Full League Express Mailbag – Monday 14th September

The current Toronto situation demonstrates our inability to grasp the process by which growth and expansion takes place.
Believe it or not, we have made progress in this game. If we go back to the early 1980s Rugby League was much more parochial in Australia than now. The NRL as it was then, was a league of twelve sides, all in Sydney.
The game was, of course, also played in other states and in New Zealand, but in a lower-profile, grassroots-cum-semi-professional guise. It was the success of the Sydney league that led the evolution of the game, followed by the addition of Canberra, Newcastle, Brisbane, Gold Coast, North Queensland, Auckland (NZ) and Melbourne enriching the competition.
Twenty per cent of all players now are New Zealand born. Many more are Pacific Islanders and Papua New Guineans, and the international game has prospered on the back of this. We have seen a World Cup win by New Zealand in 2008, and Tonga has become the first side outside the ‘Big Three’ since 1978 to defeat Australia.
Maybe we could achieve similar here in Europe. There are now two fully professional sides in France and a good sprinkling of French players across the Super League clubs.
Surely the aim should be to increase the stock of French players, over time, to a level that makes viable holding an annual (rest of) Europe Test against England. We used to have them.
Instead, we now persist with this North American fantasy, without its having produced one single Canadian player, or none that I am aware of.
All of this harms expansion close to home. In 2021.
Newcastle Thunder, the one club genuinely committed to growing at the grassroots, in the North East where previously there was little or no Rugby League activity, may well have their promotion hopes unfairly scuppered by another full-time, Canadian outfit being allowed to operate with overseas players.
It’s time to get over it. There never has been a shortcut or quick fix means of expansion that works, merely gradual improvement and evolution.
Nick Robinson, Beverley

Black Lives Matter and taking the knee continue to attract comment, which is healthy.
Issues on which opinions differ are best discussed in the open.
One thing upon which opinions should not differ, however, is that racism is wrong and should be outlawed. How that can be achieved is the difficult bit. It will require major political initiatives, which will include and affect all sports.
I have no difficulty with those who object to taking the knee, nor with the way Wakefield have approached the subject. Their explanation was helpful, although it cannot preclude supportive actions like taking the knee, which clearly means a lot to the players who do it.
It only takes ten seconds. If it upsets you, make a cup of tea.
Leroy Cudjoe was quoted in The Su’ (28 June] as saying Rugby League is better (on this issue) than many other sports and organisations, and a primary school teacher friend of mine said that, while diversity is rightly discussed in class, discussing it should certainly not end there.
Sport should never be placed ahead of, or deemed more important than, anti-racism or diversity issues in general. I salute Rugby League for the stance that it is taking
David Wilkinson, Delamere, Cheshire

I am astonished that there are still people in the UK who think others there need to be told that black lives matter as much as white ones. What, in the UK?
Perhaps your ‘activists’ over there have never lived in a place where, until not long ago, black lives really did not matter to many people as much as white lives did.
There is no difference between a black life and a white one but there is a difference between being rich or poor. Why don’t we see the same interest in the UK, in promoting ‘Poor Lives Matter’?
Most of our people here are black but, far more importantly, many are still extremely poor and all of us here have an equal duty to try and level that out.
Jeff Whittaker, KwaZulu, Natal

Watching the Wakefield v Hull match last week, I was interested to note that a try awarded to Hull in the second half had gone up to the video-referee as ‘no try’, but was overturned.
How often does that happen?
Maybe the ball was knocked backwards, but the problem for me was that a Hull player jumped up into Tupou with his knee in Tupou’s back, while Tupou was off the ground, bending Tupou backwards and pushing him away from the ball. Wakefield should have been awarded a penalty.
The video-referee was James Child, who some Wakefield fans believe is not a lover of Wakefield.
D Thorpe, Leeds

Black Lives Matter is a very emotive movement.
With the number of players in our sport who are devoutly religious, though others are not, we should with hindsight probably have foreseen the potential issues raised by taking the knee.
What happens next, I wonder? The sport does have to deal with those who are racist, rather than brushing them under the carpet, be they players or spectators,
Would Alex Simmons (who criticised the recent Readers’ Poll in League Express on BLM) still describe as ‘just banter’ Wayne Godwin’s adopting ‘blackface’ to perform on Rugby AM as Dr Koukash, as that outdated form of ‘comedy’ was described in the past.
Janie Scotland, Wakefield

Aaron Bower’s article on how the Rugby League European Federation (RLEF) is run (LE 7th September), was extremely enlightening.
I can fully understand why many countries are upset with the way they are being treated. Why should voting be secret unless the organisers may be unhappy with the result, and ‘creative accounting’ be applied? If there is nothing to hide, have an open and fair vote.
Why should the RFL be involved in the European Federation?
They can make a mess of our own game without having fingers in other pies. And why should bigger hitters like England, Scotland and France have more votes than the Rugby League fledgling countries, making the processes lopsided and completely undemocratic.
Newer member countries should be given every encouragement to have their say, and thereby become valued members of the growing RLEF group of countries involved in and playing our tremendous game.
Ian Haskey, Castleford

Les Graham of Liverpool (Mailbag, 7th September) has a very insular view, seemingly wanting to restrict the available audience for our great sport.
He suggests that for Rugby League news, I should listen to 5-Live and the local BBC stations, which totally misses my point. Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme has millions of influential listeners. If it ignores Rugby League, then those in authority in other spheres will also see the game as unimportant.
Thankfully, however, RFL Chief Executive Officer Ralph Rimmer was interviewed on the programme on Friday and did a great job of promoting the game. We need more of this. I hope the RFL will continue to feed the media with stories and put forward good quality interviewees.
If nothing else, my own email to Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme helped to remind producers (and reporters) that League IS happening here in the North, and deserves as much coverage as Rugby Union, tennis, golf, cricket and so on.
The broadcasters were good enough to reply to my email and expressed some sympathy, while explaining the difficulty in ‘keeping the balance right’.
Paul Kirby, Wetherby