League Express Mailbag – Monday 14th June


Great to read that the RFL has seen sense and made a U-turn, reversing their earlier decision to withhold Elite Academy status from Castleford, Bradford and Hull KR, if only for a two-year probationary period in which to prove their worth.

Sadly, however, Salford and Leigh are still ignored. How long do we, the Rugby League public, players, clubs and sponsors have to give the RFL board members, to prove their worth?

There are seven people on the current Board, each of whom will no doubt be claiming a respectable salary. Three of them hold MBEs. We should surely be able to expect more from them but, led by Chief Executive, Ralph Rimmer since 2018, what have they given us? Nothing but controversy.

As Mick Morgan of Castleford rightly pointed out last week (Mailbag 7 June), our last Ashes series victory in Australia, back in 1970, boasted no less than seven Castleford team players. Does a club’s history count for nothing? Only last week they beat Warrington Wolves 35-20 to book a place in this year’s Challenge Cup Final, at Wembley. Their first team regularly fields no less than seven home grown players, including Michael Shenton, Oliver Holmes and Greg Eden, assembled under the brilliant management of Daryl Powell, yet until this last-minute reprieve, they were not considered good enough to qualify automatically for Elite Academy status.

The histories of Bradford Bulls and Hull KR are also littered with success. What success in recent Rugby League history can these RFL directors lay claim to?

Your leading article last week cited Dave Rotherham (presumptuous title ‘Chief On-Field Officer’, stating, “on behalf of the board,” (presumably because no board member had the bottle to put their name to this appalling situation), that: “Standards will not be diluted and every Academy Licence holder will be held to account, under the terms of the agreement.”

When will the RFL board members be held to account, and prove their worth to us by giving us all back some respectability?.

Richard Sanderson, Beadnell



During the centenary of Rugby League in 1995, Neil Fox was interviewed on TV about his great achievements in the game and stated, with regards to them, that he was a “proud but not a boastful man”. Being proud is quiet and genuine; being boastful is noisy and attention seeking.

I think most Rugby League followers are proud of our game’s heritage, in respect of black players, but we do not make a noise about it. Somehow, it is a natural appreciation.

Once you try to put these things into words, however, they seem to lose something, and when the administrators get hold of the issue, using phrases such as ‘zero tolerance’, ‘diversity’,’ inclusivity’ and so on, the whole thing becomes artificial and ‘grows arms and legs’ that it was never meant to have.

I doubt that Rugby League folk wish to be praised for simply living as good human beings, and maybe some think that ‘taking the knee’ to state the obvious (i.e. that black lives matter), is demeaning to their own, natural sense of decency.

BLM was founded, against the injustice of police slaying black men, in the USA – not to start a ‘hue and cry’ against people who do not ‘follow the party line’ as set by the media.

In last week’s Mailbag, Geoff Fawcett was on the receiving end of some holier-than-thou rebukes, for his rather blunt letter (published the week before), in which he expressed what many Rugby League people think.

Remember, it was not those ‘taking the knee’ who were in the spotlight when this thing started. The people in the spotlight were those who chose not to ‘take the knee’, and were under pressure to justify why not.

That pressure was an affront to many people, and I don’t mean just to those in the taproom of the pubs, watching Rugby League on Sky TV. The ‘joke’ that those against the toppling of statues are either pigeons, or racists, certainly belongs ‘in the taproom’ (if it belongs anywhere), and it certainly insults the quiet majority of civilised people, who see riot and civil commotion as a threat to their society.

The fact that there are currently readers’ letters submitted to League Express from some Rugby League people, accusing other Rugby League people of being racists, illustrates how divisive BLM has been for Rugby League, sewing seeds of division where before there were none.

Bill Anderson, Parbold (Lancs.)



I shall be glad when the current moaning ‘for and against’ this ‘kneeling saga’ is over and we are back to normal, with cheerleaders before a game (if we still have some).

It worries me that, when we get our crowds back, we may have divisive outbursts at certain games. What are some of these players thinking about, I wonder, in the thirteen seconds before a big game? A ‘politically correct’ stance – which is what I reckon this all is?

If players don’t want to ‘take the knee’ we shouldn’t ‘show them the racist card’. If a club really wants to show respect it should be with a sixty-second silence, as we do for past players.

We have had players of all nationalities at Castleford and Featherstone, and they have all been welcomed.

Roy Kriens, Pontefract



On the possibility of Featherstone Rovers joining Super League – ‘Oh dear me!’ – their fan’s reputation for trouble follows them everywhere they go.

Yet again, this year, they did all they could to keep the trouble that marred their semi-final going, so it no surprise that yet again, their club has tried to distance itself from its hooligan element, by saying, “It was outside the ground.”

The club should stand up against their ‘so called’ fans. Featherstone is a place I tried never to go to, in my early days, because of that one ‘element’ that follows them.

My hope is that we will have another club coming up this year, to save us from ‘those responsible’ who follow Featherstone around.

Mike Wright, Hull



The RFL should stop messing around with Elite Academies, and get to grips with what is really wrong with Rugby League – the very poor standard of refereeing by some of the ‘so-called’ senior referees. If Robert Hicks is the best they have to keep on picking, then the game is not only dying, it is dead.

His performance in the match between Castleford Tigers and Hull FC was one of the worst I have seen in seventy-five years of being a Rugby League fan. Some may say that is ‘sour grapes’ because Castleford lost, but ‘sour grapes’ doesn’t come into it when a referee is laughing and joking with his touch judge, while a young lad is being treated on-field for almost ten minutes and then taken off on a stretcher, after being spear-tackled by two Hull FC players.

And what happened when play restarted? The referee gave Castleford a penalty but no red or yellow cards were shown. He should never be allowed to put on a referee’s uniform again.

Mr G Dawson, Castleford



John Bateman (from Bradford) left Wigan Warriors to play for Canberra Raiders and was highly successful, gaining plaudits from the rugby press before he cut short his contract there, claiming he was homesick.

George Williams (from Wigan) left Wigan Warriors to play for Canberra Raiders and was highly successful, gaining plaudits from the rugby press before he cut short his contract, claiming he was homesick.

I have visited Bradford and Wigan on more occasions than I care to remember but I have never been to Canberra. Nor do I wish to. It must be a desperate place.

Bill Tetlow, Bedale



We used to have a ‘Man of the Match’ (in men’s games) but now, we appear to have a ‘Player of the Match’. Why?

I enjoy watching the women’s game, and I cannot see any reason why the best player should not be ‘Woman of the Match’. I notice that there is a competition for ‘Player of the Month’ and, since presumably this is open to all, I can go with that, no problem.

On their cricket pages, the BBC now lists ‘batters’ (rather than batsmen) for the men’s Test Match line ups.  I am an engineer (a non-gender-specific title). And guess what? In total contrariness to all the above, we now have Women Engineers.

This madness must end.

David Taylor, Kendal



Who on earth at the BBC decided to insult Rugby League fans, by inserting the word “Men’s” ahead of the Challenge Cup semi-final ties?

I can only assume it was someone either totally ignorant of our sport, or a member of the horrendous ‘woke’ brigade. Rugby League is, and always has been, a men’s game, so why on earth point out the obvious? The game has scant enough coverage on the BBC without such condescending nonsense.

Whilst accepting that anyone and everyone is entitled to play Rugby League, ninety-five per cent of all interest in the sport is derived from the traditional, male preserve.

There is therefore absolutely no need to insert the word “men’s”. Would the BBC please take note.

Tony Cunningham, Bury



I have been a bit disappointed with the NRL and Super League games this season, but State of Origin game one was a different beast.

Although the score was a blowout, the skill level on show was probably the best I have ever seen.

What a performance! I cannot wait for game two.

Perry Freshwater, Sheffield



I love Shaun Wane’s enthusiasm and desire for the national team, but after watching ‘State of Origin, Game One’, I am pretty sure that, come the World Cup, it will be tears in the beers again because England have absolutely zero chance. Keeping the Kangaroos to under fifty points would be a monumental achievement.

Based on the ‘Origin’ performances from last Wednesday, it will probably be a cricket score. Best of luck to our lads; they will definitely need it.

Troy Flavell, Wakefield



Massive congratulations to the ‘New South Wales Blues’ on their opening State of Origin game.

Before the game, I thought the Queenslanders ‘had them in the back row’, but I am struggling to remember a more complete performance.

A big shout also to Channel 9, for their pre-game coverage. It was one of the best, although it was a shame Sky couldn’t give us a proper post-game.

I can’t wait for game two. Go the Blues!

Lee Davies, Newquay



Having decided to attend the Leigh Centurions v Catalan Dragons game, I went to Leigh Sports Village to buy a ticket, where, to my surprize, I was quoted £24.00 for one concession ticket.

I decided not to buy one, and I will not go to any more matches at Leigh until they reduce their prices. A survey of other local clubs revealed the cost of their tickets are much lower for concessions.

This is not the first time the Leigh club has adopted a questionable ticket pricing policy. The last time they were in Super League they charged a premium for matches against local sides.

Such prices might be more acceptable if the club was winning matches, and near the top of the table but they are not. They are at the bottom and heading back to the Championship, where I hope they will adopt a more realistic pricing structure.

Clubs need to attract fans, not drive them away

Bryan Clark, Leigh



I have good news for Roy Seddon, who wrote last week that (having moved to St Albans) he will have to put up with the ‘kick and clap’ game. On the contrary. Roy has moved to a city that has been home to Rugby League for longer than most other places outside the heartlands.

Last summer was the 50th anniversary of the first ‘St Albans Rugby League Club’, and this season, current fliers of the flag, ‘St Albans Centurions’ are celebrating their 25th birthday.

They now play at The Coliseum (of course) on Toulmin Drive. They have a first-team in the East League, a second-team, an Under-14s team, Under 16s, Under 18s and Masters.  So no excuse, Roy, whatever your age get along and support, or play for, Cents! We are also blessed in having both Hemel Stags and North Herts Crusaders in the county of Hertfordshire, and the London Skolars not far to the south.

Roy is right, by the way, to be delighted that his copy of ‘League Express’ now arrives on a Monday morning. The earliest mine has ever arrived is Tuesday (a day earlier than Felicity Fullwood gets hers, in Glasgow) though I am only twenty minutes away from Roy.

Gavin Willacy, Bengeo (a suburb and former village of Hertford)