rlno1 Posted January 30 Share Posted January 30 (edited) This article in the Christchurch "Press" Newspaper on March 7th, 1973. Some may find it interesting. It was written by Kiwi half who played in Christchurch, Graeme Cooksley. He was spending the French season post 1972 World Cup with Avignon. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CHP19730307.2.87?end_date=31-12-1979&items_per_page=10&page=3&query=rugby+league&snippet=true&start_date=01-01-1971&title=CHP Quote League in France entering new era of prosperity Rugby league, or “sport of the XIII” as it is known in France, has experienced a dire struggle to survive over the last few years, but it is once again becoming a dominant sport in many of the once famous and proud villages that have been the code’s strongholds. The guiding hand in the new resurgence is the president of the French league, Mr Rene Maurias, a self-made millionaire who is organising the sport as a business — in the manner which I believe all sport, whether amateur or professional, must be run to survive. This season the preniier competition has been increased to 24 teams by the promotion of five second division clubs. It is split into two sections of 12, according to geographical areas so that travelling is reduced. Two rounds are played by each division on a home-and-away basis and, as a separate contest, the top six teams then play against each other. The home-and-away fixtures are for the prestigious French Championship and there is also a knock-out series for the French Cup. Apart from the honour of victory in one of these finals, there is an added financial benefit . from the grants made by town councils at the beginning of each season. Most towns in France support the major sports — Rugby union, soccer, basketball and Rugby league — and if a club brings credit to its town by having a successful year its share of the pool is that much greater. This season my club, Avignon S.O.A. XIII, has been performing well and is leading its competition. Because the Avignon Rugby union and soccer sides are near the bottom of their tables, Rugby league received a donation of about $36,000, easily the biggest amount granted by the council. Further revenue is gained from gate takings and sponsorship by business organisations which use the team’s victories as advertising propaganda. The jersey designs also feature advertisements, Avignon being supported by SimcaChrysler, a large carmanufacturing firm. All sportsmen in France consider themselves amateur, unless fully engaged in their sport, such as the best-paid soccer professionals. However, for topclass union or league players the rewards can be great. Because of this, the transfer regulations for both codes are stringent. A monetary payment in the case of Rugby league is usual; the Rugby - union adihinistration has stood players down for a complete season to try and prevent them from accepting offers to switch their allegiance. Many of the union clubs approach league players with attractive financial bonuses. A club-mate "of mine at Avignon was offered $lO,OOO for three seasons if he changed to union, but he was prevented from accepting by a truce between the two bodies administrating the sports. Recently in the newspapers the Rugby Union has threatened “war” again and may open its ranks to all Rugby league players. At present the laws restrict the transfers of all except internationals. In reply, Rugby league’s officials have stated that they plan to establish the game in the northern provinces, traditionally the stronghold of the union code. The Government assists Rugby league by providing four full-time coaches under the direction of the national selector and former French representative, Mr A. Jiminez. They travel between schools and clubs showing films, giving lectures and instructing players. They also supervise coaching schools for coaches, similar in style to those supported by Rothmans in New Zealand. The town councils also employ many Rugby league players as physical training instructors in the schools. As an example, Avignon has in its employ Olympic gold medalists in fencing and archery and a world-ranked oarsman as well as myself. The over-all standard of Rugby league in France is not as high as in New Zealand, although the top teams in each sectio,n would be equal to any at home. The flow of the.matches is not helped by the biased attitudes of the referees. As most games are home-and-away fixtures, travelling teams have to counter local referees and, after all, the official has to live in his town. There are many stoppages for “Hollywoods” as players try to get penalties. Brian Lee, the Kiwi forward who was sent off against France in the 1968 World Cup game at Auckland, can vouch for that. On occasions that Latin temperament explodes and one of our matches finished after 69 minutes as the players brawled. The referee simply ran to the changing room, blowing his whistle as he went. Many of France's younger players have a natural unorthodox flair for attacking Rugby League and 1 am sure they would develop outstandingly during a long tour. The national team which visits New Zealand later this year will provide a strong opposition and should display an exciting style. French Rugby League administrators are keen to have many New Zealanders in their country during the southern off-season. They are hoping that the presence of overseas players will do for Rugby league what imported United States basketball players have done for their sport, increased its popularity markedly. While in France I have been very appreciative of the hospitality and generosity offered me by my adopted club and the people of the villages. I’ve played all my football at stand-off half, outside the French scrum-half, J. M. Imbert, who I expect to win selection for the tour of New Zealand. Although pleased with my form, I doubt whether the season has improved my play considerably, other than to keep me fit. I have already been asked to return next year, but it is likely that I will take my first break from Rugby league for some years to avoid getting fatigued. This article Was specially written for “The Press” by the New Zealand Rugby league representative, G. R. Cooksley, who has been playing with the Avignon club in France during the northern season. Edited January 30 by rlno1 4 4 Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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