Newcastle Thunder Chairman Mick Hogan believes Rugby League can learn many lessons from the other sports that start up again before it.
The English Premier League is due to return to action on June 17, with other sporting leagues also set to get underway in the coming weeks.
While Rugby League might be one of the last sports to return in the UK, Hogan believes that could work to its advantage.
“The RFL has the advantage that other sports are going before us,” said Hogan.
“The Bundesliga is back in Germany, and the Premier League is going to be one of the first competitions here to restart, so we can take a lot from that.
“If there are mistakes made, and things that can be done better, then we can learn from that.
“From the Government’s perspective, the guidelines for sports getting back playing will be the same. There won’t be one set of criteria for football, another for cricket, and another for rugby. Even though we’re all different sports, we can learn from how other sports get back out there.
“There is no doubt that the nature of our sport means it will be one of hardest to get back. With the amount of contact, rugby faces challenges that other sports don’t have.
“We can’t change the sport because then it’s not Rugby League, so we just have to make sure we satisfy those challenges before we can get back.
“The great thing about the RFL’s plans is that they are continually reviewing it because the situation is always changing.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS hooker Karl Ashall looks set to be fit to return to action as soon as the game gets the go-ahead to resume.
The 30-year-old missed all the Crusaders’ early-season games with what was initially thought to have a double hernia that required surgery.
But, as it turned out, surgery wasn’t needed and Ashall has been able to spend lockdown getting himself fit, with a little help from Warrington Wolves.
“An MRI scan showed it was an adductor tear, so that was actually better than the suspected double hernia,” said Ashall.
“This lockdown has done me a massive favour in rehab. With not having to go to work it has given me time to rest when I’ve needed to rest. It has also given me more time to knuckle down on the rehab side of it, which is all I can do, as there is no operation needed.
“I was a bit gutted at first that there wasn’t an operation, because that would have been a quick fix. But as it turns out, with the pressure the NHS have been under it would probably have been delayed, so that would have been a bit of a nightmare.
“The NHS has been doing an incredible job and my injury would have been the least of their worries.
“As it is I have just been doing some rehab on it with the help of my brother in law, Jack Hughes of Warrington Wolves.
“He’s been getting some tips from the Warrington physio on my type of injury and that has been helping me out.
“When I knew we’d have this lockdown and I wasn’t going to be able to train or get physio I was really worried that my recovery was going to go backwards.
“But I have used and abused Jack a bit and have been able to get some knowledge off his physio at Warrington. I feel like I have benefited massively from being able to use them.
“I am getting towards symptom-free raining now, so with the progress I have made in the last month or so I should be fit to play when the game comes back.”
BARROW RAIDERS winger Shane Toal is one of three players from the club who have put their lockdown to good use by helping to raise money to help change a young local boy’s life.
Toal, along with Ryan Johnson and Brett Carter, took part in the 4/4/48 challenge to raise funds to supply 11-year-old Jack Bennett with a new tailor-made wheelchair.
Jack was diagnosed with a severe form of cerebral palsy and epilepsy before he celebrated his second birthday.
Also taking part in the challenge were Whitehaven duo James Newton and Tom Walker, and Warrington Wolves’ Joe Philbin.
The 4/4/48 challenge, which was set up last year by American ex-Navy Seal David Goggins, requires participants to run four miles every four hours for 48 hours, and while it was tough for those taking part, the participants claim that it was definitely worth it.
“Brett and I were looking to get involved in a challenge to give us something to focus on while we’re not able to train with the squad,” explained Toal.
“My girlfriend is friends with Jack’s sister, so knew that they had been fundraising for a new wheelchair for him.
“We knew they were a couple of grand off what they needed, so we decided to try and raise that for them.
“It was tough going. By the time we’d done one run, got home, had a shower and something to eat, there were only is few hours until we had to go again.
“I was okay for the first 24 hours, but towards the end of the second day I was starting to get a sore Achilles tendon and a sore knee, and the legs felt really heavy.
“But it was worth it; we smashed our target and it was great to see how overwhelmed the family were with our total. We set the target of £2,600, because with what the family had already raised, they’d have enough for the chair. But we raised over £5,000 just from this challenge.
“The extra that has been raised will go to supporting the family. They were also wanting another set of wheels for the chair so it cold go on all terrains, so they can have that now too.
“The support we’ve had through the challenge was great; seeing what we’ve all helped to achieve makes me very proud.”
To support and to donate towards Jack’s wheelchair fund visit justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jacks-new-wheels.
WORKINGTON TOWN coach Chris Thorman has said players could miss out on much more than a few months of action if the current lockdown goes on for much longer.
No games have been played since March, and with the future of the Championship and League 1 seasons still unclear, clubs may soon have to start planning for 2021 instead of making a return this year.
If that is what transpires, with only a handful of games played in 2020, coaches won’t have gained a full picture of where they need to strengthen and numerous out-of-contract players may get the chance to earn themselves a new deal.
“That would lead to a difficult situation,” said Thorman.
“It’s going to be hard and a lot of players will think it’s unfair, but there will be some guys off contract who aren’t going to be retained by their clubs.
“It would be harsh, but these are unprecedented times and no one has had to deal with anything like this before.
“So from my and the board’s point of view, we may need to have some difficult discussions and make some tough choices.
“But I am really happy with my squad, so I don’t think a massive number of changes will be needed, but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
“If we do get started again, players will get the chance to earn new contracts, but if potentially they don’t get that chance, it’s a very strange situation.
“We’re all just going to have to react to what the RFL comes up with for us.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS fans-favourite James Feather believes the extra learning the players have been doing during lockdown could work in their favour if, and when, the game returns this season.
“We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing and take care of ourselves,” said Feather.
“Rhys (Lovegrove – coach) doesn’t leave us alone. He’s pestering us every day and setting us new challenges and goals every game.
“We might be at home, but we’re constantly training and learning, which is good.
“Rhys has taken these hard times as an opportunity to teach players in a different way. We’ve had a lot of online video sessions, where we have watched games and he’s given us different tasks to do and asked 30-odd questions on different areas of the field that we might be playing from.
“That’s improving everyone’s knowledge of the game.
“He’s also set us different tasks, like juggling to see what our learning abilities are like, so he’s definitely making good use of his time.
“Hopefully all this new learning can see us go quite well when we get back.
“We started poorly, so this has given us a lot of time to look at where we were going wrong.
“We’re constantly doing things, so hopefully when we do get back we’re s step ahead of some others and that puts us in good stead.”
LONDON SKOLARS utility player Mike Bishay is fully aware that the very nature of the game could see it be one of the last sports to return.
The NRL made a successful return over the weekend, and other live sports are closing in on a return, but it is still unlikely there will be any live Rugby League in the UK until at least August.
“I’d love to get back to training and playing, but I completely understand the precautions that are there at the moment,” said Bishay.
“If I were given a set date to get back into training I’d be happy to go back and if the right measures were taken I’d feel safe going back
“But I can understand others not being willing to do that.
“We certainly can’t go back straight away to full 25-man squads being in and training together, but if we were brought back in groups of six, that could be a whole different prospect.
“But this game is based around contact. When we’re making tackles, spit and sweat is flying everywhere, our heads are rubbing into people’s faces.
“Yes, in football players tackle each other, but they are not on top of each other like we are in rugby.
“We are up close and personal with other players, so I can understand why we will be delayed longer than any other sport and why we’ll probably be one of the last coming back.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS owner and Chairman Andrew Thorne says the club is in a strong position financially in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.
This has been put down to strong management and the club not trying to run before it could walk.
“The mistake some people have made in the past is to try and win the league by buying it,” Thorne told the Raiders’ Facebook page.
“The problem with that is you have to spend some serious money. League 1 and the Championship are not easy leagues to compete in, and if you try to buy your way out of it, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got some serious coin behind you to then move forward.
“The other way to do it is similar to the Newcastle model. You have to build a foundation, your pathways and a sustainability plan. Once that’s in place, then can start looking at how you can compete as you go up the leagues.
“In Wales in the past, those foundations haven’t necessarily been secured.
“Another big thing has been finding a stadium and bringing in secondary spends all year round.
“Historically no club down here, that I am aware of, has had that luxury. But we’re very lucky that the bars at the ground belong to us, as do the restaurants. So we’re not just making money on game days, we’re able to sustain ourselves all year round and that feeds back into the club.
“We’re able to stand on our own two feet at the moment and are pretty sustainable right now.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS incoming Chairman Andy Mazey believes people are now starting to look at the club in a different way following the work he and his consortium have been doing.
Mazey, along with fellow new directors Tony Sheridan, Richard Heyes, Peter Smith and Paul Ormerod, took over at the club in December, taking it from a fan-owned organisation to a privately owned club.
One area that they have worked a lot on is their social media presence, and for Mazey that is now starting to pay dividends.
“When we came in we set out with a positive attitude and wanted to focus on the good things about the club,” said Mazey.
“Richard has headed up on media and communications, and he has helped the club blow away all the stats in terms of likes and impressions on all our social media stuff.
“It has all be positive and club is now being viewed in a completely different light by many people.
“Our aim now is to come out of the current situation strongly and carry the journey on.
“The message to the fans is that if everyone buys into that and supports us where they can, we’ll not only survive, we’ll move on at a pace.”
HUNSLET non-executive director Damian Irvine has said the club can use his involvement with non-league soccer club Ebbsfleet United to its advantage during the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Irvine joined the Kent-based football club as CEO in February, simultaneously pledging his continuing commitment to Hunslet, with the aim that both clubs could benefit from his dual involvement.
“Hunslet and Ebbsfleet play different sports, but they’re very similar clubs,” said former Cronulla Sharks Chairman Irvine.
“In fact ‘the Fleet’ were a supporter-owned club – as Hunslet are – in the not-too-distant past.
“Ebbsfleet are faced with the same issues, particularly with regard to Covid-19, and I’ve been able to pass on advice and knowledge gained from the clubs’ respective dealings with the Rugby Football League – which has been very proactive – and the Vanarama National League, in which Ebbsfleet compete.
“Matters such as player and coach welfare, commercial and sponsorship issues, and the implications of playing behind closed doors affect both clubs in much the same way, and I’ve been happy to offer valuable insights – and perhaps raise issues for one sport that might have been overlooked a little by the other – through my involvement with both sports.
“It’s worked both ways. I’ve been able to offer advice to Hunslet from Ebbsfleet’s experiences, and I’ve done exactly the same the other way round.”
DONCASTER chief executive Carl Hall has said even though his players are currently furloughed and he cannot contact them on club-related matters, he is still in regular contact with them on a personal level.
“It is tough to be on furlough,” said Hall.
“The players can do their own training but the club can’t be contacting and emailing them about the club. It is almost like they have been made redundant and they can’t work for the club while they are on furlough.
“But I will still be speaking to them on a personal level. I ring them, like I do all my other friends, to make sure they are okay and their families are okay.
“That’s something you still have to do. You can’t just leave them.
“Yes they might be work colleagues, but at the end of the day they are also friends and you always look after your friends.”
COVENTRY BEARS director of rugby Alan Robinson believes Super League needs to be the main focus of any decisions to get live Rugby League back on the agenda as soon as it is safe to do so.
“The main point for clubs at the moment to consider is the ability to be able to play behind closed doors,” Robinson wrote in a statement on the club website.
“This offers a unique and new set of challenges not only financially but on medical and safety grounds, not to mention the ability to be able to offer media coverage so supporters and sponsors can still get some value.
“This is something many clubs are currently looking at with the governing body, but there is no easy answer to making this work for all divisions from Super League to League One.
“The current thinking around this solution is to ask whether it is working for the most elite level of the game first and foremost, which would mean the focus being on Super League initially.
“This makes sense, as the sustainability of the Super League also ensures security of other club funding such as the Sky Sports partnership, which all clubs receive centrally, while also ensuring that the integrity and the sustainability of the game is protected.”