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  1. The above writer believes that the game will prosper, expand, develop if, and only if, Leeds can be given a sufficiently exciting and enticing fixture list, a list of large cities spread across the country and Europe and the Northern Hemisphere. Sweeping away the remnants of the sport’s history, the small-town scruffy clubs in deprived areas with impoverished residents, will be essential in order to enhance the new product. He is wrong on many accounts, but here’s three: One: neither he nor anyone else can, in any way, describe a pathway towards this vision, can find even the beginnings of a route, the suggestion of a direction, or have any idea of where to start this crusade. Two: a simple examination of the sport shows that only a few teams ever achieve long term success. The rest bump along the bottom. No structure will alter this. The sport’s main appeal, at the top level, is success: not everyone can have it. A terrible shame, but a new team in a new city will soon be found to be too risky an investment. I, along with the above contributor, have no idea how to achieve sustained expansion. I genuinely hope there are people who do. Three: this sport can no longer sell itself as the greatest game. It has been allowed to become an expensive, homogeneous, high-speed battering activity of limited appeal in a world full of alternative entertainments. All that stands out, to a new spectator, is the endless intensity of collisions. Note the BBC and Sky adverts and introductions to the game. It is not enough. Dream as much as you like, but to make real progress, examine what the game is, what it has, and what it can be, and attempt to move forward from there. This, of course, will be seen as negative, rather than realistic, so I’ll offer my tiny positive contribution: forget minor issues like promotion and relegation, and work at making the game more appealing to play. And I’d see if anything could be learned from looking at a much-loved, highly respectable, regional, and totally amateur sport - Gaelic Football.
  2. You're right, of course, there are many factors involved, but Super League went to - and still go to - great lengths to separate itself from the rest of the sport. Even the change of name has been damaging. To many, the sport played by the top division is called Super League, not Rugby League. Again, Super League clubs are the ones with the profile and the control and the exposure and the money. If it’s not their job to keep the game healthy at the junior levels, whose job is it? The RFL, some would say, a body with almost no profile, control, or money. They may not be the only ones at fault, but Super League have let down the sport of Rugby League. It would be nice if they were to accept some responsibility.
  3. Not sure. I taught kids - a couple of school teams each year - for 25 years. They played because they loved the exhilaration of running and passing and catching and evading and tackling, and taking on an opponent. They loved being part of a team structure, and they loved the training, and seeing the team list and pulling on a shirt on match day. There was no Sky then, and half of them couldn’t afford to go to a (Wakefield Trinity, Featherstone) match. Some of them had professional players in their family, their street, their area, and there was a local tradition that this was the sport to be in if you wanted to test yourself. There were heroes for some, and a few became heroes for the next generation, but it was simply the thrill of playing such a multi-dimensional sport which did most. This attitude has mostly gone now, and it’s a shame. Don’t blame me for wanting some of it back.
  4. Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I would like your vision to happen: I’ve spent decades hoping for, and in my own very small way, working for, the sport I was born into, become truly world important. Unfortunately, the world has changed, and leisure spending now has different requirements. Some posters on here (see Scotchy1 passim) believe that providing Leeds with a worthy fixture list - a Northern Hemisphere or world-wide league of clubs from the biggest cities - would be sufficient to begin successful progress and expansion. They are wrong, staggeringly wrong. This forum discussion is about the achievement of Super League: 20 years of SL has not only not moved the game forward, It has reduced a once worthy profile to a small fraction of what it was. A discussion of why this has happened could only be of benefit. I was replying to a question (serious or attempted humour, I don’t know) about the value of the lower divisions. Heaping derision on the semi-professional part of the sport does not seem to me to be helpful. If the game is to develop, grow, prosper, expand, it needs to be more accessible, more playable, it needs kids in their tens of thousands enjoying the exhilaration of a sport which has a handling dimension not found in football. Super League, with its exposure, profile, power, spending ability, control, has made no worthwhile effort to develop the game below their own division, have not reached beyond their own narrow requirements. I can’t shout this too loud: worry less about the membership and structure of the top division, and find ways to encourage the next generation to play the game. Then expand on the back of that.
  5. A supporting lower structure without which the top division - SL - would struggle, a reservoir of players with the capability of adding to SL when needed, an additional opportunity to play for fringe SL players, or ones later in their career, and so making it more worthwhile for players to take up a professional career at the expense of a career in a different field. A history and tradition which still encourages local amateur teams and school teams and kids in those areas to take up the game and persist with it. Fans who are not only interested in their own division, but will involve themselves in the top division, and so spend money on Sky contracts and on the big games, and so enrich the sport financially. Coaches, potential coaches, and other ancillary staff, ready to move “up” when opportunities and necessities occur. A part in the profile of Rugby League which extends and enriches it, and without which the sport would have the profile of, say, British ice hockey. A structure in which new teams, such as those in Canada and France and other parts of Great Britain can begin the process of challenging the half a dozen SL clubs who bump along the bottom, or languish in mid-table, of their division year after year. Someone to blame as the game as a whole shrinks in profile year on year, particularly the horrifying fall in the number of amateur teams and kids interested in taking up the sport. Make no mistake: without the semi-professional divisions, the sport would fade out of existence much faster than it is now doing so.The only question is: how long would it last before achieving the level of knurr and spell. What Super League ( the division with the profile and the money and the exposure and the influence and the control) has to do is find a way to keep the game alive in as many of its facets as possible, rather than hope someone else will do it.
  6. The heartlands - almost by definition - are those places where the game has been the favourite sporting activity for generations, where kids still get a rugby ball as a Christmas present, still play pass and catch with parents and siblings in the garden, still play touch and pass in the playgrounds and parks, where family members or neighbours have played the game at a high level, where you can chat to an ex-international on a street corner, where an encounter with almost anyone includes discussion of rugby at some point. And where being only a spectator is a long way second to the sport being a part of life. That this state of mind is less so than in the past, and becoming less so as time passes, is down to a number of factors, and yes you are right - it would be valuable to understand what those factors are.
  7. A wonderful story, excellently told. And besides the rugby, a reminder to us all how to be more resilient when dealing with minor adversity.
  8. Can I suggest that Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Mindfulness can be of value, and a combination of both can be very effective. But I would really encourage you look towards professional intervention. And shame on those who reinforce your difficulties.
  9. I fully agree. And I don’t believe your view is miserable, or looking back through distorted nostalgic lenses: it’s a genuine yearning for a different spectacle from the one which exists now. Some think a better spectacle, some think worse, some simply accept the evolution. I don’t think we need to be “blamed” for this yearning. And I’m pretty sure our opinions are not doing significant harm to the sport.
  10. Other demographic analyses are also available. And are possibly more pertinent. This is not a Cambridge University debating society, it’s an internet forum for people who want to express thoughts about RL. It’s terrace talk, it’s chat around a table in a pub, or on the walk to and from the match. It covers all ages and genders and divisions. But it does contain a good proportion who care about the sport. And there does appear to be a strong and genuine concern that the game is not as good as it should be, that there are areas which could, if you are sufficiently involved, disappoint enough to cause a few miserable thoughts. These areas could include: a perceived general decline in the quality of the spectacle, the disappearance of large numbers of amateur teams and players, the lack of kids taking up the sport, a seriously diminishing national profile, a general feeling that issues are not being tackled, a polarisation of the haves and the have-nots. And it could include the continued distracting existence of teams from small ex-mining towns, or the fact that the aged fans of these small irrelevant clubs still expect to have a voice. Now that really makes some people miserable.
  11. You are very fortunate that you are thrilled by the sport: I wish I could still be. But there is obvious and increasing disquiet that the sport is no longer The Greatest Game, not what is could be, that it has become too homogeneous, a high-speed battering and wrestling competition played out by heavyweight robots, lacking the fluidity and exhilaration of skilful ball-handling and running and evasion. Again, you are lucky that this is not how you see it, but it is how may see it. A lot of people believe that it has become unattractive, even ugly at times, not something parents would want their children to be involved in, not something for youngsters to have a go at, not something to be played in parks and playgrounds and gardens. I’ll say again, arguments about league structure - essentially about who bumps along at the bottom of Super League - are a distraction. The sport needs to look at how it is played and how it is viewed.
  12. I have watched, played, taught, coached, refereed and preached rugby league for much of the last 60 years, believing it to be a sport like no other, and one I was fortunate to be attached to (by family and geography). In the last 20 years, the parts of the game closest to me have been marginalised (and often derided and scorned) because of the rise of a breakaway group - Super League - which gradually forced the sport to depart from the skilful thrilling game of handling and running and evasion, into a contest of high speed battering and wrestling, where the team with the most kilograms is the most likely to succeed. And in doing so, shed much of the enthusiasm outside of Super League, and produced an increasingly unattractive activity to which it is increasingly difficult to tempt new fans and new young players. My game has gone now, and isn’t coming back. It all seems like a good reason to be miserable. My fading involvement is of no importance. But if there are large numbers of modern fans of the modern game who are miserable, it could be time to stop fussing over the structure of the leagues, and look at the way the game is played.
  13. Rest in Peace Gary Cooper One of my great favorites as a lad, fast, skillful and exciting. He always seemed to create plenty of room to run into. One of three Garys in the Featherstone Rovers back line at one point, along with Gary Jordan and Gary Waterworth.
  14. Yes. An unfortunate addition to the interpretation of the rules which is unreliable and diminishes the game. But, as always in such discussions, only my opinion, and one, I suspect, not widely shared.
  15. Thank you for your considered response. In tactical sports, if one mode of play begins to dominate, opponents soon find approaches to counter. The acting-half-back “scoot”, though, is difficult to counter. It is generated by getting to the ground quickly and standing quickly, catching the tacklers out of position and the defensive line retreating. It can bring a lot of reward for quite a low level of skill. The counter is to delay the end of the tackle with wrestling techniques, not a particularly attractive feature of the game (for me, that is: most fans seem happy with it). Not quite what the O.P. was saying, but the “scoot” from the play-the-ball has become more significant - in my opinion - than it deserves to be. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to wonder if its impact could be lowered.
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