First published in Rugby League World, Issue 388 (Aug 2013)
Is there anything Sam Tomkins can’t do?
There’s the exceptional ability he brings to playing the game, of course, and the suggestion that he could be doing it in three countries simultaneously next year. That’s if all the rumours were true.
Who else could you send out on the red carpet at a film premiere to ask film stars Russell Crowe and Henry Cavill a few curly questions?
Then there’s a generation of Halifax school children whose lives he has turned around.
Surely it can’t be long before he is dropped into the jungle to star in the newly-retitled “I’m a Wiry Fullback. I’ll Get Myself Out of Here.”
There used to be another TV format that would have suited him down to the ground, the old BBC programme that used to show surgical operations, “Your Life in Their Hands.”
I’m sure he would approach it with the same confidence he has everything else. I can see it now – “Your Life in Sam’s Hands.”
Even in a match as tough and intense as Warrington versus Wigan, it was heart-warming to see Sam and Lee Briers unable to resist the temptation to ham it up for the benefit of Ref-cam.
Professional sport can be a serious business, so it was like a blast of fresh air to see two of the free spirits of the last couple of decades of the game having a right laugh with Phil Bentham and his latest piece of kit.
I’m enjoying Ref-cam in general, although I worry about matches where Spider-cam is also in operation. One of these days, the two controlling computers are going to lock onto each other and try to swap functions. Then Phil, or whoever, is going to get several kilos of precision engineered metal in his left ear.
Better that than Messrs Tomkins and Briers in his ear, he might conclude.
Sometimes you look at Rugby League and think “Oh no, what have we done?”
After a few weeks of the shoulder charge ban, it should be clear to everyone that this is one of those instances.
These are a couple of scenarios I’ve noted more than once – and from both sides of the world.
A beast of a winger, someone like Manu Vatuvei, is steaming for the corner. A fullback about half his size comes covering across and stops him scoring in the only way he can, by getting the shoulder into him and nudging him into touch.
What would have been a brave and brilliant piece of defence is now an offence to be punished. Someone was even agitating for a penalty try!
The other side of the coin is this: A playmaker has got away a pass or kick, only to be hit late and high by an opponent. Not with a shoulder, though, so that’s alright!
Has the game gone mad?
Has there ever been a more gracious player than Jonathan Thurston?
Every time I see him play – which, thanks to Premier Sports, is approximately once a week – it strikes me not only what a marvellous operator he is, but also what a considerate bloke.
Take the guard of honour that kids often form to welcome teams onto the field. Some grumpier types fork off and avoid it; most players trot through and ignore it.
Not Thurston. He nearly gets down on his knees to make sure that he high-fives and makes eye-contact with every one of the youngsters.
When one of them brings out his kicking tee, no matter how tense the shot at goal might be, he makes a point of thanking them and having a bit of a chat.
Throw in blokes like Ryan Hoffman and Cooper Cronk, who were so good with the kids at the World Club Challenge, and there’s a danger that we will be facing that most disconcerting of opposition this autumn – a nice bunch of Aussies.
‘Allo, ‘allo, what’s going on here then?
All the squads have been named recently for the “other” World Cups that are taking place in this country this season.
One name in the England Police squad leapt out at me – Sean Long (Greater Manchester).
It’s quite a revelation, that Longy has been working undercover all this time and just pretending to be a bit of a lad.
It might be a bit harder for him to get away with it in the future.