League Express Mailbag – 26th October 2020

I would like to understand how, and by whom, it is decided that a match should go ahead or not, as there appears to be some inconsistency in these decisions.
Almost all teams, even those who have (non-Covid related) reduced squads, have rallied around, scrambling up a team from the reserve or Academy ranks to keep matches on “for the integrity of the competition.”
Even the two clubs that played in the Challenge Cup final put teams out four days prior to the match. Yet others cancel their fixture. When Wigan did so, it was understood to be because the positive tests were within the coaching staff. If that is correct, why did the Hull KR fixture go ahead without Tony Smith?
Both Salford and Leeds have played four games in fifteen days, with another to be played on Monday 26th October. It is a big ask for these teams to have played two games prior to the final and two after, while, according to their website, Wigan, who have played only two games in fifteen days, don’t play again until 30th October.
By the 30th October, both Salford and Leeds will have played six games in 22 days. Compare that to Wigan’s three in twenty-two days. Surely it would have made more sense for Wigan to play on Monday 26th October, and rest Salford and Leeds. So much for player welfare!
At a time when everyone is struggling, surely the ‘powers that be’ should be ensuring as level a playing field as possible for all our players and clubs.
Once again the sport is let down by its only inconsistency – inconsistent decision making.
Jennie Finch, Salford

With this year’s season being in such turmoil, I and a few other Warrington fans think this year’s Man of Steel award should go to Rob Burrow.
What a guy! This man has truly touched the hearts of so many sports people and the general public. In the BBC documentary aired about him Rob said that he was, “glad it was me and not the kids”.
True steel, he is a small man with a big heart and Hollywood couldn’t have made a better programme.
Can somebody please nominate Rob for the ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ award, as there is nobody more worthy? Everyone loves him (except the players chasing him on the field). He is head and shoulders above all the millionaire sports ‘celebs’.
Good luck for the future and take care.
John Maudsley, Warrington.

As a Wigan fan of some sixty-five years, having watched Bevan French star and deservedly get the ‘Man of the Match’ award playing Salford Red Devils, I was interested to hear his post-match interview.
His response, when asked the inevitable question about a return to the NRL, gave Warriors’ fans a glimmer of hope that he may stay.
Very self-effacing, he mentioned how much he is continuing to learn here, and the thought crossed my mind that he and all Wigan fans have been unlucky in that this year, 2020, is when he joined us. I believe that in any normal season, those thousands of Wigan fans cheering him on would most certainly have had an impact on him.
Sadly, Covid-19 restrictions have meant that was never to be.
So come on Bevan, stay with us, then you can properly experience how fantastic it is to play for Wigan Warriors, and burn some indelible memories into the minds of adoring fans who will forever be able to say: “I was there when Bevan French did ‘such and such’ a thing.”
David Farrimond, Wigan

I watched the Wigan v Salford game on Sky Sports Arena.
Forward passes by Wigan to score tries, which Sky Sports always show again from a different angle so the passes don’t look forward; tries given from knock-ons; Salford with nothing to play for and probably exhausted after their Challenge Cup match. . . I turned it off after eighteen minutes.
Also, why are all the matches played at either St Helens, Warrington or Headingley?
What financial benefit do they get out of it?
Brian Hodgson, Patrington

What a Challenge Cup Final we witnessed this year.
Despite Wembley being empty, we were treated to a blockbuster that has to slot somewhere into the top-ten best Challenge Cup Finals of all time.
As Salford supporter, I was proud of the way our boys came back after half-time. The Red Devils will start winning these big finals with the experience they have gained in the last two years.
The Rugby Football League and Super League should have worked together to have the Grand Final staged in France this year. For the first time ever, it won’t be held at Old Trafford, and this year the Catalans Dragons could even make the final.
Wouldn’t it have been fantastic if they could have won in front of five-thousand supporters in France?
Joe Vince, Colchester

The Cup final was a very good game between two evenly matched teams, with Leeds’ experienced telling in the end.
The referee Liam Moore, a young official making his way in the game, obviously wanted to create a good impression and in general he did so.
For the Tom Briscoe try the touch judge was much nearer to Tom than the rest of the field. All Liam Moore needed to do was speak to the touch judge rather than have the video referee, Ben Thaler, repeatedly checking to see if Briscoe was in touch. He clearly wasn’t.
On the Oledzki penalty, John Kear said Oledzki made an error, when the error was actually made by Liam Moore. Oledzki had a six-foot five-inch player hanging off his neck, which should have been a clear penalty to Leeds, not leading to a try for Salford as it did.
Congratulations to Leeds on getting back on the winning track and for Salford, hopefully, it could be next time lucky.
John Barker, Mirfield

I thought the Cup final last Saturday was great and what a team Salford are, with a great display of everything good.
Indeed, the match was everything that a top sport should be, with skills, sportsmanship, and of course (for me) a win.
The pre-match interview with Clare Balding was pure music to our ears. What a fabulous devotee for the game; surely there should have been more of her.
After the game there was a clip of some football with a lot of footballers manhandling an official – and we wonder why some youngsters these days act as they do. Anyway, let’s not dwell on that spectacle.
Let’s have more of Clare and Rugby League.
Andy Wilcox, Leeds

Watching the Challenge Cup Final, one decision angered me because of its inconsistency.
In the 74th minute, Pauli Pauli was penalised for pushing himself up on the ball whilst playing it. Then in the 75th minute, Matt Prior did exactly the same thing, unpenalised, which led to Leeds getting in position for a drop-goal.
It just confirmed my belief that certain clubs – the bigger ones – get their fair share of the decisions. If Prior had been penalised that might have given Salford the chance of a drop-goal and maybe a different result.
But would that have fitted all the emotion around the match? Probably not!
Deryck Thorp, Rothwell, Leeds

What a breath of fresh air Jason Robinson was on Friday night, joining the Sky Sports team to cover the two screened games.
Knowledgeable, honest and highly entertaining, his contribution made for a great watch, adding something that has been missing.
A great choice by Sky Sports – as were Chev Walker and Leon Pryce in previous weeks.
Well done, Sky, these things should be freshened up more often.
Matt Carr, Urmston

Outside the A. J. Bell Stadium at 11.30 p.m. last Saturday night, a hundred and fifty or so Salford fans gathered to show their appreciation for their working class heroes home coming.
Fireworks marked their return, and as they disembarked from the coach the night air was broken by the chorus of ‘I see the Salford Reds arising’. Three or possibly four generation of fans, all social distancing – bar one or two ‘covididiots’ – a microcosm of today’s society.
The players – also masked, most hobbling – returned the gesture. Many wouldn’t sleep that night, as their own part in the game mentally replayed; the ‘shoulds’ and ‘what-ifs’ bubbling up and some possible self-recrimination.
At 1.15 p.m. on the Saturday afternoon, tears had welled up as I watched Rob Burrow show immense humility and courage, his vulnerability on open display. I guess every Rugby League fan loves and admires Rob.
It was fifty-one years since my last appearance as a fan at Wembley. Now an enforced ‘sofa participant’, for me the game was ‘Romans’ (Leeds) v Spartans (Salford). A pulsating Leeds win but only just, because Salford gave them a ‘hell of a run for their money’.
Reflecting on those two events, what a sport! Incredible.
Paul Hill, Salford

The Chris Heinitz article ‘Expanding Scorelines’ (League Express 19th October) mentioned Broughton beating Wigan 4-0 in the 1901 Challenge Cup final.
The year was in fact 1911.
Patricia Arthur, Prenton, Wirral

As a very senior home and away supporter at Rugby League games, and now not very stable on my feet, although I still walk without a stick, I find it difficult and dangerous to climb grandstand steps without volunteer support.
Quite frequently the steps are much more than eight inches apart. Mostly they lack hand rails, although a few stands do have them, but they also tend to be about four inches in diameter, which is too wide for the average grip.
This is a matter I have mentioned before, but it is important and relevant to other sports and activities. I believe it is of great importance that the Rugby Football League take it up, on behalf of all infirm supporters.
Arnold Ainsworth, Workington

I am grateful to Mr Rees (Mailbag, 12 October) for pointing out my error in referring to Jermaine Coleman as the only black head coach currently in professional Rugby League.
I lazily repeated it from the news media without proper questioning, so I apologise to Adrian Lam and to Wigan for my oversight.
However, I cannot agree with Mr Rees that the oversight was because having two black coaches in the professional game instead of one doesn’t fit my narrative.
It is more likely connected to my being a Saints fan.
However, Mr Rees does make a valid point about how easy it is to overlook black people and black identities, which is of course how unconscious racism works.
Like Mr Rees, I would not advocate counting the number of black people in particular roles or positions, but I am not sure we can ignore those things when they are brought to our attention.
I am glad that we were both opposed to apartheid in South Africa, but it may be easier to look at past struggles than to look at where we are now. And, as for casting aspersions on our history, like Mr Rees I have always taken pride in it, regularly pointing out to others that we led the sporting world in acceptance and inclusion.
It is for that very reason that I have been troubled that questions are now being asked about our current situation.
In the spirit of Rugby League, we should all now be big enough and brave enough to give serious consideration to what Jermaine Coleman and Jason Robinson have recently said, and look hard into a mirror that might not show us doing as well as we would wish.
Dick Blackwell, London