THERE’S A TREAT IN STORE
Ian Watson and his Salford team will have noted that it took until the 44th minute for Leeds to allow a play-the-ball behind their own 10-metre line in last weekend’s Challenge Cup semi-final.
Arguably, neither side has much, if anything, to change tactically for this Saturday’s Final.
Assuming that Leeds get (and keep) their noses in front, then as long as Salford are still within sight of their opponents with a quarter of the match to go, they will draw from their own semi-final experience against Warrington, and know they have sufficient self-belief and discipline to win.
What will be interesting is if Salford dominate and Leeds are chasing the game. How will each team cope with a role reversal requiring both to tap into different facets of their undoubted mental toughness?
Leeds’ Luke Gale and his pack of forwards so absolutely imposed their will that it mattered little what their opponents (Wigan) could create.
Almost error-free, both performances were as all-round sumptuous as you are likely to see, so for all Leeds’ superlative game-management, they know that Salford will be ready for the challenge.
I can’t wait for this Saturday.
Perhaps, like many neutrals, I am pleased for our sport and the television audience that, without disrespect, someone other than two from among St Helens, Warrington and Wigan will play in this year’s Challenge Cup Final.
Novelty is vital to sparking and maintaining interest. A Leeds v Salford pairing should serve us up a treat.
Dr Michael Sheard, Northallerton
GREAT GAME, LISTS PLEASE
I don’t often get to watch Rugby League games live, so it was a great treat last Saturday to watch both Challenge Cup semi-finals on the BBC.
I couldn’t believe how awful Wigan were, but credit to Leeds, who are now through to yet another final.
As for the other game, at one stage my team (Salford) were ten points down against Warrington. Good job they took the two points when they got a penalty or it would have been golden-point extra-time. Such a shame no Red Devils fans can be at Wembley on the 17th of October, but we’ll all be watching the game on TV and cheering on the boys.
I wonder if League Express could publish every Challenge Cup Final result since 1896 and every Lance Todd Trophy winner since 1946.
I do love a good list.
Joe Vince, Colchester
HARD DONE BY
Congratulations to Salford Red Devils on a well-deserved win.
That said, I have a question about the rules. Towards the end of the game a Salford player had a loose ball on the floor but didn’t regain his feet.
He wasn’t touched by the Wire player standing over him, waiting for him to get up. If he doesn’t get up it’s a voluntary tackle. I assume the player knew that, got up and was simultaneously tackled into touch.
The player had not been tackled on the floor or heard ‘surrender tackle’, yet the referee called a penalty to Salford’ instead of a Wire ball.
John Hewison, Warrington
In ‘Upfront’ (5th October) I read that League Express hopes that Sam Burgess can prove his case.
For a successful conviction under Australian law (as under English law), the prosecution would have to prove the case against Burgess, not the other way round. Until that happens Sam is innocent until proven guilty.
A small but significant distinction.
Michael O’Hare, Northwood, Middlesex
IT’S A MONEY TREE
When you see how they squander money, it is not surprising that the BBC now intends to make people over seventy-five pay for a TV licence.
Did their television coverage of last weekend’s Challenge Cup semi-finals warrant eleven people in all to cover two games? Three touch-line reporters: Tanya Arnold, Damian Johnson and Robbie Hunter-Paul. Mark Chapman to present both programmes (from a studio), along with Brian Noble and Jon Wilkin. Dave Woods to commentate on the first game, along with John Kear and Jonathan Davies (who more or less repeated what John Kear said). Matt Newsum to commentate on the second game with Luke Robinson and Jonathan Davies again.
On the seventeenth of October, the BBC will televise the Challenge Cup Final from Wembley Stadium. I imagine a majority of the aforementioned will again be involved in covering that, all of them on expenses paid for by television licence payers.
It’s time the BBC took a good look at itself.
Jon Wiles, Hessle
JERMAINE’S NOT ALONE
I had expected someone else to correct Dick Blackwell (Mailbag September) but no one did in last week’s issue.
Mr Blackwell cited Jermaine Coleman as the only black, head coach currently in the professional game. I assume, therefore, that he hasn’t watched Wigan recently.
I would have thought that Adrian Lam could be classified as a black head coach, given his Papua New Guinean heritage.
I’m not sure why Mr Blackwell should have overlooked Adrian.
Perhaps it is because Adrian’s position at the head of the most successful club in Rugby League doesn’t suit his narrative.
The sad thing is that some of us spent many years fighting the apartheid system in South Africa and its insistence of classifying people by the colour of their skin, which was so contrary to the spirit of Rugby League.
But now people like Mr Blackwell seem to want to go down that road while casting aspersions on the proud history of a great sport.
Bill Rees, Wakefield
The Rugby Football League has launched a strategic plan to ‘make Rugby League an inclusive sport and tackle discrimination’.
That reminds me of ‘George and the Extinct Dragon’. St George slays the mighty dragon and is hero-worshipped by all. Over time the worship wanes, so George starts slaying the smaller dragons and finally, when the worship doesn’t reach previous heights, he resorts to swinging his sword at fresh air and digging up old dragons to display.
Rugby League is already a very inclusive sport.
Why then, with no amateur teams now, in Knottingley, Pontefract, Airedale and the Selby district, and when all our funds are needed with the M62 heartlands in terminal decline, is somebody going to get a well-paid job ‘digging up dragons’.
London Skolars coach Jermaine Coleman mentioned abuse he has received in the game. Welcome to the club. I must have played four hundred amateur games in my life and I can’t remember one when I didn’t get abuse.
Jason Robinson Is the latest to jump on the “not enough black kids playing the sport” bandwagon in an article in The Guardian.
Sorry Jason, but the facts are there aren’t enough people playing the game full stop.
Feel free to go out and get a bus full of BAME players or players from the LGBT community and I can assure you there isn’t a coach going that wouldn’t play them.
Coming out with these comments shows how out of touch some people are.
David Sowden, Kellington
FULL PRICE AND NO CHOICES?
Having signed up on the priority list for World Cup tickets the day they went on sale I logged on and like John Spellman (Mailbag 5th Sept), I too was disappointed to find no price concession for pensioners.
I was still prepared to purchase tickets though, even at full price, but after looking for suitable seating (in a higher tier, preferably adjacent to a gangway), I found it was not possible to pick a specific seat; I could only get a ‘pot luck’ in the price band I was wanting to pay.
If I could have got what I wanted then I would have bought tickets, even though, in the current situation, we cannot be certain the event will be able to take place next year.
I decided to email ‘ticket sales’ to see if they could help and received a prompt reply, which confirmed that there were no concessions for OAPs, and that if I bought a ticket, it would be allocated to a seat ‘nearest the action’ in the price band I wanted.
I took that as likely to mean pitch-side, not under complete cover even in the large stadiums and not my idea of the best place to be in October or November.
I shall probably now watch most of the tournament on television, unless a lack of ticket sales prompts price reductions.
Nick McCartney, Brighouse
Why do we see players arriving for matches wearing masks, and socially distancing from fellow team members, when some little time later they are on the pitch tackling, lying on and generally getting up close and personal, with those same team-mates?
Why do we see the coach sitting in a deserted stand wearing a face mask? Why are the medical team wearing plastic aprons that wouldn’t be any use changing a baby’s nappy?
Is it called lip service?
Val Andrews, St Annes on Sea
REMEMBERING THE ‘BOMBER’
I enjoyed Martyn Sadler’s article about Welsh Rugby League stars over the years.
My late brother, Ray Fletcher, would have been deeply grieved that there was no mention of the Hull hooker, Tommy ‘Bomber’ Harris.
`Bomber’ because of his explosive bursts from a bunch of players. I can see him now, bursting out into open play, and then throwing a long pass out to the wing. Great days!
Harris won twenty-five caps for Great Britain. He also won the Lance Todd trophy, when on the losing side against Neil Fox’s Wakefield Trinity in 1960.
He came from Newbridge (I don’t know if that is in Cardiff Bay). We beat the Aussies and he finished his playing career with York.
A great player!
Harry Fletcher, Hull
Editor’s note: Newbridge is not in Tiger Bay, which is why Tommy was not included in the 13 who came from that part of Cardiff.
Did you think the saga of a new ground for Trinity couldn’t throw up any more surprises?
It is now alleged that Manni Hussain has links to organised crime, and has to pay back ten million pounds to the National Crime Agency, of which three million came from selling Belle Vue back to Wakefield Trinity.
As the value of the Belle Vue ground has been assessed at only £1.5 million, the NCA is now investigating the deal, with a report to follow.
They are asking how much was paid for the ground in the first place, what due diligence was carried out, where the money came from and who was involved. Also how the ground was re-purchased for twice its value (£3 million) and again, who was involved.
Ron Marney, Wakefield
REFUND THE FANS
Having booked to go to Toronto to watch Hull FC play Toronto Wolfpack in April this year, a trip which was cancelled due to Covid, I now find that I cannot get a matchday ticket refund from the Wolfpack’s official agent, Ticketmaster Canada, who are saying they are not having funds returned by the club to enable refunds to be issued.
We are not talking about a lot of money. It is the principle. A club wanting re-admittance into Super League, whilst still holding onto fans’ money is wrong, and should be dealt with prior to the RFL and Super League negotiating with them.
Whilst I will hopefully make a `section 75′ credit card refund soon, if I do not get a satisfactory answer, fans should be looked after. Without them there wouldn’t be a game.
The RFL and Super League need to raise this with Toronto, along with the unpaid player wages. In my opinion they should honour both before negotiations begin, and if they don’t their re-admittance should not be allowed.
Christopher Smith, Driffield