SKY SHOULD LOOK IN THE MIRROR
A television company, whose employees have claimed in the past to have invented Rugby League, selects the games that their channels will televise.
Some of the games they select do not reached the high standards they expect, so an ultimatum is thrown down to “improve the standards of games or they may withdraw their money”, which could cause collateral damage to the brand, and certain club owners would be deprived of their Friday Night star billing.
Am I alone in sometimes wondering why the TV company chose to cover (say) A v B, when C v D would have been a far better spectacle?
Of course, TV companies are within their rights to demand the highest standards on the field, but they are frequently a tad myopic about the appearance and garb of their off-field presenters, who often look as though they are dressed from the Matalan’s sale, via Oxfam shops and, moreover, bore us to the back teeth with the same clichés, week-after week.
The up-side, however, is that long after those ‘valued partners’ have run away to broadcast the latest ‘Tizer-Bottle 500’ cricket, or ‘Downhill Earwig Racing’, there will still be Rugby League.
Bryan Smith, Leeds
NOT THE ONLY PEBBLES ON THE BEACH
St Helens are a very good team, but Sky commentators should realise that two teams are involved and neutrals sometimes shout for the underdogs.
I do not need to be reminded ten, twelve, fourteen times a match that Saints are the champions, or how many months or years it is since an opposing team won against them.
Bill Arthur would do better by learning the players’ names than by becoming a Saints super fan on screen. I used to think Mr Hemmings was biased, but we have a new contender.
As a League 1 supporter, I know that, each match I watch, the players are committed.
Come on commentators, see the bigger picture and both teams.
M Ward, Workington
BLIND KOWTOW TO SKY NOT WISE
Reports that Sky Sports has instructed the RFL to reorganise Super League raise a few questions:
Who runs the game – the RFL or Sky?
Is there any alternative to Sky, particularly as Sky seemingly wants to reduce its financial input. And what would happen to the game if the RFL told Sky where to go? Without Super League there would be a lot of holes in Sky’s programming, so if their starting point is “change or lose your deal” it might be worth calling their bluff.
Unfortunately, though, it seems club owners are more concerned with money than with the development of the game. I fear that if this latest proposed reorganisation goes ahead it will produce more unentertaining, formulaic games resulting in a growing disaffection among followers of the sport and leading to the death of it within a few years.
Perhaps that is Sky’s longer-term intention.
Alan McGreen, Sheffield
HEY, DIGBY, LOOKEE HERE!
Does the fact that Lord Digby Jones felt it necessary to highlight the poor elocution of BBC Olympic presenter Alex Scott suggest that he has never watched a game of Rugby League on Sky?
Dave Bainbridge, Salford
A RUGBY MYSTERY
Having watched the British Lions play South Africa in a recent test series, I am compelled to write about the rubbish dished up in those boring games.
In three Tests, the Lions managed to score two tries, both from mauls next to the opponents’ line. There was hardly one passing movement in three Tests (well, maybe one, in the first half of the third Test).
The Lions did once create a move. A guy called Williams went through with his right winger on his outside, unmarked, about twenty-five yards from the line with no covering defenders. It was a simple walk in. Williams decided to go alone and try to beat his marker. The chance was lost. That was the only true opening created in three Test matches.
How on earth can Rugby Union attract hundreds of thousands of fans to watch that rubbish? They are watching two teams continually kicking huge “up and unders” hoping the opposition will make a mistake.
Some time ago, a documentary on the life of Jason Robinson highlighted how Rugby League fans see Rugby Union. Jason told the story of when he was playing in a lads’ Rugby League team, they all referred to union as Kick and Clap!
In your columns recently, some fans have written in asking what Mr Rimmer does? We know that the people running Super League pay themselves huge, corporate level salaries, which the game cannot afford. Why can’t they (our leaders) market our great game of Rugby League in the same way Rugby Union leaders market their game? The Union guys do a brilliant job of convincing people to watch that boring rubbish.
I know many Union fans who love watching League on Sky and find it far more entertaining than Union. So how do we get rid of the people running our game and bring in fresh blood to sell our great product? How can League Express help?
P.S. I am still baffled as to how you manage to have the League Express arrive here at around 6.00 a.m. on a Monday morning. Congratulations! And it doesn’t cost me any more money!
Roy Seddon, St. Albans
WORLD CUP DELAYS AND HOPES
While disappointed that the Rugby League World Cup is to be delayed, we should probably accept that, at this time, Rugby League fans should be focused on the world stage.
It sickens me to see virtually every sport, party game and social pastime apart from Scrabble, Ludo and Snakes and Ladders being staged at the Olympics, while Rugby League, most frustratingly, has as yet even to apply.
Instead, rugby-wise, we had to be content with Rugby Union bagging the limelight, playing not with its traditional, monotonous 15-a-side baggage but (astoundingly) under almost Rugby League laws.
Having grudgingly accepted the NRL-influenced postponement of the World Cup, I did think that our women might have bagged some overdue, high profile limelight, as occurred with the 2019 Soccer World Cup.
I am not sure why the women’s tournament had to be postponed, and to postpone the wheelchair event, designed for people who are already disadvantaged, is almost inhumanly barbaric.
I sincerely hope that next year, Britain will not be infested with a late summer plague of fleas or bluebottles, or the entire tournament might be called off again.
Roger Ingham, Skipton
SPURIOUS STUFF, MR V’LANDYS
Crikey! It’s difficult not to conclude that Peter V’Landys has something of a chip on his shoulder.
All the RLWC organisers wanted, five years into the organisation of a World Cup to which the Australian team were invited at the outset, was that they come and play. Instead, they got V’Landys banging on about convicts, colonies and prisoner outfits.
In all the arguments and discussion flying around, since Australia and New Zealand declined to attend, nobody – not once – has mentioned (nor, I hazard a guess, has it even crossed their minds) that, two hundred years ago Australia was a penal colony.
What an utterly bizarre and irrelevant response!
Michael O’Hare, Northwood
PEOPLE IN GLASS HOUSES
Quote from last week’s League Express, “I think they still thought we were convicts of the Colony … they thought we were still wearing prisoner outfits”.
I’m pretty sure that’s a chip I see on Mr V’landys shoulder. I’m also pretty sure that the 2021 World Cup would have gone ahead if Australia and New Zealand hadn’t pulled out.
It could be said that he ‘robbed’ us of that.
Charlie Moore, Leeds
DON’T BLINDLY FOLLOW THE NRL
I understand the situation that Australia and New Zealand have put our World Cup CEO, Jon Dutton in but, while believing that the World Cup should have gone ahead, I can accept the delay for a year.
As has been stated, however, it is imperative that we now get a guarantee from those countries that they will attend next year. Massive penalties should be imposed if they think that they can play God again. This is a World Cup and it requires all Rugby League nations to play.
We should no more be held to ransom by the NRL and Peter V’landys, than we should always follow their rule changes.
Ian Haskey, Castleford
BAN THE KIWIS
Jon Dutton and the other wimps in charge of the World Cup have given in to the Australian NRL’s desire to postpone the 2021 Rugby League World Cup until 2022.
Who is running Rugby League World Cup 2021, Mr Dutton? Is it you and the organisers or the Australian NRL clubs? Get some backbone and show people that you will not be messed around in future.
If New Zealand pulled out after signing an agreement to take part they should be banned from taking part in the next three World Cups.
Graham Dawson, Castleford
CUT OUT THE THUGBY
On reading the outcome of the Disciplinary Review Panel in the 9th August issue of League Express, I was disturbed to see how many breaches of the rules there were.
Forty-seven instances had been referred to the panel, although only nine of those resulted in bans for the players responsible. Of those forty-seven, twelve were Wigan players, ten were Warrington players and ten play for Hull FC. Three teams were responsible for thirty-two referrals.
Does that tell us something about the way those teams play? Are they coached in what seems to be a “win at all costs” type of rugby? Or is it merely innate in them to try and injure an opponent, outside the rules of what is already a tough enough game to play.
At least the other Super League teams try to play the game the way it should be played – as lawfully as possible – rather than relying on this ‘thugby’ that has crept in.
I prefer the rugby that Salford, St Helens, Castleford and Huddersfield play.
Freda Clarke, St Helens
THROUGH CLENCHED TEETH
As a 76-year-old Featherstone fan, I never would have believed I’d be cheering one day when a Castleford winger intercepted to go the length of the field to win a game.
But for a game in which the spoiling tactics by St Helens were only partly dealt with by the referee, I think I can be excused.
To be fair to myself, I was still willing a Saints win until (as they did the previous week against Catalans) the fans started booing players who needed to leave the field for HIA tests.
I grit my teeth as I say this, but, “Well played Cas and well deserved.”
Stuart Lonsdale, Pontefract
I agree that, in the recent Warrington v Wigan match (Wednesday 27th July) the referee should have gone to the screen to check the action leading to Jake Mamo’s game-breaking try.
I was taught to play to the whistle, which Mamo did. And to say that Josh Charnley kicked Liam Marshall on purpose is wrong; he just knocked the ball out of Marshall’s grasp and Mamo ran it on to score a try. You could as well say a Wigan player left his foot back to injure Josh Thewlis, but both incidents were accidents.
Rugby League is a hard game to play.,
Sam Clarke, Warrington
WHY HAVE VIDEO REFEREES AT ALL
In the Leeds v Warrington game, everyone apart from the referee, Robert Hicks, the touch judge and the video-referee agreed that there was a ‘no try’ by Josh Charnley.
It was a sad reflection on the game and what a car crash of events we observed unfolding.
Opportunities to ensure the right outcome would prevail were made available but not taken. Why? Because officials seek to put their understanding of a rule forward, using it as a get-out clause to bat away any negativity that might come from a decision.
Where was the common sense? Where the correct outcome for the good of the game? No official saw the ball grounded because it was not; the ball clearly did not touch the ground.
‘Benefit of the doubt’ was applied, suggesting there was insufficient evidence to over-rule the initial decision, so the question becomes, “What is the point referring anything to a video referee, when the onfield official is obliged to make a decision before referring the decision upwards?
If the on-field referee were honest he would say, “There were bodies in the way of the ball and I was on the wrong side,” if his honest belief was that a try was scored. The touch judge had informed the on-field referee that it was a try.
This decision went wrong because a touch judge inferred that he saw the ball grounded, when, as we could all see, he could not have seen the ball grounded because it was not. It should have gone up as a no-try.
There should be no guess work by touch judges. The video-referee, with the on-field decision in the forefront of his mind, is unable to move past that so, in considering an outcome, more weight is given to evidence from the officials on-field who have to make an instant decision than to the video-referee, who is likely to be in a better position.
We who love the game sit watching what, supposedly, has elements in place to minimise mistakes by officials. We watch review after review until eventually they come to a decision.
I cannot believe I am agreeing with Phil Clarke, but the video-referee is toothless. We all saw that the right decision was not made, despite several minutes of reviewing. We all watched a team being given a try, which was not a try.
Pointless …….. sorry, four points!
Mark Hatton, York
THE NEXT STEP
Robert Hicks has been stood down for one match, over the Josh Charnley try at Headingley, which implies that his decision to award the try was incorrect.
What happens next? Are the two competition points taken off Warrington and awarded to Leeds? Does the match get replayed?
If the try was not a try, then the result surely cannot stand.
Phil Davidge, Leeds
LET DOWN BY OFFICIALS
After following Rugby League for twenty-plus years I am disgusted at the state of the game today.
The current standard of officiating leaves a lot to be desired, our disciplinary system needs a big overhaul, and, apart from a few mistakes, the Rugby Union officials are a class above ours.
For me, the fans of our game need to know who is on the panel. There might be ex-players, and a player on a charge might have to be judged by an official from an opposing old team.
The charge of ‘contact with the referee’ is a joke. They sometimes stand in places that block defenders from getting into a position to stop attacking players. I wish the RFL would instruct them always to stand away from defenders, in a position where they have an overall view of the action. NRL and Union officials laugh it off when a player bumps into them (Mr Hicks and company take note).
The video referee should help the referee by letting him know if he misses a foul play and if necessary, as in Rugby Union, bring the play back.
If things don’t change for the better fans will leave and, I am sorry to say the game will die. I am a Leeds fan but I send this letter on behalf of the majority of loyal fans, who will agree with me (though I understand that a lot will not). You can’t please everyone.
John Hinchcliffe, Leeds
CULTURAL SHIFT AT TRINITY
Long suffering Wakefield Trinity fans will have experienced déja vu at Huddersfield last Sunday, as a commanding lead by the away team was embarrassingly wasted by an inept and hapless second-half display.
In July 2006, Trinity slumped to defeat at the same venue after leading 18-0 at half time, and 20-0 early in the second half. The unfortunate coach on that occasion, Tony Smith (not the current Hull KR coach), using words that mirrored remarks by Chris Chester after the latest fade out, questioned his side’s fitness, as they capitulated yet again, as they had done against Warrington earlier in that campaign.
After leading 21-0 at half time, Trinity leaked 22 points in the second half.
Smith angrily pulled no punches after that defeat at Huddersfield, saying in exasperation, “I am sick to the back teeth. It’s not the first time this has happened this season. How can you blame the coach for that?
“We started so well and looked a class above, yet within ten minutes of the start of the second half we folded like a pack of cards.”
John Kear eventually took over the reins at Trinity and restored some much needed credibility, but it seems the problems at the club are long standing, and perhaps transcend the role and personality of a coach, even though this latest incumbent’s record of twelve wins over twenty-plus games leaves a lot to be desired in a results industry.
The culture of a club is important as it determines the type of player attracted to it.
Hopefully a change of coach at Trinity will allow some of the long standing, intractable issues to be addressed.
Gerry Wright, Bradford
THE GEOGRAPHY OF HULL
Why, in his ‘Pulling no Punches’ column, does Garry Schofield keep calling home fixtures involving Hull FC and Hull KR “fixtures on Humberside”? Garry needs to check his facts. It is not Humberside where Hull FC and Hull KR play home fixtures, it is East Yorkshire.
Neil Irwin, Hull
CHAMPIONSHIP STATS ALSO MATTER
Each week you publish the leading scorers for Super League. For the Championship and League 1, on the other hand, you seem only to do that spasmodically. Is that when someone like me complains?
Followers of teams in the lower leagues are just as interested in the scoring exploits of our teams as those who support Super League. Is it not possible to incorporate the scores we want on a more regular basis? Every week would be ideal, but I suppose that is hoping for too much.
Tony Sutcliffe, Sutton on Sea
A few weeks ago, a Mailbag reader asked if the try and goal scoring charts could be added to the Championship and League One news pages, and for the first few weeks that happened.
For the last few weeks, however, there have been no scoring charts again, so fans of the lower leagues cannot see who, from our clubs, is performing well, and which teams are the most consistent goal scorers.
Callum Thorndike, Wigton, Cumbria
Editor’s note: When time constraints prevent us from listing the leading scorers in League Express, we list them on the Totalrl.com website, normally on a Wednesday.
Why does Rugby League seem to be the worst-hit sport in this country when it comes to matches being called off due to Covid?
David Burns, Warrington
NO RELEGATION, NO SHIELD?
The Rugby Football League apparently wants there to be no relegation this season, deeming it unfair due to the upheaval caused to fixture lists by the Covid pandemic.’
Would I be correct in assuming that, by the same logic, no team should be awarded the League Leaders’ Shield?
Malcolm Bastow, Leeds
PROPOSED LEAGUE STRUCTURE WOULD WORK
I congratulate our game’s policy makers on putting forward the most sensible proposal I can remember for our thirty-six club professional game, in 2022.
Super League (fully professional) fourteen teams, Championship (part-time with a few exceptions) twelve teams, League 1 (part-time) ten teams, allots the ideal number of games to each division, with all clubs playing each other twice: 26 Super League games, 22 Championship games and 18 games in League 1.
It also eliminates the need for any of the dreadful ‘loop fixtures’ that bored us senseless in the past, on top of an already boring structure that has seen only four teams winning Super League in twenty-four seasons.
On the flip-side, the RFL proposes to replace that structure after only one year, with yet another contrived muddle. A ten-team Super League 1; a ten-team Super League 2, and a sixteen team third tier. Give me strength!
Both Super Leagues 1 and 2 would need to supplement their matches with even more loop-fixtures than before. Wasn’t Super 8 enough, when most people voted with their feet at the prospect of their side facing its main rival a third time?
Devoid of loop fixtures, this season has brought to our game a freshness, which, were it not for Covid, I believe would have seen benefits at the turnstiles. Catalan Dragons have broken the stranglehold of the usual suspects; a second French team in the top tier seems likely; the lower division clubs in non-heartland areas are making progress, most notably Newcastle Thunder, who I believe are being rewarded for setting down roots and supporting development of the amateur game in their region.
To a lesser degree, there does also seem to be steady progress at the London, Coventry and North Wales clubs. Yet another knee-jerk change to an already quirky and contrived format would surely throw such gains away.
There is a finite market for spectator team sports in this country and association football commands around 90 per cent of it. The other two football codes, Rugby Union and Rugby League, are fighting for the scraps. To even stand a chance, therefore, we must have a league format that is acceptable to and easily understood by the floating voter.
Ideally, for me, that would be a hierarchical structure of divisions (Super League, Championship and League 1), in which every club played every other club twice only, underpinned of course by a similar hierarchy of clubs in the community NCL and regional competitions.
Finally, it is thought that Sky Sports television is driving the proposals. If so, it should not be.
A changed broadcasting climate means that Sky is no longer the only player. It should not automatically be assumed that they have the power to reduce Rugby League to an amateur or part-time sport by withdrawing their funding.
Nick Robinson, Beverly
THANK YOU FOR HELPING OUT
This is just a few lines to express my thanks to the staff at your publication, whose intervention facilitated a solution for me to an ongoing problem, one I have subsequently discovered was shared by others.
Without going into any detail as to why this help was needed, without your involvement my predicament would possibly never have been solved.
Thanks again, and my thanks also to Mick Hogan, Chairman at Newcastle Falcons/Thunder, for his quick response in resolving my quandary.
Joe Chipchase, Washington Tyne and Wear