Last Tackle

Dave Hadfield
Dave Hadfield

First published in Rugby League World, Issue 390 (Oct 2013)

It was Bob Geldof who, when he was not feeding the world, used to sing of his dislike for Mondays.
I’ve nothing against them – and Monday Night Football has, I think, been a success.
Let’s not forget, as well, that Rugby League has a long record of re-inventing the days of the week.
It was the first to switch, lock, stock and barrel, to Sundays. It was Salford, under Brian Snape, who homed in on Friday nights, which much later became synonymous with Super League.
But Thursdays? Please……..
This is one switch about which I have yet to hear anybody outside Sky say a good word.
It’s hopeless for families, it carries the danger of a really short turn-around for one or both clubs and it is just too obviously for the broadcasters’ benefit, rather than the game’s.
We really don’t like Thursdays.

Talking of TV schedules, is there any level of rugby league which Premier Sports will not cover?
I ask this not in the spirit of criticism, but of wonderment.
We’re already used to them showing Championship games, every match from the NRL, student games and every World Cup fixture live.
They excelled themselves the other week, however, when they screened, as a curtain-raiser to Rochdale versus Oldham, the eagerly awaited showdown between England Colleges and Scotland under-18s. It wasn’t the worst game I’ve ever seen either.
I think I can take them even deeper into the grassroots, though. I’ve just taken delivery of my World Cup replica ball – adding a whole new meaning to that rugby leaguism, the delayed pass.
Anyway, now I’ve got it, if you ever find yourself with a gap in the schedules, I could get a few neighbours together and fill it for you.
There’s room to park the satellite truck at the end of our street and a pitch nearby that is available every day but Thursdays.

We are also indebted to Premier for the return to the glamorous world of punditry of Garry Schofield.
His role in his comeback game was slightly complicated by the fact that his son, Jonathon, was playing.
He tried to avoid slipping into “that was a fine piece of play from our Jonathon” mode. Or to cry out in anguish: “What’s this lad Schofield playing at?” And, by and large, he succeeded.
It has been a little more difficult for him not to lapse into “I told you so’s” when it comes to the state of the London Broncos.
That is one of the subjects upon which we have always had to agree to disagree, so I was surprised to see the other week that he was claiming me as an ally.
Not quite. I would still keep them in Super League if they never won a match and never attracted a spectator.
It’s just that I’m a realist enough to know that this is now a hopelessly minority view. That is why I now think they are doomed. There is a subtle difference.

We lost one of the wisest men in rugby league when Graham Murray died recently.
I’ll always remember some of the insightful things he said, especially the one about there being two sorts of players – the ones who are a handful on the pitch and those who are a handful off it. He filled his Leeds teams with as many as possible of the former and the rest, as they say, is history.
Another thing I recall is Ron Hill and I setting off during the last World Cup to climb the highest mountain in Townsville. That’s not quite the same as tackling the highest mountain in Nepal, but it was still a bit of an undertaking for a pair of ale-carts.
Muzza lived about a third of the way up, so we called to see him. His advice was unambiguous: “In this heat, boys? Forget about it.”
Good advice, which, of course, we ignored. So there we are, near the top and dehydrating by the second, when he arrives in his four-wheel drive with gallons of water.
I will not have been alone in raising a glass or two to one of league’s great characters these last couple of weeks. And none of them have been water.