League Express Mailbag – 31st May 2021

I feel that I’ve been kicked in the teeth by the RFL and I’m only a supporter.
God knows how the officials, coaches, young players and their parents, of Hull KR, Castleford, Salford, Leigh and Bradford Bulls must feel.
I would be interested to learn what, if any, steps the RFL has taken for counselling for some of these devastated young lads.
The Panel’s judgements appear to be based on glib soundbites and seriously flawed theories. The fact that the Chairman of the Panel, Air Commodore Dean Andrew OBE, is a Hull FC supporter is not likely to boost the credibility of the process in the minds of Rovers supporters.
This episode is reminiscent of the arrogant and contemptuous ways the RFL treated supporters with its ‘merger mania’ fiasco prior to the formation of Super League.
Fortunately, Supporter Power consigned the mergers to the rubbish bins, although it did not stop the ludicrous merger between Huddersfield and Sheffield many years later.
Unfortunately, much damage had already been done, one result being that my club, Hull KR, was consigned to a newly formed Third Division. It was not good, but at least we still existed, which seemed highly unlikely at one stage. Many supporters were alienated and have never attended a live Super League match since then.
Clearly the RFL has not learned that there is never a good time to kick supporters in the teeth.
Rather than ‘Elite Academy’, a more appropriate name would be ‘Exclusive Academy’.
It’s ironic that at a time when the name of the game is ‘inclusivity’ in sport and life in general, the RFL has opted for ‘exclusivity’ in such an important area. This will be so damaging in so many ways.
In my opinion, the Super League clubs should be big enough to get together, speak as one, admit that an error of judgement has taken place and insist that all clubs should be allowed to run Academy and Scholarship teams, should they so wish, preferably before more damage is inflicted, although I am not holding my breath on this one.
But if the Panel’s plans are not withdrawn, this will be one kicking too many for me and I will be kicking the RFL into touch.
Brendan Cariss, Hull


After the latest changes to the structure of the Academies, denying the opportunity to the vast majority of clubs in the game, I, not for the first time, shake my head in bewilderment about what is happening to this potentially great, and once great, sport.
Alarm bells are ringing and their echo gets louder and louder.
Shouldn’t the RFL be seriously worried about the fact that Sky have reduced the broadcasting money for our game, while asking questions of themselves about why this is happening?
They say that participation in our game is at a low. Isn’t that something to do with the mismanagement and that the sport is in a critical state?
The RFL should be putting its money into development officers going into schools in the traditional areas that the game is played in, introducing kids to the game, getting them interested and then naturally their families will get interested in the game too.
More kids playing the game means more potential talent going to our junior and amateur clubs. Then encourage every professional and semi-professional club from Super League, Championship, and League One to run an Academy team. That immediately introduces far greater participation with a pathway for youngsters to follow, and brings renewed pride and enthusiasm back into these clubs.
This will then eventually be self-funding because crowds will have grown at all levels, and far more money will be circulating in the game.
Putting money into development in the heartlands will circulate money that will come back to the game in the long run. Some of that money can then be sensibly spent on expansion.
Currently the Super League clubs are signing players who don’t make the cut at NRL level or former star NRL players that are coming out of retirement or are close to retirement.
That is money poorly invested, while the standard of British players continues to deteriorate.
For goodness sake, RFL, wake up, smell the coffee, and realise what is happening to our game before it’s too late.
James Varley, Keighley


Ralph Rimmer once eulogised to me about his plans to engage more youngsters in the sport.
But on Friday the RFL announced only ten Academy licences, denying hundreds of youngsters their dream pathway to a career in Rugby League.
If Rugby League is to survive and grow as an elite sport, it has to compete against many other attractive options for youngsters. The way to do that is not to close the door on strong youth set ups that were building for the future.
Castleford are Hull KR are not among the wealthiest clubs; both are built on the strength of their communities. They invest in those communities, including through youth structures.
Both clubs are on an upward trajectory, underpinned by strategies that include investing in youth pathways. But those pathways have just been decapitated by the RFL’s senseless decision.
John Bastian at Hull KR is one of the best youth coaches in the country (if not the world) and the club’s youth pathways were going from strength to strength under his leadership – the future was bright.
Rugby League in Hull thrives on the historic rivalry, but in one fell swoop the RFL has cut that away from the young players in the city and destroyed the potential that was already coming to fruition.
As a London resident, I had been proud of the success of the Broncos’ Academy. But while their automatic status is confirmed, the consequences for young players elsewhere is devastating and damaging to the sport as a whole.
The RFL needs to rethink this senseless decision.
Janet Symes, London


The news broke for the clubs that were included in this ridiculous enterprise by the RFL to give power to or to cut the Academies of several clubs, including my own, Hull KR.
Please show me why my club has been cut and yet London, Newcastle and Wakefield have all been included.
London and Newcastle will not make Super League in that timescale (2027). As soon as they produce a player from their Academy he will be picked off by the bigger clubs, and don’t say it won’t happen because it will and always has done.
Hull KR had coaches on Friday turning kids away from the club because their team no longer exists. Has anyone thought that it isn’t just the lads turned away, but coaches, physios, kit men and scores of others who all get involved?
Hull KR has jumped through every hoop the RFL has thrown at us, including when they did franchising.
I have to point out that the powers-that -be have been trying to get Wakey out of Belle Vue for years, without success, telling them it’s not fit for purpose and yet they are still there on the promise “we are moving, we are moving” and yet they now hand them an elite Academy position, while they have told Leigh and Salford that they can’t invest in Elite players. Where is all this rubbish going to end?
Clubs are trying to improve whether they are Wigan Warriors or Lambwath Lions in the Hull amateur league. The RFL has taken that away from clubs
In Hull everyone knows the divide, and long may it reign, but this ruling has now only given kids a pathway to play for one club. How can this be fair or even ethical?
This will also be the nail in the coffin for the amateur game. In Hull, Hull FC will only be taking on 30 kids for the Academy, so what happens to the rest? They won’t even bother with Rugby League because there will be nothing at the end of their endeavours.
The RFL needs to have a long, hard look at this new ruling and make a U-turn before it does any real damage.
Pressure needs to be put on the RFL and it needs everyone to get involved.
Les Brown, Hull


It seems that only the ‘big’ clubs and the city clubs have been offered elite Academy licences, excluding Bradford.
Is there an agenda here to eventually only have these clubs in Super League and the so-called smaller clubs in the Championship and below?
It certainly begs the question.
Ian Haskey, Castleford


I may have missed something but I was under the impression that the RFL wanted to expand the game, not kill it.
The latest decision by RFL smacks of elitism emanating from Super League and the now departed CEO Mr Elstone.
Obviously it must be a financial issue and the performance of both Super League & RFL have been questionable for some time now.
This decision with regard to Academy licences prompts the thought that it is about time the game was given back to the fans, rather than a few rich owners.
Perhaps we should further restrict overseas players if there is a feeling that not enough youngsters are coming through to first teams.
With the financial issues in recent years at Bradford Bulls, how many promising Academy players were snatched by Super League teams and have featured in plans for the England team?
The game we all love is going to struggle to survive as a professional sport if there is no long-term strategy.
Steve Day, Harrogate


As one who had a small involvement in Youth and Junior Rugby some time ago, I can concur with statements from representatives of the RFL that memberships for players is not a new topic by any stretch of the imagination.
However, I would like to remind those same representatives, such as the hard-working Kelly Barrett, who attended the same meetings as I did, that the discussion was always about what extra the players would receive with this initiative and never about charging for what they already received, whether via their club, local or district league, BARLA or indeed the RFL.
It was wrong back then to wrench control and responsibility away from those volunteer organisations. To then attempt to make players (or rather their parents and guardians) pay for that privilege now the money has evaporated is abhorrent.
RFL, if you do not have the money, make the unpleasant but perhaps necessary cuts in your head count and work with those same volunteers again to grow our game. If you want to run like a business, then sometimes you need to behave like one.
Paul Stephenson, Keyingham


It’s pretty clear that the RFL hierarchy are not gardeners.
If they were, they would realise that root systems spread far and wide for nourishment, the strongest covering a wide area.
Our game (it should be the RFL’s game, but I’m having my doubts) is struggling for quality players, as it always has done. As a result, our top sides have to look abroad for talent. Others can see what we have here and we can see some of our best blossom in the NRL.
Our game managers, however, decide to concentrate our resources within clubs, most of which are plainly well-heeled, despite funding cuts, leaving potential players in heartland areas without opportunity.
True, the chosen few will be able to garner the best talent in all probability, but is that all that we need? For the game to flourish as a genuine sport there must be a base beneath the Super League.
But our game managers look to starve the supporting clubs of their pools of local talent. A more expansionist operation would have been to invest in Academies with all clubs to maximise our chances of swelling and improving our player pool.
In the end it all revolves around money, I guess. The Bible says something about ‘unto those that hath shall be given and from those that hath not shall be taken away even that which they hath!’
Sounds just about right. I await the pulling up of the drawbridge!
Glyn Smith, Runcorn


There have been several letters recently in League Express complaining about the decision to penalise Tony Clubb for accusations of an on-field racist remark.
The latest one to object to finding Clubb guilty of this accusation comes from Mike Bardill of Warrington (Mailbag, 24 May), who asks, “What happened to British justice?” and “All the hearing had was Andre Savelio saying he made a racist remark and Clubb saying he didn’t”.
Actually, Clubb did not deny referring to Savelio’s heritage but, to paraphrase a famous Morecambe and Wise sketch, claimed that he didn’t say the words in the particular way portrayed.
Does Mike Bardill feel that he would be happy if, after reporting someone whom he had witnessed causing damage to his car, the Police said, “Nowt we can do sir, it’s your word against his”.
Does he feel that a woman who reports having been attacked but has no actual evidence should be told her alleged attacker will not face any charges as it’s only her word against his?
I am heartily fed up of reading letters from apologists for such behaviour.
In no way do I suggest that all people accused of wrongdoing are guilty by association, but tribunals and courts are the places to decide on these important issues.
By all means disagree with a decision taken by a tribunal, but please don’t put forward the “my word against his” argument. It may come back to bite you.
Tony Winstanley, Castleford


I, like a great many Rugby League followers, find Rugby League’s blind allegiance to BLM, which is now a declared left-wing political organisation, unacceptable and abhorrent.
I feel sure that all Rugby League followers are 100% against racism. They demonstrate this each week by applauding and cheering ALL our players, black and white alike.
I have no objection whatsoever to players standing against racial abuse. But highlighting a man such as George Floyd as an example is odious. He was a many-times convicted drug dealer who had served prison time.
To hold him aloft as some sort of hero does no credit to our great game. It does nothing for young people growing into adulthood. Nor does supporting BLM, which as stated earlier is now a political group.
So, Rugby League, you should stop glorifying him and stop this idiotic kneeling. If you listened to comments in pubs and clubs around the country when our teams kneel, you would find the vast majority echo the above words. You may be acceding to Sky’s dictates but you are not reflecting our views.
Geoff Fawcett, Workington


In extolling the virtues of the Jamaican team for the World Cup, if I have crossed the fine line between praising and patronising, as your correspondent Mr Goldsmith suggests (Mailbag 17 May) then this seems to be a very mild rebuke in the context of the race issue.
I don’t actually know where being patronising stands on the PC scale of wrong doing, and I hope the suggestion that “there is still work to be done” does not refer to some type of Orwellian corrective treatment.
The organisers of the World Cup should use all the promotional impetus they can generate, and if that includes caricaturing the national characteristics of the competing teams, then they should do it.
I would urge Mr Goldsmith to be economical with this use of the ‘P’ word as we don’t want to give the RFL any big ideas.
It would do the game no good to have a prop forward appear before the disciplinary tribunal on a Grade E charge of making a patronising remark to his opponent in the heat of the moment and then be suspended for eight matches.
Bill Anderson, Parbold


Watching Clare Balding with Alan Titchmarsh on TV she was talking about crowds coming back to sport
She mentioned horse racing, Wimbledon and the Olympics, but there was not one word about the Rugby League World Cup.
What an opportunity missed!
Is she taking her role as RFL President seriously?
Pete Corroboy, Warrington


Isn’t it great to have John Bateman back in Super League? He’s a really exciting and skilful player, but last week he really excelled himself against Hull when he was cited on no fewer than four occasions for two high tackles, fighting and other contrary behaviour, and yet he avoided any censure from the match review panel.
How is that possible?
Isn’t it great to have John Bateman back in Super League?
John Clark, Stockton-on-Tees


With regard to Israel Folau wanting to play rugby in Australia while still under contract to Catalans Dragons, I would suggest that in order to resolve this issue Catalans should take a look at what Folau has to say about his complete adherence to the teachings of the Bible.
He has gone on record as saying, that he stands by “the Bible and what the Bible says, every written word that’s written in that book, I stand by that and that’s all I’ll say about that.”
If he is a man of his word then he should possibly read Galatians 3:15, which says: “Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it.”
That would seem to sort it, so we’ll be expecting you back next week then, Israel.
Chris Greer, Otley, West Yorkshire


Like all other Super League teams, Warrington kept the nation entertained with their live games throughout the pandemic. It could be said they were putting their lives on the line for our enjoyment, so how can these so-called fans really claim to be true supporters? After playing to empty stadiums for the past year, on their return to play live at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in front of a privileged, select crowd of only 4,000, they were booed off the field at half time. Absolutely disgraceful!
On a brighter note, I would like to compliment former Wath Brow Hornets player, Gary McKee on his magnificent accomplishment in running 110 marathons in just over four months, in aid of Macmillan Nurses and his local hospice, Hospice Home, in West Cumbria. Well done Gary on a truly remarkable achievement!
To put Gary’s effort into prospective, 110 marathons is just over 2,880 miles, the equivalent of running from John O’Groats to Lands End and back, and then returning to the Cornish peninsula before running the final 370 miles north again, as far as Sheffield.
Gary’s efforts for charity over recent years have raised more than £100,000. I hope that, like me, many of you have donated to Gary’s appeal. He is a most dedicated athlete and an ex-Rugby League player who we should all look up to.
Richard Sanderson, Beadnell, Northumberland



Stephen Winstanley (Mailbag 10 May) claims not to like the fact that Warrington don’t have home-grown players.
Can I remind him that Ben Currie, Toby King, Joe Philbin, Mike Cooper and Josh Thewlis all came through the ranks, but the Castleford players he mentioned all started at other clubs – Jake Trueman (Bradford), Liam Watts (Hull FC) and Peter Mata’utia (Leigh). And their star player Paul McShane started at Leeds.
At Warrington we’ve lost great players to other clubs, with Paul Sculthorpe and Iestyn Harris being just two of them. That’s the way of the world.
But Stephen should beware of Greg Iglesauraus when we play Castleford.
Peter Corroboy, Warrington


We are well into the new Super League season but yet again nothing has changed.
They were supposed to be adopting some of the new rules from the NRL, but in reality, they have not.
The play-the-ball is still non-existent. The two markers at the ruck stand beside each other. It’s meant to be called pillar defence, but it’s more like column.
The second marker is clearly offside.
The defensive line is in front of the referee. The tackles are like watching WWF.
Later on this year, Covid permitting, we will have the RLWC or, to put it into its proper context, ‘The Pick a Country to Play for World Cup’.
The game here is also a marketing nightmare.
Why can’t they go back to 1-17? Instead you have the fullback wearing no 29 and all the other numbers all over the place.
Sadly, the game is dying in this country and the powers-that-be are frankly not interested.
Twenty-five years ago, Rugby League was the second sport in the UK. Now it is eighth and dropping. Ladies football and union has a higher profile than league.
The game over here is a non-spectacle and I for one cannot watch it, but fortunately at the weekend I can watch real Rugby League where you see proper play-the-balls with the markers square, the defence standing onside with the referee and real tackles.
It’s also on Sky. It’s called the NRL.
David Whitford, London


You are to be complimented on arranging for the weekly League Express to arrive through the letterbox on Monday morning.
I moved to St. Albans in January and my friend arranged for the paper to be sent to me.
On the first delivery, I thought a local friend had somehow got hold of the paper and put it through my letterbox.
Having been a Rugby League fan for almost 70 years, it is fantastic to receive all the reports on a Monday morning.
As you know, the national newspapers do very little for Rugby League as far as reporting is concerned, so it is fantastic
for you to show real imagination in bringing the news to subscribers so promptly.
Locally to me, we have to put up with the ‘kick and clap’ game rather than Rugby League, so it was a breath of fresh air
to me and other subscribers.
Roy Seddon, St Albans


I read with interest the information for subscribers about Monday morning deliveries of your paper.
As a longstanding subscriber it would be nice to even get to read it on a Tuesday morning. But as often as not it is later in the week before we receive it.
Where are we, you ask?
No, not the back of beyond in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, but in the country’s biggest city.
Felicity Fulwood, Glasgow


A Rugby League player’s description of their position, as presented by commentators and newspapers is, over time, subject to change.
In the case of backs, the fullback’s, centre’s and winger’s description never change, as those words are the illustration of their function.
However, these days one never hears of a scrum-half and stand-off. Instead, they are both called halfbacks, which is correct in accordance with their actions on the pitch.
But in the pack, the loose forward is now the third front rower and the 8,10 and 13 are now often called ‘middles’.
This description does reflect their playing function. The second-row forwards are now sometimes called ‘edge forwards’, which does also seem appropriate.
The No. 9 is, however, still always referred to as a ‘hooker’. But this really is nothing whatsoever like a modern No. 9’s playing actions. May I suggest that the name PLAY-STARTER be used!
John Walton, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex


I have just read that in these difficult times one in four people could easily experience mental health problems during the coming year.
Among them would certainly be found some Rugby League players when they retire from playing the game and also a lot of older supporters.
Some ‘experts’ suggest that one way to look after your mental health and slow down the rise of dementia is to learn a foreign language.
But I would like to suggest something that will be much more interesting, particularly for older people to consider doing in order to keep in good mental health.
It is to spend time each week writing a fictional novel based strongly, though not totally, on your own life. I feel that I am entitled to say this because not only have I written six novels, all based loosely on my own life with its strong Rugby League background, but also from discussions I have had with many people at book signings and library talks that I have given.
I know that writing fiction based on your own life is enjoyable. You can include things that happened during your early school days, about the lives of members of your family and neighbours as you grew up, from your family tree and tales from being at work and in life generally.
Most importantly it can include Rugby League stories, taken from your time playing the game or supporting your favourite team. It can also include things from the biography of a player or about incidents in the game’s history, some that might even stretch back to 1895.
I am sure that many League Express readers who see this letter will think they might like to take this hobby up. With them in mind, I have written three pages of advice for the benefit of people from a similar Rugby League background to me.
Look first at my web site: geofflee.net then email me at wgeofflee@gmail.com and ask for Geoff Lee’s RL Writers Guideline.
Geoff Lee (now aged 81), Grange over Sands, Cumbria