Full League Express Mailbag – Monday 24th August


Rugby Union appears to have handled a tricky situation better than Rugby League.
Last Monday, I watched the opening round highlights of the Gallagher Premiership on Channel 5. Instead of jumping blindly on the BLM bandwagon the Rugby Union introduced their own campaign, ‘Rugby Against Racism’.
That is something the Rugby Football League could have done. Black lives do matter, but with so much uncertainty about the BLM organisation’s aims (defunding the police, etc.), a campaign covering all races would be better.
Rugby League has an outstanding record on racism. With the exception of a few knuckle draggers, the people involved in it are not racist in any shape or form.
Let’s dump the politics and highlight Rugby League’s inclusiveness.
Steve Rutter, Bolton

I am saddened by my need to protest again at League Express allowing the Mailbag page to be used as a political forum.
Discussing whether players should “take the knee” or not is one thing, but giving a platform to Mick Calvert (Mailbag, Aug 17) to spout ill-informed, libellous, anti-establishment bile is another thing entirely.
If I wanted to read that kind of garbage, I would buy the New Statesman.
Malcolm Bastow, Leeds

Israel Folau is a good rugby player, so why can we not focus on that?
Why does League Express constantly give Mailbag space to people who want to attack his Christian faith?
I have been a Rugby League supporter since the 1970s. Like Israel Folau I am a Christian. I know I am not alone, and the question I want to ask is, “Are we, as Christians welcome in Rugby League?”
I am starting to think that we are not.
Your correspondent, Dennis Richards, questioned Folau’s decision to work on a Sunday, but as a Christian that is his choice. I choose not to work on a Sunday and it has caused me many difficulties with employers in the past.
Simon Smith, Doncaster

`Taking the knee’ started during the American Football pre-season, 2016, when the San Francisco 49ers’ black quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, seeking a dignified way to protest without offending military personnel, knelt instead of standing during the national anthem.
He sounds like a fair and considerate man.
I don’t know if Kaepernick had heard of Rugby League, or what he thinks about others copying his act, but `Black Lives Matter’, which dates from 2012, has copied his symbolic stance.
We don’t know either if `Black Lives Matter’ has heard of Rugby League, or if so, what its view is on the present debate about kneeling.
The problem is that without any expressed opinion from Black Lives Matter on the subject of kneeling in the sporting arena, anybody can say anything, and anybody can be accused of anything. This was summed up in a number of different articles and letters in League Express last week.
There have always been religious zealots throughout history, but the fact that Michael Carter, the honourable leader of one of our most historic clubs, is forced to preface his comments by stating that his club is not racist, shows how the race zealots have got us on the run. In all of the 600 or so word article on Wakefield’s decision to link arms instead of taking the knee, all that could be reported was that it had, “Attracted criticism from some quarters, suggesting Trinity were anti-BLM and supporting racism.”
No names of the accusers, no justification for this outrageous suggestion. Mr Carter suggested that, “Some people have got an agenda with racism and want to use that agenda to cause havoc.”
Mr Carter has it spot on.
Your correspondent Mr Wilkinson in last week’s Mailbag used the analogy of “living in a bubble” and we all live in a bubble to a greater or lesser degree. Nothing that was published in Mailbag last week, however, contradicted my belief that we are not the USA and we live in a very tolerant society.
Seventy years ago, you would have gone a long way and waited a long time before seeing a black man at all in the UK. The Empire Windrush in 1947 started the major force of plack people immigrating to the UK, followed by the immigration of workers from the Indian sub-continent to northern mill towns.
Yes, we had the image of ‘no blacks’ signs in the windows of lodging-houses in the 1950s and 1960s, but in 1967 the Race Relations Act made it illegal to discriminate against people on grounds of colour. Less than 20 years after the Empire Windrush, that’s a pretty good record in my opinion.
At about the same time, Billy Boston was entering his final season at Wigan after becoming the town’s most famous adopted and beloved son, and a lithe, electric black winger in Hull was reaching his peak in the game; soon to become the first black captain of any sporting team in the UK.
Have we regressed since that time?
I have posted an enquiry on the Black Lives Matter website and will report back when I get an opinion.
Bill Anderson, Parbold, Lancs

The Catalans Dragons, players, staff and management alike, have shown brilliant dedication in fulfilling their fixture obligations and playing so well, despite extensive travel to and from the UK.
I understand that they are on the road to and from away games for approximately eighteen hours each game, to compete in Super League week after week.
That must take its toll on matchday preparations and performance levels, although that has not been apparent during the matches I have watched them play recently.
Week on week they seem to stride forward and are getting great results.
“Well done Catalan Dragons,” says this Championship supporter.
Ian Findlay, Leigh

Has everyone noticed that players have found a new way to cheat?
The referee awards a penalty for lifting a ball carrier’s leg above the horizontal, putting him at risk of injury if he is dropped on his head or neck.
Ball carriers have realised that when a tackler grasps their leg, hoping they will lose balance. If they wait until the tackler has lifted their leg, they then raise their other leg parallel to the leg in the air, so the referee will inevitably award a penalty when they are put to ground.
In the recent Wigan v Leeds match, a Wigan player held by the leg by Luke Gale did exactly that, putting himself in danger with the specific intent of milking the penalty, which successfully sent Gale to the sinbin.
The only time the Wigan player was in any danger was when he voluntarily, and deliberately, lifted his standing leg parallel to the leg held by Gale, and then twisted, causing the Leeds players to lose their grip and drop him to the floor. It is surprising that referees are failing to see through this deliberate ploy.
But Leeds can have no complaint about Gale’s sinbinning; Luke Briscoe milked a penalty in the first half using the same ploy.
John Dearden, Huddersfield

In last week’s St Helens v Castleford match two refereeing incidents had a profound impact on the result.
In the 13th minute, Tommy Makinson clearly attacked the testicles of Liam Watts. If Watts had rolled around in agony and remained on the ground, the incident would have been looked at by the video referee, and, without doubt, Makinson would have been sent off.
Saints would have been down to twelve men for the remaining 67 minutes. Castleford could have gone on to win the game with consummate ease.
Later in the game, Jonny Lomax did the exact opposite by remaining on the ground after a late tackle by Grant Millington.
The video referee reviewed the incident and sin-binned Millington for ten minutes. From the resulting penalty, Saints went ahead and eventually won the game. What message does that send out to players, coaches and fans?
Whilst Liam Watts is to be commended for his sportsmanship, his actions undoubtedly cost his team the match. Again, what message does that send out to players other than milk every opportunity? Roll around on the ground and feign injury, if you show sportsmanship your team will be disadvantaged.
Absolutely disgraceful!
Other incidents in other games involved the so-called ‘Crusher Tackle’. Where has this terminology come from? I have watched the game for more than fifty years and have only come across it in the last few seasons.
I am in favour of eradicating dangerous practice from our sport, but I cannot help feeling that a player remaining on the ground and rubbing his neck is gamesmanship. Any tackled player who needs a bit of a breather has only to do that to gain an inevitable five-minute break and the incident being put on report.
I am not advocating foul play or denying the danger of such tackles, but they must be genuine cases, not just players milking a situation to gain unfair advantage.
Graham Cox, Wrexham

Ben Murdoch-Masila should, undoubtedly, have been sent off in the Giants v Wolves game on Saturday, August 15th.
A shoulder charge to the head is a definite red card. Ben Thaler bottled it with a yellow card. So, while the Giants suffered the loss of a key player through concussion, Warrington were only marginally penalised for ten minutes.
Later Mr Murdoch-Masila was justifiably suspended for two matches by the disciplinary committee, but it is Warrington’s opponents over the following two matches who will benefit from that corrective decision.
Huddersfield’s loss by one point was a travesty of justice, when Blake Austin’s Oscar-winning performance on the try line caused the Giants’ try to be disallowed, because the referee blew his whistle for a fake injury just as the try was scored.
Can there be a judicial review to decide if the Wolves should have the two points taken off them for foul play, ham acting, and a referee unable to make an obvious decision when it really mattered?
P J Sephton, Sheffield

Because of the pandemic we are currently tinkering with the rules, so this would be a perfect opportunity also to experiment with ways to eliminate the forward pass.
Each of the next round of fixtures will be televised and will have a video referee.
It should therefore be a quick process, whenever a try is scored, to check back (from the previous play-the-ball or receipt of possession) that no clear and obvious forward pass has occurred. If one had been, the try should be chalked off.
Given that every play-the-ball can potentially lead to a try, it would stop this injustice at a stroke.
Peter Moseley, Stockport

In Garry Schofield ‘s column last week (Pulling No Punches, Aug 17th) I saw that the World Cup might have to be put back twelve months.
I do not think that is a bad idea. It will give supporters and clubs more time to prepare after this setback.
Molly Evans, Monmouth

This is an email I sent on 22 August to Garry Richardson, Radio 4’s main sports newscaster on the influential ‘Today’ programme.
“Dear Garry, thank you for all you have done for Rugby League in the past but even you ignore it now. There is no hope left.
“You are forced by the equality police to cover sports that literally NO ONE is interested in, like women’s golf. I feel sorry for you.
“Evidence, no mention of the Challenge Cup game today LIVE on BBC1 between Wakefield and Catalan. Extraordinary!
“I have detailed your, and your colleagues’ many references in the past to Rugby Union as ‘rugby’, ignoring the existence of rugby league.
“Add to that Justin Webb’s irritating obsession with Union, and League is now well and truly dead on Radio 4.
“Thanks again for your past enthusiasm for League, Garry.
“RIP Rugby League.”
I wonder what your readers think, and whether a campaign to stop this happening is worth launching. Rugby League will not get a look-in if this equality madness on the BBC continues.
Sports should be judged on their popularity and importance locally, not on gender.
Paul Kirby, Wetherby