Garry Schofield today marked his return to the professional coaching ranks in typically provocative fashion, saying his Barrow team would be delighted to accept a last-minute offer to play in the Super League this season as a replacement for Wakefield Trinity – who are expected to enter administration early next week.
"We all know Wakefield are in a bit of trouble at the moment," said Schofield, the former Great Britain captain who has been out of the game since he was sacked by Huddersfield in 1998. "If they don't make it, and we were asked to come in at the last minute, I'm sure we would take on that challenge.
"I'm not saying we'd finish in the top six of the Super League or anything daft like that, but I'm sure we'd be competitive with the bottom six. That's what rugby league needs anyway, a team from Cumbria back in the Super League, because wherever else they try to expand the game, there's a forgotten hotbed there two and a half hours drive away."
There is no chance of Schofield's offer being accepted, with Wakefield denying that there is any danger of them failing to start the Super League season despite the winding-up order they are due to face at the high court next Wednesday. The fact that he made it at the launch of the Northern Rail Cup, a competition for non-Super League teams in which Barrow will play their first game under Schofield at home to York on Sunday week, was an example of how splendidly off-message he has always been – and is determined to remain.
"I'm not going to change just because I'm back in coaching," added the 45-year-old. "I've said a lot of things while I've been out of the game, and now I've got the chance to back them up. We've spent so long copying the Australians but it's boring, it's robotic and it's too safety first. The overseas way isn't always the best way. I'll be telling my players at Barrow to express themselves and enjoy themselves, because if you ask players in the Super League they'll tell you they're frightened to do that these days."
Schofield will be one of five former Great Britain internationals coaching in the Northern Rail Cup and the Co-operative Championship this season, joining Featherstone's Daryl Powell, Batley's Karl Harrison, Sheffield's Mark Aston and Denis Betts, who has returned to league with Widnes after several years in rugby union with Gloucester. "The good thing with English coaches is we won't all be copying each other," Schofield added. "We all have our own ways of playing the game."
Betts's Widnes team could also feature the distinctive skills of Danny Sculthorpe, the younger brother of the former Great Britain captain Paul and a ball-playing prop of the old school. Sculthorpe was prevented from making a single appearance for Bradford last season after joining them from Wakefield, because of a serious back injury that threatened his career, but Betts has invited him for trials with the ambitious Cheshire club.
"Danny's put in a lot of time and money getting himself fit and ready to play," said the former Wigan forward. "I told him I wouldn't be interested unless he was serious, and from what I've seen so far he definitely is." If all goes well, Betts hopes that Sculthorpe will be fit to resume his playing career by the end of February
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