance to watch them for virtually nothing throughout the season.
And I wonder whether that’s the problem.
Perhaps the Giants have devalued themselves in the market place.
Begging people to come and watch them, and selling tickets at ridiculously cheap prices, suggest that they are a Trabant (the old East German car from the days before the fall of the Berlin Wall) rather than a BMW.
And no matter how cheap a Trabant might have been, no West German would ever have bought one.
The real problem facing Rugby League generally, and not just Huddersfield, lies in making people understand the quality of the athletes, and their range of skills, as well as their personalities.
We are a BMW rather than a dirty old Trabant, and yet virtually every effort to promote our sport seems to consist of the offer of cheap tickets.
Ultimately that isn’t the way to go, if we want to see Rugby League generating the income that will make it secure.
The town of Huddersfield has 130,000 residents, and if 124,500 of them can find something better to do on a Sunday afternoon than watch their superb Rugby League team, then I would like to know what it is they get up to.
In fact, they clearly don’t know what they’re missing.
Meanwhile we’ve seen elsewhere in this issue that Danny Brough looks likely to win the Albert Goldthorpe Medal, which he first won in its inaugural season of 2008.
In the next few weeks he could also achieve something else quite remarkable.
So far this season he has kicked 130 goals and scored 286 points.
He looks to be in line to break Ben Gronow’s record of 147 goals in a season that has stood since 1919, while he could also break Pat Devery’s record of 332 points in a season that has stood since 1963.
It would be good to think that if and when he does break those records, there will be a full house watching him do it.
And you don’t get a second chance to say you were there when a player achieves something like that.
Catalans should temper their response
Last week it’s fair to say that the Catalan Dragons were very angry with the RFL for imposing a three-match suspension on their player Zeb Taia for a shoulder charge on St Helens stand-off Gareth O’Brien in the recent game in Perpignan.
The RFL imposed the penalty, and then upheld it at an appeal.
The Dragons were incensed that previous incidents that looked similar on video were not punished by similar suspensions. In fact they were not punished at all.
The Dragons, though, should realise that the incident was worthy of a three-match suspension, even if the other players, Hull’s Gareth Ellis and Bradford’s Nick Scruton, were not suspended.
There was the suggestion that O’Brien suffered concussion when he fell heavily and his head struck the ground, and that Taia’s shoulder didn’t clearly come into contact with his head.
But Taia clearly made a shoulder challenge, and if a player does that, in my view he should be prepared to accept the consequences.
And that includes a player who is concussed when his head hits the pitch.
An analogy might be driving through a red light.
You may get away without injuring anyone, but if you do, especially if you cause a fatal accident, the full force of the law bears down on you. You can’t claim that you didn’t mean to do any harm.
Zeb Taia should accept his punishment and resolve not to commit the same offence again.
And I hope that any other injuries that are caused by shoulder charges earn the same suspension.