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  1. I loved BBC's Play for Today. Everything changed the day I saw Kate Nelligan in Thérèse Raquin.
  2. Watching absent-mindedly the Wigan v Swansea match, I perked up when co-commentator Alan Smith commented on one of the player's ballooning the ball over the bar by referencing the fact that rugby is played at the stadium too... only for Martin Tyler to tell Sky viewers that the kick would have been awarded 3 points. It was only mildly irritating - and at least I didn't hear Wigan rugby being blamed for the state of the pitch.
  3. It's a good question even if your characterization of Penny not being able to "defend for toffee" is too harsh in its definitiveness. Kevin Penny has made some high-profile mistakes defensively but might with dedication, growing confidence and good coaching learn to defend as well as did Martin Offiah. Penny, like Offiah, will never be a defensive colossus but remains the only English winger capable of scoring the kind of tries which made the latter in full flight one of the greatest sights in all of sport. These scoring feats are beyond the capabilities of Hall - which is why I'd be in that minority of choosing Penny ahead of him for England.
  4. Leeds' Ryan Hall looks to be set for that England left-wing spot at the end of the season and, in many ways, he deserves it. He's hard-working, solid defensively, reads the game well, big, strong... but not very fast and just a little lacking in inspiration. He doesn't set the pulse racing with his attacking genius - no bewildering, accelerating side-steps a la Jason Robinson or the outside-swerve and killing pace of Martin Offiah. That's not his fault, of course. There are very few players anywhere in the world with the "complete" game. Nonetheless, it is a pity that Tony Smith appears to have conceded defeat re Kevin Penny who, not too long ago, managed to score a handful of tries of authentic genius - the kind, that for all his achievements, Ryan Hall does not look capable of delivering.
  5. What's particularly impressive about these results - although not particularly new - is that they were achieved despite a paucity of newspaper coverage previewing these games by comparison with rugby league's competitor sports. What might the ratings have been if rugby league coverage had been even a fraction of that afforded to the football, cricket and rugby union games? Hopefully what remains of the "rugby league press" will not be shy in making mention of the game's televised popularity in the days leading up to the game's Grand Final - "correspondents" in other sports wouldn't hesitate in doing so.
  6. If you think the scrums are pointless, you are coming from a union background. They are much better than they were and a whole lot better than union scrums, if only you can see them with fresh eyes! League scrums are just a quick(ish) way to restart the game. I accept your point - one made by many others on this thread - that rugby league scrums are "just a...way to restart the game" but try to see these scrums from the point of view of those coming not merely from a union background but also a general sporting background. These people might be thinking just why it is that something so contrived and artificial is a means to re-starting the game at all? Why does it look so shambolic, even risible? What skills are employed by the players taking part in this rigmarole? Why is a "hooker" still called a "hooker?" And precisely because there are relatively so few scrums anyway - why have them at all? Are they not a crumbling relic from a time when contesting possession of the football meant something altogether different? I don't want rugby union scrums in a rugby league game. And even though I have long felt that re-starting the game with a scrum after a player has been dragged into touch is illogical as well as pointless - I want even less those pantomimic rugby union line-outs. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the game lacks the courage of its convictions by refusing to dispense with scrums and maybe looking elsewhere at other sports for clues as to how best to re-start the game. If my memory serves me well, Brian Smith wrote on just this topic many years ago when he had a regular slot in Open Rugby - although, er, I've forgotten just what he wrote! Rugby league's rules surely have not reached a state of perfection? Are there any people in the upper echelons of the game charged with looking at ways the game of rugby league might develop and even improve? And bring back "raking" at the play-the-ball...
  7. Tom Briscoe is indeed a shining light but maybe not the only one - I thought as a neutral that Jordan Turner put in some of the hardest front-on tackles that I've seen from any centre this season - while looking a natural with the ball in hand. Do Hull FC fans not hold out any hope for him either?
  8. Thanks both to you and to Futtocks - I haven't read Garcia's book and shall put that right forthwith! I still hope to read Harry Edgar's book one day - his writing on French rugby league was always the most vivid and, dare I say it, romantic writing to be found in those far-off days of Open Rugby. Cliff has been a worthy successor.
  9. It was the great Harry Edgar all those years ago from the very early days of Open Rugby who turned me on to the glorious yet damaged history of French rugby league - and the game's latent potential there too. I'm still awaiting his long-promised book on those "Champagne" tourists of Down Under long ago! Anyway, I've enjoyed reading your Treiziste Diary as much as I did Edgar's vivid essays and am pleased too that you are to be succeeded by Mike Rylance - author of the cruelly under-reviewed The Forbidden Game, a must-read for anyone who has ever cared for the game in France.
  10. It's not quantity but quality that counts. The Independent, for example, yesterday had an 8-page supplement in addition to another page within the regular Sports section devoted to rugby union - but nothing in those pages comes close to matching the artistry, depth, breadth of knowledge and sheer, unadulterated love of the game that shines through the passages you so kindly have quoted for us. There may be those with the odd quibble? Why no acknowledgment of unknown rugby club, Wigan's table-topping achievement? Where are the previews of next week's play-off games - three of which are shaping up to be authentic blockbusters? Maybe a word or two remembering the great games and players to have graced Knowsley Road over the last 120 years? A profile of/interview with the brilliant young Eastmond or Tomkins, perhaps? No. Let these "chipsters" quibble. The Sunday Times' coverage of rugby league makes the pulse quicken in anticipation of what lies ahead. Surely neither the game nor the coverage can get any better? Can it?
  11. Here's one for those of you who refuse to believe that post-army Elvis Presley is worth a listen - a gorgeous, dreamy take on Gordon Lightfoot's Early Morning Rain.
  12. What excuses will the sports editors of our national daily and Sunday newspapers make re the paucity of coverage between now and the big day itself? The Challenge Cup has a long and proud history fascinating to anyone interested in the sporting traditions of this country. The final is a 90000 sell-out and is to be televised live in HD by BBC1 and broadcast, I presume, in many other countries around the globe. How much space will be afforded to the game via our dwindling crop of rugby league writers? Will this weekend's Sunday Times employ somebody who loves rugby league as much as it is hated by Stephen Jones to devote 2 broadsheet pages as has happened in the past for rugby union's relatively pale imitation? Will the Guardian's Andy Wilson take this opportunity to feature players - preferably ones he believes define what makes rugby league a very special game and not returnees from other sports - before coaches as he so often appears to do? Our great players have never received the recognition bestowed so casually upon athletes representing sports traditionally much less popular than rugby league - opportunities such as the one forthcoming are not to be spurned. I trust also that Chris Irvine is able to sign off from his stint on the Times with a flourish by questioning as to why the company that invests money in televising (high-rating) rugby league refuses barely to acknowledge its existence in its own newspapers? I hope he gives them both barrels - while saluting the likes of, say, Morley and Sinfield or Myler and Burrow...
  13. If the Challenge Cup final is indeed "sold out" then can the RFL not post an official "attendance" of 90000 irrespective of whether some of those "Club Wembley" patrons decide to stay at home or go elsewhere? Are there not some sports in this country and abroad who would do just that? After all, what more can the RFL do between now and the big day to ensure that everyone who can attend does so?
  14. Stephen Jones has been the Sunday Times' Rugby (sic) Correspondent for around 25 years and has gloried in damning rugby league and humiliating even its greatest players throughout this period. He won the prize - I kid you not! - for (William Hill?) Sports Book of the Year for his "masterpiece" "Endless Winter..." Read the sections on rugby league and weep. He's untouchable. Refusing on principle to click on his online articles would make no difference whatsoever to his status on the newspaper. Sports Editors have come and gone but Jones remains - inviolable, imperious in his shamelessness and cawing derisively, no doubt, upon Chris Irvine's demise.
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