West Country Eagle

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About West Country Eagle

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    Interests? I've had a few. But then again, too many to mention.
  1. Even with the Welsh clubs it will still be a pretty slim division with lots of epic travel (which IS an issue in this part of the world as union players - and, yes, most still play union even if we'd like them to commit to a longer League season - get a nosebleed if they have to travel more than about 30 miles.
  2. Well, if anyone buys into it. Most of the clubs in the West of England Men's League - Swindon being the exception - are not in a position to enter it, or have been put off by the fact that Cornish Rebels and Devon Sharks will most likely be in it.
  3. I stand corrected re: Filton, but to be honest the scholarship thing has had absolutely no impact on the grassroots game in Bristol. While one or two of those players - some of whom were in the Sonics junior academy before going to the college - have remained in the game, quite a few haven't. Some others have ended up playing for community clubs miles away from Bristol for no good reason. It's great to see some making it with semi-pro clubs, which is always the aim, but players should be encouraged to play at the local community club. I don't know the inner workings of the All Golds (despite reporting on them, on and off for League Express, over a number of years prior to this season), but I do know that the good work around the 2013 RLWC game has been wasted. The All Golds can't be blamed for this, or the RFL for that matter (though some decisions individuals there made over the years have not helped), but the All Golds can be accused of not doing enough to work with existing community clubs. I personally don't have an axe to grind with the All Golds, but I know plenty within the community game in the region that do. That's not a healthy state of affiars in an expansion area - we should all be working together for a common cause.
  4. Well, this is hardly a surprise as the "rumours" have been doing the rounds down here for some time. When these first emerged earlier in the season it had those of us who have been involved in the game in Bristol scratching our heads, as we'd had no contact from anyone from either the All Golds or Oxford, which common sense dictates would have happened - after all, the Sonics, who celebrate their 15th birthday in September, have more of an idea of what's happening on the ground here than anyone else. When Bristol City Council was persuaded to bid to host a RLWC 2013 game, those in the "inner circle" (not myself, but RFL staff, selected local coaches etc) were told off the record that it was part of a bid to get a semi-pro side in the city. In the end, those behind the planned team vanished, only to re-emerge in Cheltenham with the backing of the University of Gloucestershire. Now, had a semi-pro side been formed in Bristol in the wake of the RLWC match at the Memorial Stadium, the sport and the spectacle of that game would have been fresh in people's memories. As it is, the last few years has seen a steady decline in interest in the sport at grassroots level from players, volunteers and spectators. This season, the Sonics struggled on and off the pitch for various reasons, even losing local players to other West of England League sides. The game is arguably at its weakest in the city for many years; hopefully we can build up the community/grassroots/junior side of the game again, but this will require a lot of effort regardless of whether or not a semi-pro team ends up on our doorstep. Going on past experience and the way the All Golds somehow managed to alienate most of those involved with community clubs in the West of England, I have my doubts about whether any mooted Bristol semi-pro club would help grow the game in the city. The strength of the previously mentioned "Bristol Combination" association of local union clubs is a blessing and a curse. There are a large number of rugby union players in the region, many of whom watch League and some of whom are keen to give it a go. At the Sonics we have seen players come from union who have then become more committed to League; a handful have even ended up graduating to the semi-pro ranks via the All Golds, Oxford or South Wales (Marcus Brooker, Jack Uren, Sam Hodge etc). At the same time, there are even more who try the game and enjoy it, but naturally prioritise union committments (even in the summer - 7s comps, club tidy up days, tours etc etc). The RL Academy at South Glos and Stroud College in Filton is a good tool to develop talented young players who could make it in League, but the links between that outfit, the local commuinity clubs and the semi-pro clubs has been poor over the last few years. In the couple of years following the RLWC 2013 game there was a pathway from junior RL at the Sonics, through to the Academy, and then on to open age via the Sonics, or semi-pro at the All Golds, Oxford and South Wales. Recently that pathway has fallen apart to such an extent that players leave there and either return to union, don't play League again or end up playing for random amateur clubs miles away when there's a club on their doorstep. This infrastructure still exists - even loosely - so could be utilised by any merged/new club. As someone else has mentioned, the person driving sport in Bristol at the moment in Steve Lansdown, multi-millionnaire owner of Bristol Sport, which includes Bristol City, the women's football team, Bristol "Rugby" and various other teams based at the college in Filton. Lansdown and co are willing to invest in sports clubs in BRistol if they think they have potential. I suspect they would look on League at this stage as not being of that much interest, though a team COULD work if it was somehow linked in with the union club they own (similar colours and kit, marketed to those fans and local union players and volunteers). Certainly a city the size of Bristol should be able to sustain a semi-pro RL team and sustain crowds larger than either the All Golds or Oxford were getting. That said, we should not expect it to be a success if it does happen; after all, the game in the region at a grassroots level is now weaker than it has been for some time (the admirable Swindon St George aside) and the general visibility of League in the UK has dropped dramatically. My worry is that any new (or merged) semi-pro club would fail within a year or two and have a serious knock-on effect on the community game. The All Golds chose not to invest in development in this part of the west, despite previous success in the city in getting kids and juniors playing in the two years around the 2013 RLWC. Once the RFL had got rid of the local development staff, any meagre resources went straight to the All Golds to do schools work. They did a bit in and around Cheltenham (and, I think, Gloucester), but ignored Bristol, Bath, Swindon etc. For sustained success we need coaches on the ground and, in time, amateur clubs in different parts of the city. As it is, Bristol struggles to sustain one open-age adult team as it stands. That's not a recipe for success unless something dramatically changes. Having worked for what seems like a lifetime promoting RL in the city, I should be more excited about this than I actually am. Either way, it would be good to hear from whoever is behind it (presumably Lionel Hurst) and be told what their plans, if any, actually are.
  5. The biggest downside of this is how much we're going to hear from Farage in the coming days and months. THANKS AMERICA!
  6. He's up in front of the media again in London shortly. It will be interesting to see what he says, how he responds to questioning etc. Hopefully he will be a bit more lucid and the media can move on/have something else to talk about. It's interesting what the players said after the match about deviating from his instructions. As much as many players say that he inspires them, I bet he's capable of scaring them sh*tless as well - a bit like a certain Sir Alex.
  7. It's a fair point, I guess. I personally would rather he was a little more open and verbose with the media, and as a journalist there's nothing more annoying than grumpy interviewees stone-walling your perfectly valid questions. Even so, I don't think his responses should have created such a furore. Unprofessional: yes. Not ideal: yes. Sacking offence: no. The one thing that would guarantee RL in this country more column inches/a PR boost would be for England to get their fingers out and win a tournament. He's here to mastermind that. Whether he's up to it or not - so many others have tried and failed, the quality gap is still there etc etc - is another thing, but he should at least be given a chance to try not just in this Four Nations, but the WC too.
  8. I went to something similar in London with Phil C (once of this Parish) many years ago, presumably while WB was Australia coach. I found him engaging, occasionally quite funny, thoughtful and actually rather inspiring. He gave out copies of his book, Don't Die With The Music In You, at the end. There's plenty of wisdom in that, too.
  9. They will, though, so Brexiters are getting their knickers in a twist over nothing. The decision does, however, allow for some debate about what sort of 'Brexit' we want - clearly a majority of voters put a cross in the box marked 'leave', but the leave campaign couldn't agree on what sort of relationship, if any, the UK would have with the EU afterwards. Isn't it about time we had that discussion in parliament? I mean, it's rather important. Naturally, we'll have to take what we're offered by Europe (I.E a rubbish deal) as they have the whip hand. Even so, it would be good for Saint Theresa/Mother Theresa/Mad May to give parliament a vague idea on what it is she/her government wants. At present, all we're getting is foaming at the mouth right wing populism - certainly not conservatism in the traditional sense - with nothing of substance beneath it.
  10. One sided in the first half, with the East lads capitalising on quite a few West errors (dropped ball, missed tackles) and indiscipline. The West guys played much better in the second half and it was a very even game. Plenty to build on in coming matches. The East fully deserved their victory, all in all - looks like a decent side in the making.
  11. I tend to agree with this. England were undoubtedly poor in the opening 20 but won in the end fairly comfortably. They'll have to step it up another few levels against Australia, but that would have been the case regardless of the performance against Scotland. I don't get the witch hunt against Wayne Bennett. Harris and co complaining about his media style is ridiculous - he's always been this way with journalists/in front of the cameras, but that has no effect on his ability to coach (or otherwise). If he isn't willing to play the media game, then stick one of the others in front of the camera (E.G Betts, Sculthorpe etc etc). My experience of Bennett behind the scenes/away from the cameras is that he doesn't say a lot but is fairly affable and can be quite funny. Besides, his job is to COACH, and his track record suggests that if he is given time he will get it right. He's only had 3 games with the team and has yet to get them playing exactly how he wants. That may take time, but we should stick with him for the World Cup regardless of what happens on Sunday. I bet he wishes he could call on a half back as good as Thurston or Johnson, though. That would make such a difference to England (as would a centre or two as good as Inglis)
  12. He's stuck in the past. It's all about the M4 corridor now
  13. Paul Nuttall from the UKIPs. Get back in the sea you finned [inserted sweary word] I saw that Stewart Lee on a bus once. He looked fat and miserable.
  14. That's the spirit! Have to say I've been gutted too many times to be genuinely confident or properly optimistic. I'm happy to cling on to blind faith for a few more weeks though
  15. Not at present, certainly. Quite a few West of England clubs, including the Sonics, would like to play at (or in our case, return to) CLS level at some point, it's just that nobody is quite strong enough at present. Before the season we ended up having to withdraw, we made the point that there is currently not a strong enough player base in the region to realistically sustain more than one CLS level side. As the All Golds have a team in it - featuring numerous players from different parts of the region, and between 5 and 10 from Bristol alone - it effectively means nobody else has the playing resources to compete. Money is also an issue for many clubs in the region (as elsewhere). There's a willingness to support CLS, just not the resources to compete. If you're going to struggle all season, why enter the competition? It would be better to enter the league when you're strong enough, with adequate playing and financial resources.