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Time to listen

by: Gareth Walker, September 6, 2013, 3:25 pm

Gareth Walker

Gareth Walker

First published in Rugby League World, Issue 390 (Oct 2013)

“The fact that a staggering 97 per cent of those polled felt that the game in this country is not adequately marketed has to resonate somewhere.”

It’s long been a bone of contention for Super League players – that they simply aren’t listened to by the powers-that-be. Hopefully that will all change with this month’s issue of Rugby League World.
Conducting a comprehensive poll of players – something that happens annually in Australia – was one of the things I was most keen to do after becoming editor of Rugby League World.
This magazine’s predecessor, Open Rugby, surveyed 100 leading players back in 1989, but since then, the views of the stars that shape our sport have largely gone unheard, on a widespread basis at least.
Significant credit must go to the players’ association 1eagu3 and their chairman Jon Wilkin, who embraced the idea from the off and committed hours of painstaking work to cover as many Super League players as possible.
The result was responses from over 150 different players – almost half of the total players in the top flight at present and over 60 per cent of 1eagu3’s membership – and some startling statistics.
Several should be of immediate concern to the RFL.
The fact that a staggering 97 per cent of those polled felt that the game in this country is not adequately marketed has to resonate somewhere.
Similarly, 95 per cent believing that a proper reserve grade should return must be taken into account in future discussions.
And perhaps most alarmingly on the playing front, three-quarters admitted that their heads have been turned by the bigger salaries now available in both the NRL and rugby union.
Off the field perhaps lies the greatest concern.
The RFL deserves credit for the work it has actively done in dealing with the issue of depression in the sport – but the fact that over a third of those who replied admitted to an issue with it also shows there is still much work to be done.
The State of Mind campaign has been excellent in bringing the matter to people’s attention, and hopefully that can continue to expand in coming years because evidently, this is a very real and worrying issue in professional sport at present.
We hope that all of the results of the Super League players’ poll can have a positive impact on the sport. And it’s an initiative that we hope will grow further in coming years.

The curtain has now come down on the league campaigns for all three tiers, with congratulations merited at each level.
Huddersfield Giants finally collected the silverware that recent seasons have promised when they sealed the League Leaders’ Shield and top spot for the first time in 81 years.
Coach Paul Anderson deserves plenty of praise for the way he has moulded a promising Giants squad into the most consistent team in the competition, and one that now looks capable of finally mounting a genuine Grand Final challenge.
In the Championship, Featherstone Rovers continued their remarkable run of having topped their league for four successive seasons, thanks largely to a thrilling 16-point win over nearest rivals Sheffield that denied the Eagles the bonus point they required.
With Northern Rail Cup winners Leigh starting from fourth place on the grid, Halifax capable of beating anyone on their day and Batley and Doncaster finishing the league season in fine form, the play-offs look as wide open as at any level.
In Championship One, there was perhaps the most heartening success story of them all.
It could have been easy for the Rugby League-supporting community of North Wales to slip away from the sport in the wake of Crusaders’ Super League demise in 2011.
Instead they reformed the club at the third tier, and two years of stunning progress were capped when Clive Griffiths’ side clinched the Championship One title – and with it promotion – by beating South Wales in front of 1,562 supporters.
At a time when London Broncos’ future remains unclear, it shows that expansion can work if done correctly. Long may that continue.

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