It’s good to see Shaun Wane get his England backroom team in place.
But despite his optimistic comments, I really can’t see the Ashes series we were all looking forward to, at least in our part of the world, going ahead.
I don’t think the Aussies have given international Rugby League the respect it deserves for quite some time now.
Their priorities are the NRL and State of Origin, and those two will always be put before an Ashes series, particularly when it comes to squeezing matches into a shortened calendar, as will be the case when the action resumes post-lockdown.
It’s hard to see how we could arrange a series against New Zealand at short notice, so we have to accept that Wane, his new assistants Paul Wellens and Andy Last, and Colin Maskill, who succeeds Jamie Peacock as team manager, are now looking towards the 2021 World Cup, which was their long-term objective in any case.
I’m disappointed for Ian Watson and Danny Ward, although I don’t think Wayne Bennett used them as he should have done when they were his right-hand men on the Great Britain tour last year.
That’s a reflection on Bennett, not the two Englishmen, who have both proved themselves to be talented coaches.
I’ve been critical of Hull’s decision to retain Andy Last after getting rid of Lee Radford.
But I have no issue with Andy taking this international role, because he is a respected and experienced assistant coach who has previously been with England at Academy level.
As well as working at St Helens, Paul Wellens was a member of the England coaching team during the last World Cup as well as the 2018 Test series win over the Kiwis, so he has plenty of knowledge.
Let’s just hope Bennett’s influence hasn’t rubbed off on him too much!
And I’m delighted to see my old mate Colin Maskill get a role.
We go back to the days when we were team-mates at Leeds, and he’s not only s top bloke, but a trustworthy one who Shaun Wane knows he can work with.
Players not the priority
MIKE COOPER’S comments about player welfare and possibly facing pay cuts and having three matches a week once the season resumes made interesting reading.
As did his suggestion that Down Under, players would go on strike if such a scenario occurred.
“It wouldn’t happen in the NRL. I’m telling you now that they wouldn’t stand for it,” said Cooper, who played for St George Illawarra between 2014 and 2016.
“They would stand there and say they’re not playing. The players’ association would do that.”
We’ll have to wait and see what fixtures formula Super League and the NRL some up with for their respective competitions.
But one thing is for sure – I can’t see a strike being successful.
Mike is right when he talks about the importance of following concussion protocols and also when he says that it’s not 60 or even 40 years ago and that the game has moved on.
It has got faster, a result not just of players becoming full-time, and therefore earning more, but also because there is greater scientific knowledge applied, which also provides better procedures to recover from matches and injuries.
But one thing remains the same – as a player, you are essentially a piece of meat, with the directors having the real power.
When it comes to the arrangement of fixtures, what the broadcasters want and what the supporters want will come before what the players want.
The harsh truth is that players are replaceable, and by going on strike, that’s what would happen.
Death of an amateur stalwart
IT was very upsetting to learn of the death through coronavirus of an old mate of mine, Dave Roberts.
Along with his wife Ann, Dave, who was 62, put in a huge amount of hard work at the Wakefield club Eastmoor Dragons, where he was the Chairman and seemed to have carried out virtually every role possible after he stopped playing for them.
I worked with him when coaching Yorkshire Under-19s, and ten years ago, he was tour manager when I coached the BARLA Young Lions in South Africa.
It was a successful and very enjoyable trip both on the field, where we gained five wins from five, and off it. Dave played a big part in that.
He was a great tour manager, a very good communicator, a very good organiser and a man all the lads loved and got along with.
You can see from the responses to the news of his death that he was also very well-liked and respected on the amateur club scene.
Along with his family (he was a proud father of two), Rugby League was his big passion, and the game will be worse off without him.
Rest in peace Dave.
Alex’s route to fame
ONE of the players Dave and I took on tour to South Africa was Alex Walmsley.
And it’s been great to see how his career has progressed, along with those of Steve Scholey and Dan Rooney, who both signed for Workington, and Danny Rowse, who is now at Hunslet, having been a top performer for Hunslet Club Parkside in recent years.
When we toured, Steve, who is still going strong at Derwent Park, and Dan were both playing for Maryport, Danny was at Lock Lane and Alex at Dewsbury Celtic.
Alex was a player of real quality, and after we returned I recommended him to Leeds, Castleford and Hull.
But he didn’t get signed on at that time, mainly, I suspect, because the view was that having not gone through the Scholarship and Academy system, he hadn’t been coached and developed to the requirements of a Super League club.
There seems to be an obsession with that system, but just as in professional football (look at Jamie Vardy) there will always be those who either are missed at a young age or decide to pursue a different path.
It doesn’t mean they aren’t good enough to play at the top level, and Alex has shown that.
He continued with his university studies and playing for Celtic, won the National Conference League Player of the Year award in 2011, and the following year was taken to Batley by John Kear.
He was then snapped up by St Helens, and had a spell back at Batley on dual-registration before establishing himself in Super League.
Now he has been a Grand Final winner, he has been in the Super League Dream Team, he has toured with Great Britain and he has played for England in a World Cup Final.
Not too shabby!
In defence of Piers
PIERS MORGAN has, as usual, been in the news as he continues to question our politicians about the coronavirus crisis as the host of Good Morning Britain.
And that perfectly illustrates my point, made three weeks ago, about inviting him to become the president of the RFL.
It’s not about whether or not people like him or agree with him, and neither is it about whether he knows anything about Rugby League.
It’s about looking forward, and the publicity he could bring the sport we are all so passionate about, which, given the reach and influence he has, is enormous.
WHAT an absolutely magnificent effort by Captain Tom Moore, the 99-year-old War veteran who has raised more than £25 million for NHS charities by walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday on April 30.
While he now lives in Bedfordshire, Captain Tom comes from Keighley, in the heart of Rugby League country, and it would be great if the Rugby League community continued to support him with further donations.
On an average weekend, around 60,000 people go out and watch a professional Rugby League match, so just £1 each would provide a significant addition to the fund.