League Express Mailbag – Monday 13th September


Now that the reduced Sky contract has been negotiated, is it not time for the league structures and finances for next season to be announced?

Sky has exploited Rugby League, especially so in recent months, as a filler programme for it’s own convenience although that is another story. As things stand, some of the lower league clubs face an uncertain future due to the likely restructuring of the leagues and potentially receiving little or no money from central funding.

If the likes of North Wales Crusaders and Coventry, two clubs that have made excellent progress this season, both on and off the field, do not figure in future league structures or are not allocated the necessary finance to continue, it would send out a very powerful negative message that the sport is in major decline and contracting at an unprecedented rate.

What would happen to these so-called development areas?

Super League clubs are going to take an increased slice of the Sky money, but who actually agrees on this when considering the welfare of the game as a whole in this country?

Currently Super League clubs are permitted to sign seven, yes seven, overseas players, one more than last season. Does this really make economic sense when the game is desperately short of money and, added to this, too many of the overseas players recruited are surplus to requirements in the NRL, second-rate players or seeing out the twilight of the careers?

James Maloney is one of the few exceptions in that regard. Overall, though, what do these journeymen add to the British game?

A reduction to three or four overseas players per club would surely make more money available for the development of the game and also for the lower league teams. Added to this, a greater number of young British players would get the opportunity to play Super League. Look how well both Lewis Dodd and Jack Welsby have done for St Helens once given their chance.

Finally, I do appreciate that some overseas players have been signed for next season and beyond. However, a plan should be put in place now to reduce their numbers as soon as is practically possible.

Jim Howard, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria



If, as has been widely predicted, the RFL cuts the cash to League One clubs to enable the Super League clubs to pocket an extra £40,000 each, I hope they will also cut from any future press releases words and phrases such as ambition, expansion, one big family and other patronising drivel that comes to mind.

Peter Wilson, Walney Island, Cumbria



I was delighted to see Magic Weekend back at its spiritual home of St James Park this year and the attendance was very encouraging.

We had two nail biters that went to ‘golden point’, a veritable arm-wrestle between Wigan and Warrington in the Sunday afternoon sunshine, and the atmosphere was great in the fanzone, with a local brass band providing brilliant entertainment.

I do, however, have some sympathy with Keith Bolton’s comments (Mailbag 6 Sep) about the behaviour of some fans in the ground itself. Most were good humoured, as always, but there was an element of abuse towards opposition supporters in some of the chanting.

This was probably encouraged by the ticket allocation, which created a degree of fan segregation as seen in football. And as Mr Bolton rightly pointed out, that is not what Rugby League is about.

So let’s nip it in the bud and retain the wonderful, family-friendly atmosphere that has long been a feature of this great sport.

Roll on next year and the Rugby League World Cup, which we cannot wait to welcome back to the great city of Newcastle, of which we are so justly proud.

Cllr Rob Higgins, Friends of Rugby League, Newcastle City Council



Magic Weekend was wonderful; all the teams were great, but I have one complaint.

Can you find the off button for Terry and Barry please? They never stop. It is just too much and it spoils the enjoyment of any game.

I can’t be the only one who thinks this.

We can see what is going on; we don’t need all that talk.

Patricia Holmes, Leeds



What a shame that Keith Bolton (Mailbag 6 September) had such a negative experience at the Magic Weekend in Newcastle.

The catalogue of anti-social behaviour he witnessed created in his eyes an intimidating atmosphere, which was far from the family friendly atmosphere he was hoping for.

Some years ago my first Magic Weekend was a similar story to Keith’s. It was dreadful, far from the party atmosphere and great banter between fans I had anticipated, spoilt by the poor behaviour of fans around me.

Time is a great healer, however, and I attended this year’s festival for the second time only.

As a Leeds Rhinos fan I was with my own fans in the Millburn Stand. The staff and fans in our section were great and my wife had a memorable time over two days watching all six matches.

Perhaps clubs could message their fans before next year’s event and remind them they are representatives of their clubs and they should enjoy themselves in the right way.

Michael Brown, Stokesley, North Yorkshire



To Kristian Woolf, Tom van Vollenhoven, Eamonn McManus, Keiron Cunningham, Ray French, Vince Karalius, Alex Murphy and Duggie Greenall – your boys took one hell of a beating.

Maybe ‘Young Welsby’ now knows a tiny bit of the disappointment his opponents Wigan felt after the last Grand Final. He’s a very good player though.

I wish he was on Wigan’s books, but if he were he wouldn’t stay long. He’d soon be off to Oz or one of our rivals.

Chris Reardon, Charnock Richard (near Chorley)



I had three tickets for Hull Kingston Rovers’ match against Castleford on 12th September at 3.00pm. It said so CLEARLY on the ticket.

I am not a regular attendee at Hull KR but I bought my tickets to take my nine-year-old grandson to his first game. He has just started playing.

I now find it was played Saturday night. What a joke!

When was this change made and why didn’t the club advise me, as it had my email address?

I then had to tell my grandson.

I want my money back! And I also expect some offer of compensation for the huge disappointment this has caused.

Phil Howard, Hedon, East Yorkshire



I am often shocked by some of the disciplinary and match review panel decisions.

Many people watching the amazing Magic Weekend game between Catalans Dragons and St Helens must have been shocked by the terrible head (or shoulder) tackle made by Agnatius Paasi on Samisoni Langi in golden-point extra time.

Langi was unconscious for at least ten minutes and had to be stretchered off the field. How can that type of vicious tackle be condoned by the disciplinary committee?

Paasi was banned for only two matches. He should have been banned for ten matches for such a dangerous, premeditated tackle causing serious injury.

A year ago, by comparison, two Catalans players were suspended after the Leeds game for incidents nowhere near as bad, doing nothing like the damage done to Langi. Michael McIlorum was banned for five matches and Joel Tomkins for eight. Five years or so ago, such incidents would not even have been put on report.

Our Super League leaders do not appear to favour the Catalans Dragons.

A month or so ago, Jack Hughes of Warrington was sent to the sinbin for a soft late tackle on a Leeds player. No damage was done, yet Jack was banned for one match. Perhaps it might have two if he had “cleaned out” the Leeds player!

And surely the match review panel is wasting far too much time on trivia. It is clear that too many insignificant offences are being forwarded to them. Maybe referees and video-referees should take action when needed.

It must be costing Super League a fortune to run these committee meetings, which appear to be a full time job! Last week the match review panel discussed forty-eight cases, of which forty-five were rated ‘No further action’.

Roy Seddon, St Albans



Does Alex Walmsley ever play the ball on the mark? He lurches forward as if he has a right to take two more metres and never gets pulled up for it. This is not by any means a liberty restricted to Walmsley, but he habitually does it, and with seeming impunity.

Anton Grashion, Hungerford



In last week’s ‘Upfront’ article on Fev thinking outside of the box you recognised a superb promotional exercise, and when we saw the flat caps around the Fev ground it certainly paid off.

To have more than 3,000 spectators watching the match was a great win for the club.

Well done to all concerned!

Ian Haskey, Castleford



Your ‘Upfront’ column last week mentioned that Featherstone Rovers fans are now known as the ‘Flat Cappers’. Wrong! The club is still called the ‘Colliers’, for obvious reasons; it is the people of the town who are known as ‘Flat Cappers’.

At the turn of the century, when almost everyone worked down the mines, there was no such thing as a hard hat so everyone wore a ’state-of-the-art’ at the time, flat cap to protect the head.

Another journalist wrote on the Internet that we broke the record for flat caps at a Rugby League game. Also wrong! It is the world record for flat caps in a single place that we broke.

This interesting point should have been great exposure for the game in general, but when our own journalists and publications can’t get it right we’ve go no chance, have we?

David Sowden, Kellington



What do the Catalans bring to the game of English Rugby League? They are a good side. So far this season the best side, but what do they bring to our game?

They bring very few fans to England for their away games, although obviously going to the South of France for a weekend is fantastic for fans of our English teams.

This year it looks like they will be in the Grand Final – the pinnacle of our season, the showpiece of our calendar, our biggest event, which gets the nationwide attention our game deserves. But how will Super League explain the lowest attendance yet for a Grand Final, because it is obvious that Old Trafford will be less than half-full for our big night out?

It could have been worse! It could have been Toronto playing too.

And finally, in response to Mr O’Hare from Northwood in last week’s paper (Mailbag, 6 September), I have only one word – exactly!

Geoffrey Bagley, Leeds



Originally from near Warrington, I am a Wire fanatic and a good friend of Paul Longstaff, the former Huddersfield and Hull KR player.

Unfortunately Paul has been quite Ill over the past two years, suffering a stroke plus a hernia and a hip operation but his family’s story and connexion to Rugby League is amazing.

Both Paul’s sons were professionals, two of his grandsons have signed for the Wire, and the story does not end there. It is not just the three generations; it is multiple generations, including fathers, brothers, uncles and grandchildren.

I think your readers would enjoy his amazing story and it would give Paul a massive boost. I hope you can find space to tell it in League Express.

Mike Prendergast Scarborough



In the Eddie Hemmings’ interview (23 August), Richard de la Rivière asked Eddie whether he supports Widnes or Warrington.

Hemmings replied that he had only said he was a Widnes fan because he wanted to become a member of the Widnes Golf Club. Of course!

I always knew Eddie wasn’t a Widnes fan. After all, he’s the one who once said Widnes should not get a place in Super League because they had been in administration. He gave the game away when he said that.

He also said that he was in favour of the franchise system because, without it, the Catalans would not have got a place in Super League. In fact the Catalans did not get a place in Super League through the franchise system. That system wasn’t in operation at that time in 2006.

It’s a well-known fact that the Catalans only got a place in Super League because my club, Widnes, was thrown out to make way for their inclusion.

It had nothing to do with the franchise system. Widnes won promotion to Super League; the Catalans did not win promotion, they were given Widnes’s place.

That is something Eddie Hemmings failed to mention

Joseph Hammel, Widnes