League Express Mailbag – Monday 26th July


So the Aussies and Kiwis don’t want to play in our World Cup?  Okay – so let’s invite the USA and Serbia to take their places, and invite the USA and Serbian press to a conference to announce they will be replacing the Aussies and Kiwis.

Then let’s work with organisations in the UK to get that message out to citizens from the United States and Serbia who live in the UK. Use any newspapers that are printed for them and social media sites to spread the word. And afterwards, try to organise a game in the USA and a game in Serbia with England, to say thank you for stepping in to keep the World Cup on.

Our future is in playing the likes of France, and in encouraging other European countries to play each other whenever possible in one-off games. We need small tournaments to build up the European brand, inviting the likes of Jamaica, Lebanon, Greece and Italy, with invitations to the USA and Canada.

Let the Aussies and Kiwis be the so-called big fish in their own pond.

Mike Simpson, Torquay



If I were an Australian or New Zealand Rugby League fan I’d feel jilted, if I were one of their players I’d feel betrayed. Both have been sacrificed to the narrow-minded whims of the NRL clubs.

Personally I’d kick their parochial arses back to Parramatta and Greymouth and not invite them to future World Cups.

Obviously that is highly unlikely but this time around, we should embarrass the hell out of them by inviting Aussie and Kiwis playing in Europe to form exile teams to take their places.

There is nothing the NRL clubs can do to prevent that, although the bloody-minded part of me says we should just replace them entirely  with Serbia and the USA, the top two failed qualifiers.

What we shouldn’t do is postpone this year’s tournament.

It is shocking and shameful behaviour, especially as every other Australian and New Zealand sporting team (including the Wallabies) is still travelling the planet.

Michael O’Hare, Northwood



See what happens when you let the bully get too big for the playground!

After years of the international board letting Australia dictate all facets of the game – the Super League war, changing the rules on a whim – choosing when and where international fixtures may take place – they are finally administering the coup de grace under the guise of Covid.

By their late decision to pull the plug on their participation in the 2021 World Cup, they hope to force us to the brink of financial ruin, while they then move in with financial ‘support’ to save our game, as a semi-pro, second-tier, feeder league to the almighty NRL.

The game’s guardians and protectors must rally round at this most important time, and not let that happen.

Start by banning them from the next World Cup, and from the foreseeable international calendar. Grow the rest of the international game, with France and Pacific tours home and away.

This isn’t the only answer, but we must not let them get away, once again, with their abhorrent, selfish, boorish behaviour.

Mark Calver, Wallington, Surrey



It might be a blow that the Australian and New Zealand national teams have decided to pull out of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, but as a result we have had more press coverage than ever before, with even the Guardian seeing fit to write a commentary piece on the issue.

When was the last time Rugby League featured as a leading item on the main national news channels, or on the BBC’s Newsnight?

There was even a mention of the issue in Parliament; we had the Leader of the House, that bastion of the establishment Jacob Rees-Mogg suggesting that the Aussies had pulled out because: ” ..they think they’re going to lose so they’re staying at home!”

The next thing we know, he’ll be getting a flat cap and a whippet.

Seriously though, what the organising committee should do now is continue with the tournament. Show the Aussies that they don’t rule this game, and they can’t just take ‘their ball home’ whenever they like.

Tell them, and the Kiwis, that they can hold the next World Cup in Australasia, but right now we will continue with this one, thank you very much.

The game can’t afford to waste the monies spent thus far on preparations for this tournament.

Would it not help the competition overall, if those indigenous islanders who have been poached by the Australian and Kiwi teams were to switch their allegiances back to the countries of their birth for this tournament?

Perhaps then we would have a truly representative World Cup.

Angie Austin, Chorley



The only hope of this World Cup going ahead is that Australian and New Zealand players revolt and demand that they play in a World Cup, as they will be regarded as wimps by other sports in their countries.

Believe me, I have lived there for many years and to call them wimps is an insult.

John Wheeler, Sandbach, Cheshire



The withdrawal of Australia and New Zealand from the World Cup didn’t come as a huge surprise.

I tried to suppress a wry smile as I was reminded of author Professor Tony Collins’, quote: “Rugby League never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Anyone who genuinely thinks that this has anything to do with health and safety must be living in ‘cloud Covid land’.

As John Kear has pointed out, the Australians are only interested in the NRL and State of Origin, with an ANZAC Test thrown in for good measure.

As I write, I am watching the Australian Olympic Team parade during the Opening Ceremony in Tokyo.  Are those people from the same country as the Kangaroos?

What the International Board and the World Cup committee must not do is capitulate to Australia and New Zealand, or this will become a case of the tail wagging the dog.

I suggest inviting Serbia, in view of the fact that there are many Australian players of Serbian heritage who, if they were denied the chance to represent Australia I am sure would jump at the chance. I would also invite the USA, who have featured in previous World Cups.

Let’s face it, the general public outside the small world of Rugby League couldn’t name a single Kangaroo or Kiwi player, and I think a USA team could generate a lot of interest.

It will of course be argued that the withdrawal of the two countries will tarnish the integrity of the tournament.

Did America’s withdrawal from the 1980 Moscow Olympics tarnish the gold medals of Coe and Ovett?

Of course not! It was the same with Russia’s withdrawal from the 1984 Los Angeles games. Whoever wins the World Cup will be bona fide World Champions and that will be a major boost for many countries.

I assume that qualification for the 2025 World Cup, possibly in France, will be automatic places awarded to the eight quarter-finalists, and qualifying competitions for the rest so Australia and New Zealand will have to qualify.

It will be interesting to see how that series of fixtures fits in with the NRL and State of Origin.

After my initial disappointment, I am actually looking forward even more to this year’s World Cup.

John Meadows, Los Alcazares, Spain.



Knowing the UK and its track record of handling Covid, would you come here for an extended period of time in autumn or winter?

Definitely not!

Having spent the best part of two years in bubbles and lockdowns and after a heavy schedule of rugby, would you come to plague island (the Aussie nickname for the UK) to play a World Cup?

Peter V’landys, the top man in the NRL says that player welfare comes first, whereas Simon Johnson, the RFL Chairman, uses the phrase “cowardly and disgraceful”.

I know who I would follow.

Cancel it or move it to 2022.

Lee Davies, Newquay



The Aussies and Kiwis have left two gaps in the World Cup groupings.

Could not these be filled by Aussie and Kiwi players who are at present playing in England and France?

There must be enough of them to make up the numbers.

Cameron Robertson, Chorley



Is anyone surprised?

The Aussies aren’t interested in international Rugby League. Their first, second and third priorities are the NRL.

I feel so sorry for Jon Dutton and his team, who have worked hard to deliver a memorable World Cup, and for the thousands of fans who, like me, have bought tickets for matches and were really looking forward to a thrilling competition.

Mike Worthington, Hexham



The NRL and NZRL have pulled their players out of the World Cup.

This tournament should have been put back because to go ahead with it during a world pandemic is totally wrong. The numbers contracting it are going up every day.

The Warriors players have been away from Auckland since February and, apart from their families, they are then being asked to go to the other side of the world and play in a tournament not knowing whether they may contract the virus or end up in quarantine.

Apparently James Tedesco has said that he is willing to play, but he does not have children waiting for him and wondering when they will next see him.

As usual, it is the whingeing Poms who don’t get their own way, but I fully support the NRL and the Kiwis.

Until we are clear of the virus, to ask people to travel 10,000 miles and play in a tournament that, to be honest, the British media will have no interest in is an absurd folly.

David Whitford, London



What a wonderful day at Wembley we, the York City Knights, had. The fans were brilliant as always.

We were the underdogs from the start, despite Featherstone Rovers giving everyone the impression they would be struggling to raise a team due to Covid issues in these difficult times for all teams.

I sympathise with them, but bear in mind they have a big squad of players. When you look at the quality of players they fielded for the Final it tells you everything you need to know why they are unbeaten in the League this season, only losing in the Challenge Cup.

Whereas we at York City Knights are on a terrible run of form, losing our previous six games going into this final. Then we had Covid issues on the Friday, losing four key players. That’s a massive disadvantage to a small club like ours when we haven’t got the quality of player to fall back on like Featherstone Rovers have.

So we were on the back foot from the kick-off, but to put 34 points past them is great credit to our players and coaching staff, who have all worked so hard.

We deserve more praise than we are getting from the press and Featherstone Rovers. I haven’t seen one comment from their stand-in coach Paul March, a former coach of York City Knights, or any club official, on how well we did.

It takes two teams to make a game and we definitely gave them a game, so it would have been nice to be acknowledged by Featherstone for pushing them all the way.

Finally, congratulations to both teams and their supporters for showing how to put on a great display in that heat on Saturday.

It was definitely a better game than the Challenge Cup Final because that was a real disappointment.

After watching our teams play it just shows how good the Championship is.

Peter Blenkin, Pocklington



I was very fortunate to attend the Challenge Cup Final.

It is always a great occasion and I wish to congratulate both sets of supporters.

The friendliness and behaviour of both sets of fans was exemplary and contributed to a very enjoyable occasion, although it would have been even better if Castleford had won.

I was wearing a Castleford top, and one Saints supporter did not understand why a Welshman was there. We had a good chat and parted company wishing each other the best of luck.

There are a lot of people in Wales who thoroughly enjoy watching Rugby League on television, but the game could be better promoted as the media does not seem to give the game due credit.

Hopefully, we will be able to get back to normality and my wife and I will be able to enjoy matches at Castleford. We have already booked up for the Magic Weekend, which we thoroughly enjoy.

Wishing all fans my thanks and best wishes.

John Evans, Wyesham, Monmouth



My first Rugby League Cup final was Leeds v Bradford in 1947, which was well priced at 4/6.

Last Saturday was the 53rd that I have attended and nearly the whole event was a huge success.

I say nearly, because at kick-off time a strange sound came over the stadium, which I could best describe as an old Mickey Mouse recording. But it turned out to be a strangled rendition of ‘Abide With Me’.

I suggest the RFL think very carefully about the future of the hymn.

David Cowham, Harrogate



Why did Castleford choose to play in black, the one colour that does not reflect heat but absorbs it, thus heating their bodies up?

That was unlike Saints, who played in the best colour on a day like that.

Whatever happened to their traditional colours?

Terry Wynn, Wigan



Every last Friday in the month, me and a few mates meet up in Wakefield, do the Westgate run, have a few beers, reminisce, pretend we’ve still ‘got it’ and usually are home in bed by 11:30, keeping our wives awake with our drunken snoring.

This is supposed to be a ‘lads night out’, but Barry (name changed to protect me) always insists on bringing his missus, Brenda (name changed for same reason). You see, Barry really loves Brenda and he can’t understand why we don’t. He thinks that the more we see of her, the more we are sure to love her one day.

Brenda is a lovely lass and we all like her. I would go as far as to say that we are all very fund of her, but we don’t love her.

Whenever I watch Rugby League on the BBC, I am reminded of Barry by the presenters or the commentators. They are so desperate for everyone to love their sport that every superlative in the book is used. It really is relentless, Woods, Kear and Jiffy competing with one another. Every couple of minutes we are being told how wonderful Rugby League is.

“This is one excellent, excellent game,” announced Kear at one point.

Mock enthusiasm and over exuberance take all the pleasure out of it for me. I watched the second half of the Cup Final with the sound turned off and it was much more enjoyable.

People either love Rugby League or they don’t. The mere ramblings of Kear and Co. will not make them love it, any more than Barry bringing Brenda along on the ‘lads night out’ will make us love her.

Steve Simpson, Wakefield



We saw two cracking Cup Finals at Wembley Stadium and, unlike at the Football Euro Final, the fans were well behaved throughout the two games.

My favourite game to watch was the 1895 Cup Final, between Featherstone Rovers and York City Knights. It was such a good game

When Rovers were 22-10 up at half-time, I thought they would run away with it, but York came back and fell just short to lose 41-34.

I want to see more Championship Rugby League on Sky, because it is such a competitive league, with Featherstone, Toulouse, York and Bradford.

It should have been one of those teams promoted to Super League at the end of last year, instead of Leigh Centurions.

Joe Vince, Colchester, Essex



What a fabulous final between Saints and Castleford on Saturday and also Featherstone and York.

But it’s one thing having a fabulous product and another thing selling it.

I believe that many southerners will have enjoyed Saturday’s final, but I doubt if we will capture any new regular fans. With the best will in the world, I can’t see many doing a 400-mile round trip every week to see a game.

I was going to suggest we spend every penny we have on a national advertising campaign showing clips of some of the greatest tries, but after some thought I doubt if that would be money well spent.

So let’s target the heartland where the clubs are and see if we can sell every World Cup game to capacity. Give the schoolchildren free tickets, because they are tomorrow’s supporters. Let pensioners in for little or nothing and forget about the grandiose ideas of making Rugby League a national sport. It isn’t going to happen.

The London experiment has failed miserably and many new clubs have not survived. With crowds of a few hundred in the lower leagues there will be more that will go out of business.

After taking games to Cardiff and Murrayfield, where a lot of locals attended, union still rules the waves in Scotland and Wales.

As for new clubs, it would be great given time if France could produce six clubs who could compete at a high level.

They are the way forward.

Tony Kelvin, Leeds



What does Ralph Rimmer actually do?

Jonathan Whitaker, Leeds



Many thanks to Richard de la Rivière for the article with Olsen Filipaina; ‘A Brilliant Career Blighted By Racism’ (Rugby League Heroes, 19 July).

During the 70s and 80s there was a lot of racism behind closed doors.

Some of it has now crept out into the open, as your letters page reveals every week.

Bill Lythgoe, Wigan



The problem with discussing issues of race in Rugby League, as in society, is that there are always those wish to ambush reasoned comment with accusation in order to score points.

Mick Calvert (Mailbag, July 12) did exactly that in response to my letter the week before, and this is why many reasonable people keep their heads down and stay out of the debate.

My issue was the generality of the quotation of “thousands of people screaming abuse” at Jason Robinson.

Context is everything when quotes are non-specific. Such a description is imagery, which is often useful in making a point, rather than a statement of fact. So in accusing me of implying that Jason was being untruthful with facts, Mick Calvert has shot himself in his other foot as well.

Think about it for a minute. Rugby League crowds are measured in thousands, rather than tens of thousands, so if thousands are screaming racial abuse, then this could be most of, if not all of the crowd. But when? At a particular match? On a particular ground? On a particular occasion, or every week?

As I write this, the Challenge Cup Final is being concluded with slogans up on the big screens telling the 45,000 fans on their special day that they should ‘kick it out’. They must be wondering what they have done to deserve this.

There are many good people I know who have been watching Rugby League for the last fifty years, including some great years at Wigan in which the fans loved Jason, and who are concerned that they may be tarred with this very broad brush so many years after the event.

Bill Anderson Parbold, Lancs



Despite his protestations, I’m glad that Barry King (Mailbag 19 July) actually agrees with me on the substantive issue of taking some form of action to highlight anti-racism in society and Rugby League. Linking arms is absolutely fine to show respect.

Where he got it wrong, however and it seems to be a bit of a common thread, is that taking the knee is not extolling the virtues of George Floyd. Instead it is highlighting an incident that is sadly not unusual in the treatment of black people in the USA and also here and elsewhere.

George Floyd could have been a totally different person, but would have almost certainly been black. That is the issue.

It was perhaps timely that there was an interview with Olsen Filipaina and the racist abuse he had to suffer as a Rugby League player, albeit in Australia.

Yes, it was 40 years ago, but racism exists in society and Rugby League today and anything, whether linking arms or taking the knee, that can highlight this and hopefully eliminate it is worthwhile.

Take the bigger picture, Barry!

David Wilkinson, Delamere, Cheshire



I know there are plenty of issues in the sport currently – RLWC, Covid, finances, TV deals with less money, and the Super League and RFL relationship, which are discussed plenty in these pages.

But to my 8-year-old son who has just discovered Rugby League, that goes unnoticed.

He has been to a couple of Salford Red Devils games this season and now loves Rugby League to the point where he pretends to be Escaré in the back garden run-arounds and he watches clips on YouTube daily.

Credit to the players who make the effort to clap the fans and have photos with young fans after games – win or lose.

All sports are going through changes and difficult times, but Rugby League has plenty of good points that should not go unnoticed.

Sometimes we forget about the good things in the sport, and this season, thanks to a younger person’s point of view, I have seen many of them.

Scott Lawson, Conwy, North Wales



The current aura of success surrounding both the Catalans Dragons and Toulouse Olympique is a breath of fresh air.

Thanks to modern technology, some excellent matches in the French Elite competition also came to our screens, particularly over the winter and spring months. The mouth-watering prospect of a 2025 World Cup in France has also been mooted.

We have also been reminded again of Rugby League’s rich heritage in France and its beautiful heartland areas around Perpignan and Carcassonne.

Nobody has done more to stimulate this feelgood ambiance in France than your correspondent Steve Brady.

But there is a danger. In his match report of the game against Leeds he says that the game was “the perfect vaccine for the current virus of negativity in the game and a shot in the arm for a Super League competition in desperate need of a pick-me-up.”

It was a superb piece of ‘journalese’ and I agree with him, but I am in the ranks of the converted.

Does he really think that the Northern Rugby League towns would prefer Toulouse in Super League at the expense of Featherstone?

‘Boosterism is currently a very familiar tactic here in the UK. The facts, however, are sometimes inconvenient. Six years ago I got 1.43 euros for my £1. Yesterday it was 1.16 euros for £1. It’s a huge devaluation when considering a twice-a-year prospect. Nor is our popular press giving France an easy ride.

Keep going Steve, by all means, your enthusiasm is catching.

And I certainly have no wish to be part of what you see as a “sullen malaise”!

Dennis Richards OBE, Harrogate



I know I am stating the obvious, but when the referee goes to the screen it is because he doesn’t know what the decision should be.

Therefore why is the referee asked to guess?

Nine times out of ten the video referee agrees with the onfield referee, even though we, the spectators or viewers, know it’s wrong half the time.

Paul Flockton, Redcar




Leeds Rhinos must be really disappointed to have played so well in the opening halves of both matches against Catalans Dragons, but then being unable to compete in the second half to allow Catalans to win and achieve their goal of staying at the top of Super League.


The temperature for the second game was, without doubt, not in Leeds’ favour. But they had very little ball, and, when they did, they didn’t use it as they had in the first half.


I would like to know if Leeds are the most penalised side in the competition, as everyone talks about discipline, but as far as six-again is concerned I am left wondering if Leeds are not involved in the new interpretation of the rules. Oh I forgot, we drop the ball more often than anyone else.


I have a lot of sympathy for Jon Wells, as he wasn’t good enough to play for the Rhinos, but I would suggest he finds a good bookshop that that could sell him a dictionary.


He might then find a word he doesn’t know to give Leeds a small amount of credit occasionally.


We have a brilliant sport that is the best, but it’s a shame the same can’t be said about the commentators.


John Barker, Mirfield