League Express Mailbag – Monday 1st November


I can only endorse the opinions of the two Tims (Hardcastle and Wilkinson) (Mailbag, 25 Oct). There is no more depressing expression of the limited ambitions of Rugby League, than to read the oft-quoted canard: ‘They bring no ‘speccies’ with them’.
If your club’s survival is predicated on people who don’t even support it, that is a dreadful indictment of its aspirations, its management or its appeal to its surrounding community.
Presumably fans of, say, Malmo complain when they are drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League that Spain is a long way away and they won’t bring many spectators with them.
Do Plymouth Argyle supporters moan about having to play Sunderland in the way M62-based Rugby League supporters object to London Broncos being in their competition?
And which sport is thriving internationally – Football or Rugby League?
How narrow-minded are we prepared to be to ensure that nobody new gets to appreciate our fabulous sport?
Michael O’Hare, Northwood, Middlesex



The Daily Mail did a two-page spread last Wednesday on Bobbie Goulding and other players who have been diagnosed with dementia.
Goulding is quoted as saying: “We were let down and as professional players we deserved better.” Better than what?
He goes on to say: “What happened in Rugby League when I was playing wouldn’t happen in any other sport.” Really?
The RFL and the NRL have made huge strides in the care of players when they are playing and, if they are injured, in their after care.
Players are immediately taken off if there are head injuries and they are taken for a head injury assessment.
Off the field I would say that Rugby League takes more care of its former players than most other sports, Rob Burrow being an example.
Rugby League is a collision sport and is regarded as the toughest and most physically challenging team sport. You only have to watch State of Origin to see that.
Dementia is a debilitating disease and not only affects the individual but also their family. I feel truly sorry for anyone going through it. However, I do not agree with Goulding about Rugby League. And as for the Daily Mail, it is a newspaper that has no genuine interest in Rugby League.
In the Mail on Sunday there was a tiny paragraph on the France v England match and no report in the Monday paper.
In contrast, the Scottish Sunday Post had a third of a page report on the match and regularly reports on Super League games
David Whitford, London


I get really annoyed sometimes. In last Tuesday’s Daily Mail, the three back pages screamed, “Rugby League in The Dock – former players suing RFL for neglect”.
Two full pages were devoted to dementia being suffered by Bobbie Goulding and other Rugby League players.
Do not get me wrong. I fully sympathise with all who suffer dementia and their families.
But these articles seem to allege that only Rugby League is to blame. Rugby Union players are suffering from the same condition and are also acting against their governing body but their problems seem to be swept under the carpet.
Why do the media hate Rugby League?
Martin Price, Swansea


In response to Joseph Hammel of Widnes (Mailbag 25th October), who says that Widnes, not Wigan, dominated the 1980s. I think he has that wrong because Wigan won:
John Player Trophy: 1982/3, 1985/6, 1986/7, 1988/9, 1989/90
Okells Charity Shield: 1985/6, 1987/8
Lancashire Cup: 1985/6, 1986/7, 1987/8, 1988/9
League Championship: 1986/7, 1989/90
Challenge Cup: 1984/5, 1987/8, 1988/9, 1989/90
World Club Challenge: 1987/8
Premiership Trophy: 1986/7
And during the 1980s, from January 1985 to May 1990 we played Widnes 17 times, winning eleven times and only losing six times, so Mr Hammel needs to have another think.
Geoff Howarth, Wigan


Malcolm Bastow of Leeds (Mailbag 25 October) claimed that when Leeds won three consecutive Super League Grand Finals in the early Super League era, the competition was much stronger than it is today.
His claim is absurd; he should publish the facts to support it.
I can tell him that to date, St Helens have appeared in thirteen Grand Finals, more than any other team in Super League – winning eight and losing five.
Taking Mr Bastow back to 2006, an early year in the Super League era: St Helens won the League Leaders’ Shield, the Challenge Cup and the Grand Final. And the then St Helens coach, Daniel Anderson, was voted the BBC TV Coach of the Year.
In February 2007 St Helens defeated the NRL Champions, the Brisbane Broncos.
Mr Bastow’s reference to match officials is also absurd and doesn’t merit a response. A prime example of sour grapes.
One could be forgiven for thinking that Leeds Rhinos have never benefitted from an incorrect refereeing decision.
Ian Simpson, St Helens


I would like to pay tribute to the great work done by Gary Hetherington and Paul Caddick over the last 25 years at Headingley.
When, in October 1996, they announced their purchase of the club it was in a sorry state, having failed to take up the cudgels well enough to compete in Super League, and sulking about the switch of the season to summer.
Under Gary and Paul’s leadership, however, within two years the newly-rebranded Rhinos were playing in the first Super League Grand Final and since then have enjoyed unprecedented success.
They also played a key role in ensuring that Yorkshire CCC stayed at Headingley, rather than moving to a new purpose-built stadium elsewhere. Headingley is now a superb new facility, both for Cricket and for Rugby League, which everyone who lives in Leeds can be proud of.
There is no telling might have happened they had not rescued Leeds 25 years ago, or even whether Headingley as a sports stadium would still exist.
David Hargreaves, Leeds


I very much enjoy the ‘Rugby League Heroes’ series of articles by Richard de la Riviere.
As someone who has been watching Rugby League since the 1960s, it’s interesting to hear about the great players from yesteryear and find out what has happened to them.
Richard’s articles bring them to life again for followers of the modern game.
Christopher Birtles, Droylsden, Manchester


In response to Stuart Stanton’s letter in last week’s edition I would like to point out that responsibility for the issues he raises lies with the club or the stadium management and not with the RFL.
The first course of action should have been to raise the issue with the nearest steward, who would have brought the matter to the attention of the Ground Safety Officer, who could then have taken action to stop further misbehaviour.
A letter to the Ground Safety Officer at the club (Featherstone) will, I am sure, elicit a response but trying to deal with such issues after the event is more difficult.
Ground rules and legislation, tend to be much stricter for football than for other sports, so useful comparisons cannot always be made.
Secretary, Rugby League Ground Safety Officers Association


I really enjoyed watching the Women’s International between France and England. Despite England scoring their opening try on 25 minutes, they coasted to victory.
Craig Richards has a good squad of players and they have a great chance of winning the World Cup next year.
I am a huge fan of Amy Hardcastle. And when everyone watches her next year they will all be fans of hers as well.
Here is something for the RFL to think about: the Women’s Grand Final should be played at Old Trafford and on the same day, before the Men’s Grand Final.
The Women’s game is growing and I am sure they would get a bumper crowd to watch them.
Joe Vince, Colchester, Essex.


Your ‘Highlights’ section last week (League Express 25 October) mentioned that “The England Women flew to France for a 12.00 p.m. kick off.”
There is no such time (in the day-time) as 12.00 p.m. It is 12 noon or 12 midday.
The abbreviation p.m. stands for `post meridian’ (occurring after mid-day).
David Ramsden, Bournemouth


To all those who feel that Toulouse should not be a worthy addition to Super League, I would make the following points.
Toulouse have replaced Leigh Centurions in the competition. Apart from their away game at Wigan, how many fans did Leigh take to away games this season?
But Leigh were not the only club in Super League whose away support was poor. Even in normal seasons some clubs struggle to attract decent crowds, both home and away.
If we all had to travel oversees to watch our club’s away games, we would all travel in fewer numbers, or go skint.
Many of the naysayers were delighted when Toronto were admitted to Super League. Perhaps they saw it as a more lucrative holiday destination than Toulouse. But Toronto, despite attracting large crowds (though I question how many of those actually paid), brought very few fans to games (admittedly just before the Covid epidemic) with them to games.
It was also ironic that certain club coaches refused to go to Toulouse this season because their club was only part-time. But they were happy to travel all the way to Toronto with part-timers. So was taking time off work to travel 3,500 miles was less difficult for such players than travelling the 915 miles to Toulouse.
Many people underestimate the strength and passionate support of French Rugby League in southern France and having experienced a Limoux-Carcassonne derby, I can vouch that the atmosphere would rival any derby game in Super League. The Limoux club stall even refused to sell me a Limoux badge because I was wearing a Carcassonne cap! They were, though, happy to sell the badge to a London Broncos friend who promptly passed it onto me.
And having attended the Catalans-Wigan game in Barcelona I could only marvel at the level of French support and the overall event organisation on the day.
Perhaps a future Grand Final could be played in Barcelona.
For the record, Rugby Union does have an international club competition – the United Rugby Championship (URC), a 16-team league which is an annual competition involving professional teams from Ireland, Italy, Scotland, South Africa, and Wales. The most successful teams then go on to compete in the European Rugby Champions Cup.
It has recently been announced that Cardiff and Scarlets will be the first Welsh teams to play in South Africa in the United Rugby Championship (URC).
Only time will tell how successful that League will be.
Finally, can I pass on my heartfelt congratulations to Billy Boston on the news that he has recently been awarded his Heritage Number (243) from the Blackpool Borough Supporters Club for his services to the former Blackpool club.
A well-deserved accolade for a great player and a thoroughly nice man.
Angie Austin, Chorley