League Express Mailbag – Monday 23rd November


Firstly may I say thanks to Ian Watson for all his efforts at Salford. He has done some great work and left us in a good position. People may be surprised, however, by the manner of his departure from the AJ Bell Stadium.

He has now revealed that he was in talks with Huddersfield shortly after the Challenge Cup Final. This was before he went into talks with Hull FC.

I find the lack of transparency and integrity disrespectful to the Salford fans after he said he would be staying at Salford after ending negotiations with Hull FC.

I have no problem with Watson leaving to further his career and wish him luck, but without integrity a leader has nothing and the way he has handled his departure has tarnished an otherwise faultless tenure at Salford.

Salford have acted throughout with class and professionalism by letting Watto talk to two clubs, one who announced a sacking of a coach on Sky and another who appointed a coach on Sky. No amount of money in the world can buy class.

Next season’s meeting at the AJ Bell will be interesting, to say the least.

Matt Carr, Urmston, Manchester



I was pleased to read last week’s League Express that Steve McNamara is hailing the new play-off formula.

Following so many incarnations since the dawn of Super League, it is the best play-off formula yet, and takes a weekend less, even with six teams!

It is a formula not to discard, but to build on for the future. It incentivises more teams until the end of the season and incrementally rewards those teams finishing higher in the table. It could provide one of the longer term necessary improvements to poor play off crowds, once normality returns. If the NRL can have 50% of teams competing in the play-offs, why can’t we!

Finally, what a great idea by the NRL at their Grand Final to recognise retiring players in a pre-match parade. They didn’t forget James Graham either; what a nice touch. A similar move here would be an attractive addition to future Super League Finals.

Mike Summerscales, Wakefield



I watched Robert Elstone being interviewed briefly and also read his words in League Express.

I have also read the criteria for the twelfth team to replace Toronto next season.

The teams vying to be considered are all worthy clubs and I wish them all well now and for the future.

However, what they will bring to upgrade the competition does escape me.

For a start they will be on a reduced budget and, with the best will in the world, this leaves the successful applicant at a great disadvantage in terms of the likely talent available.

I have a nephew who lives in Toronto who watched Wolfpack and told me the fans and general population were really enthusiastic and that Toronto is a sports mad city.

It is also one of the major cities in the world with sporting and commercial opportunities aplenty. I would be exceedingly grateful if someone could  explain to me the growth strategy for Rugby League in both this country and internationally, as I am at a total loss.

David Wilkinson, Delamere, Cheshire



Toronto Rugby League is dead, and Ottawa’s decision not to apply for entry next year is a clear pointer to their having rejected Rugby League. Not the sport, but the incapables who govern and administer the sport in the UK.

How much were the individuals who submitted the Toronto report paid? Elstone should resign forthwith, but will not, though £400,000 a year to your readers is a lottery win. Three years of that and he has pocketed £1.2 million. For what?

Who wrote the Championship Club application for entry to Super League in 2021 criteria? A thing so outlandish and implausible could have been written by The Three Stooges.

Only Toulouse could meet the first criterion, and every other criterion is equally laughable. In what way do Bradford, Featherstone and Leigh “expand and promote the sport”, nationally or on an international stage?

Why are the Bradford Bulls now in the position they are in? They could show all the Super League clubs how to muck up a successful club.

Leigh is a backwater stuck between Wigan and Salford; they have a good ground but lousy management. Featherstone – where is that? On a good day they can attract two men and their dogs! York and Toulouse, though, do offer hope.

The fifth criterion (I quote from an article in League Express) reads: “As a result of being in the Super League this helps to deliver the broader goals of the sport as set out in the RFL Strategy reset document.”

I had never heard of or read that document, but I assume it begins along the lines of: “We are happy to be a northern sport and are xenophobic. Unless you are a player from the Southern Hemisphere you can go and take a jump. The Scots and the Irish can go and kiss ……….”

Some people may not like bad language, but there are times when we have to speak out against injustice and downright incompetence.

John Wheeler, Sandbach



Most letters last week regarding Toronto’s ejection from Super League were from contributors disappointed that the Wolfpack have been left out.

I am for expansion of the game. I have no problem with new clubs taking it up in new areas, but with none of us having seen their re-entry presentation to the Super League board, it is difficult to form an opinion either way on the decision taken.

I hope the Toronto club is able to carry on in the future and, along with the new entry, Ottawa, will take part in our League system again when the current Covid situation allows.

Most writers last week wanted Toulouse to take the, now free, twelfth place and understandable reasons were put forward.

What does surprise me, however, is that fans who are vociferous about expansion seem totally against a club like Featherstone, with comments on them, among others with any chance of joining Super League, suggesting they will add nothing to the competition.

Why? How can a club that next year will have been in existence 100 years; a club that has provided many international players; has been League Champions, Challenge Cup Winners and won many other honours as well, be seen as unacceptable to play in Super League?

Featherstone has an excellent ground, good hard-core support, both home and away, and a club Foundation that does excellent work in the community.

Super League should not, in my opinion, be all about expansion.

Existing clubs have as much right to play in the top League as any new club.

If not, what is the point in them continuing?

Peter Wroe, Featherstone



Surely the twelfth Super League club should be either London or Featherstone.

London had one brilliant season in Super League, going to the last game before being relegated as just one of any number of potential relegation candidates.

Featherstone really turned it on in the playoffs, with wins away to Leigh, York and Toulouse. Only after having to travel to Toronto the following week were they beaten, before starting the next season winning six out of six games (four league and two in the Challenge Cup).

So why not have a Million Pound Game between London and Featherstone for the Super League spot?

Graham Greenwood, Knottingley



As a regular reader, and long-time letter writer to your great publication, I was a little annoyed and upset by Martyn Sadler ranking Featherstone, on his list of six promotion criteria, only once and joint third with Leigh and York at that (Talking Rugby League, 16 November).

I do appreciate his final sentence, “So don’t take my word for it,” but over all six application criteria involved, with every club’s merits to be applied, you mentioned my club, Featherstone Rovers only once.

You may remember that last year, Rovers played all their play-off games away from home. The turn-round from Toulouse to Toronto was ridiculous, yet we held the Wolfpack for more than half the game before running out of steam. So, being in the mix, we deserved a better mention in that article.

I have nothing but admiration for you and your team for keeping us abreast, with continued publication of the Express even during the early part of this Covid 19 pandemic.

However, in this instance I feel you have let my team down.

Ian Haskey, Castleford



If local Leaguers think their flat-cap approach will conquer North America they have another think coming.

Do they really expect to stand alongside the Maple Leafs, Raptors and Argonauts, in a city where referees can be heard explaining their latest decision to the crowd?

Already Toronto has seen players in no-number jerseys.

Roy Claxton, London



It is well known that Catalans are a physical side, but what Chris Kendall allowed them to get away with last week is not what we expect of any official.

The odds were against Leeds after losing two of their big forwards, allowing Catalans to maintain the momentum they needed, but James Maloney uses the same (Australian) tackling techniques in both hemispheres. In this game he made one tackle around the legs; all the rest were above shoulder height, which Mr Kendall chose to ignore.

I don’t often agree with the commentators but I do agree with Phil Clarke that Catalans were lucky to have thirteen players on the field for the whole game.

John Barker, Mirfield



I was Interested to see what action would be taken after the recent Mcllorum and Joel Tomkins incidents.

Mcllorum tried to take Dwyer’s head off in the 51st minute. But there was not even a penalty on field; he should have been off for ten minutes at least with a six-match ban.

Tomkins made ‘inappropriate contact’ with Myler’s rear end. There was no penalty on the field but later he received an eight-match ban.

If either Chris Kendall or Robert Hicks had ‘grown a pair’, they could have dealt with both infringements on the pitch. I am not saying that Leeds would then have won the game, because we made too many handling errors, but at least we would have got the benefit rather than Saints.

Two experienced referees gave Saints an early Christmas present; their fans will surely be sending Christmas cards. And I must have missed something anyway, because I’m sure I read that if a team hasn’t played fifteen league games they couldn’t compete in the playoffs.

Why were we even playing the Catalans?

Charlie Moore, Leeds



I was disappointed by Steve McNamara’s comments after the Catalan versus Leeds match, especially concerning the high tackle and manhandling of Brad Dwyer by Micky McIlorum.

I just feel that if he, as a coach, feels there was nothing in that, then we cannot be watching the same game.

I do know it is a hard game and players get injured, but that was one nasty incident and wish Leeds could have benefited from the incident rather than the next six opponents, which the disciplinary board felt it warranted.

I also feel that in incidents like this going forward the video-referee could let the referee know whether it warranted a yellow or red card.

Anne Pickles, Wakefield



That the incident involving Mcllorum and Dwyer went unnoticed last week is beyond a joke.

Chris Kendall is lauded as one of our best referees. Okay, we all miss incidents. But to have a back-up video referee and not relay incidents back is very concerning. Maybe they were watching the highlights of Strictly Come Dancing at the time, so they missed the incident.

The unsavoury incident involving Joel Tomkins might have been debatable, but both Catalans players have now been banned. So if the officials at the said match had been more observant the outcome of the game could have been different.

Richard Ireland, Derby



I look forward to my trip each year to the Catalans Dragons, but has expansion failed when their starting thirteen against Leeds included only three Frenchman?

That is not improving the game in France.

John Barrow, Salford



Obviously the Catalans thought that last week’s tactics worked against Leeds, so they used the same tactics, outright thuggery, against St Helens on Friday night.

I know Rugby League is a physical game, but Catalans took it to another, unacceptable level, with a plethora of high tackles, late tackles, constant lying on and an assault on Regan Grace that deserved a red card.

Fortunately Saints refused to get involved and let their tries do the talking.

Do we really want to put players at risk of injury by not taking any action against Catalans?

John Clark, Stockton-on-Tees