League Express Mailbag: Monday 15th August

It has been mooted that from the 2024 season, Super League will comprise two leagues of ten.
Presumably each team would play the others three times to provide a twenty-seven-match league season.
However, rather than a Super League One and Super League Two system, based on league positions at the end of the 2023 season, what might be the merits of having two conferences, a Super League Eastern Conference and a Super League Western Conference?
IMG might need initially to adjudicate who would go into each conference.
Most would be clear-cut Leeds and Hull (clearly Eastern), St Helens and Wigan (clearly Western) for example, but there might be some debate about others.
Catalans say, and possibly Toulouse.
But the benefit would be more derby matches and some reduced travelling distances for supporters.
There would be two Conference Champions (the teams finishing top of each conference), followed by cross-conference play-offs to determine the overall Super League Grand Final winner.
It wouldn’t work however, without equal central funding for all twenty teams, which might be a stumbling block.
Brian Langthwaite, Leeds

There has been a lot of talk about this season’s relegation battle.
It was mentioned on Sky Sports that if St Helens have already won the League Leaders’ Shield by their last match of the season, they could field a severely weakened team against Toulouse in that match.
However, while as a Wakefield supporter I recognise that the coaching team at St Helens (in fact at any club) can select whoever they like, it could be tempting to rest their entire team ahead of the play-offs.
But it would be grossly unfair for relegation to be decided on that basis
And I make that point regardless of which team it could affect.
Players’ livelihoods depend on results and Super League must surely want to be seen as fair.
There ought to be some onus on coaches to field a reasonably strong team at all times, in order to maintain the integrity of the competition.
Paul Cookson, Nottingham

I just wanted to say how much I enjoy Phil Hodgson’s column in League Express.
I am a referee in the community game and exiled in the South West (away from my beloved Yorkshire)! and am lucky enough to referee down here up to Women’s Super League South.
I’m very lucky that my dad has sent me what he calls “t’Rugby papers” all through my military service and I’ve read Phil’s column in some far-flung places.
I have been banging a seemingly solo drum about the state of summer pitches for some time and everyone just goes “oh yeah, I suppose so” when you point out that a pitch this firm would be cancelled without question in the winter. Throw in a misjudged dump tackle and some summer games can keep me awake at night when the pitch is rock hard, not to mention the increased risk of heat illness and cardiac strain in an ever-quicker collision sport.
I unashamedly slow the ruck in those conditions and make time for water whenever it’s needed. But I wish pitches were watered and games played at a different time during a real scorcher.
Throw in the fact that players and officials want to occasionally do other things in the summer months, such as family holidays, and I really cannot see much of an argument against moving back to an autumn start, especially if this is to become the norm. You only have to see the All Blacks’ fullback when he gets tipped by a Springbok on YouTube at the weekend to see how close anyone can come to disaster if techniques are poor. Throw in a rock-hard dustbowl and the outcome could have been horrific.
On a far more positive note, my wife and I watched our daughter play for Trinity ladies on a balmy sunny evening in Odsal recently, and I was able to convince her that her memory was poor and the West Riding always had evenings like that, even at Odsal in November……….
Thanks again, Phil, for a great column. I love your sheer passion, variety and common sense.
All the best for many more,
Dave Lancaster, Gloucester

I’ve no axe to grind with Daryl Powell.
I think he is a good coach trying his best to change the culture of what seems, at times, a toxic club.
They have made some dubious signings on big money contracts, but I didn’t realise they have signed up Chris Kendall too.
I do hope we have a better standard of referees at the World Cup. We don’t want that ruining too.
Dave Beston, Leeds

Is it any wonder so many fans are turning off the game because they are feeling frustrated with match officials.
Chris Kendall’s second-half performance in the Wire v Toulouse game suggested it was nothing more than the Kendall show.
Something seriously needs to be done to improve officials’ performances.
Mike Wright, Hull

When I first saw referee Chris Kendall, I thought at last we have a decent and fair referee in the game.
But how wrong I was!
After watching the game on Channel 4 between St Helens v Castleford Tigers, it was clear that he was no better than the other rubbish referees in the game.
Twice in the game he stopped play when a St Helens player had been injured, but then allowed play to carry on until the ball had gone out of play when a Castleford player was injured before he stopped play.
He sin-binned the wrong Castleford player for a late tackle and then did nothing when a St Helens player did the same.
Some people will say it’s sour grapes on my part. Well, of course it is, when you see these things happening to your team week after week.
Why do match officials feel they have to put Castleford Tigers down whenever they can?
Is it because we are a small town in the Wakefield Metropolitan District and would not merge with Wakefield Trinity and Featherstone Rovers when Super League was first formed?
Graham Dawson, Castleford

Castleford player is down with a head knock – play on!
St Helens player is down with a head knock – stop play!
Come on, let’s have a level playing field!
Brian Hodgson, Patrington, Hull

I’ve just finished watching the Super League Show and can’t believe some of the decisions referees are making.
The worst of the lot occurred in the Catalans game against Wakefield.
A Catalans player knocked the ball back to a team-mate when he was clearly off the pitch.
The result was that a try was given.
Is there a hidden attempt to ensure that Wakefield go down and Toulouse stay up?
Where was the touch judge in all this?
Who oversees referees and touch judges? Is it still Steve Ganson?
I call it jobs for the boys.
Tony Partridge, Chorley

I disagree with Matthew Kelly (Mailbag, 8 August).
He says that Keegan Hirst’s comment about the Manly players opposed to the club’s rainbow jersey stance is “a dangerous one”.
He says Hirst’s contention that the players’ action is “homophobia hiding behind religion” cannot be proved.
Well, let’s ask the players involved. Are they saying that they’d be happy to support fellow members of their community who are gay but unfortunately it’s their God who is telling them that they cannot.
Or are they themselves homophobic?
If it’s the latter, then Hirst’s criticism is well founded. And if it’s the former, do they ever question whether their God is in error?
Either way, they are hiding behind their religion.
Michael O’Hare, Northwood, Middlesex

The appalling behaviour of seven Manly Sea Eagles players in refusing to play wearing shirts supporting the fight against homophobia, is to be condemned.
If we excuse it by accepting that it may go against some religious beliefs, we are on a dangerously slippery slope.
Keegan Hirst knows what it is like to face discrimination based on his sexuality, as do millions of others throughout the world.
Of the countries who took part in the recent Commonwealth Games, almost half have laws that ban gay people; in some of those, they may be executed.
Even in the country hosting this year’s Football World Cup, Qatar, male homosexuality is punishable by three years in prison and a fine, or even in some cases with the death penalty.
Should we excuse this discrimination in some because of their religion?
Of course not. It must be condemned outright.
In recent years, homosexuality has become recognised as perfectly normal, as it is in many countries.
Countries who ban it should therefore be prohibited from hosting or participating in international events until they change their obnoxious laws.
Unfortunately, “trans” people are now the more recent victims of this bigotry.
Rugby League (along with other sports) should be condemned for following Nadine Dorries’s reactionary guideline, which bans “trans women” from competing in “born women’s” competitions.
Mick Calvert, Holmfirth

I see Robert Hicks and Dave Rotheram are calling for clubs to clamp down on players feigning injury to gain a penalty, which has crept into the game this season.
The RFL is probably concerned about head tackles, and consequent potential litigation down the line, but one result is that some players now take advantage unfairly.
I can suggest a solution.
Use the green card more often; if a player needs treatment, he goes off for two minutes to be assessed.
That might stop the recent sight of a player going down as if shot, then miraculously leaping up and smiling when the referee has awarded a penalty.
David Fairclough, Wigan