League Express Mailbag : Monday 28th March


There are several facets to the problem at Headingley, most of which will not be solved by sacking Richard Agar, as Geoffrey Bagley (RLE 14th Mar) suggests.

For the last few seasons, Leeds have had a slow and poor start. That can be partly put down to ineffective recruitment. They have been too ready to exploit the ‘Not Really Wanted Down Under’ shelf. Overstated, overrated and in a couple of cases ‘over weighted’ journeymen have come to the club.

Though they all arrived with the big hype of Grand Finals, State-of-Origin appearances, Blue Peter badges and the like, a few have not lasted and have been moved on. Some have shown that they cannot tackle below head height, and the silky skills it was claimed they would bring amount to little more than brute force and ignorance. Some even seem to think that a wave to the crowd makes them a legend.

There have been good signings, but not many.

The Rhinos Academy, though spending millions, has not fast-tracked a halfback into the first team since the retirement of Danny McGuire. We have a one-time ‘best scrum-half in the world’ on the bridge, yet halfbacks are the priority.

The present pair played together, excelled in the NRL and all the other media-speak, yet look as though they don’t inhabit the same planet. They have, so far, exhibited only ‘up-and-under’ kicking skills. A threat to Jet2 planes above, but not their opposition. They just do not get the team round the park, nor do they talk to each other. They look as though they have come to the wrong stadium.

In plain fact, since the retirement of Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow, only one halfback, of the many signed, has shown any consistency at Leeds. That is Robert Lui.

In agreement with Mr Bagley, however, there could be a role at Headingley for Danny Ward, where there are proven weaknesses in performances and in areas where he showed exceptional skills at London.

Bryan Smith, Leeds



For the last few years I have been living temporarily back in Leeds, caring for my elderly Mum, which has given me an opportunity to experience live Rugby League at many different clubs.

There are always negative issues with any game, but I wanted to highlight some of our many positives.

First – the new extent and quality of live, and other TV coverage of the game, from Sky, Premier Sports, Channel 4 and the BBC.

I have never known our game so well covered

Next the excitement and skills of the players in the Championship; arguably the best there have ever been at this level.

I have been fortunate to see several games live, including the recent 20-20 Batley v Featherstone game. It was breathtaking; more so because Batley were understrength due to injuries.

Also the introduction of a Monday evening Championship game.

I understand the challenges posed for away teams, but it is fantastic that there are games available to see.

There are also negative issues, of course, but sometimes the positives can be overlooked!

Ian Dewar, Basingstoke



We are very shortly all going to have to experience significantly increased rises in the cost of living, and especially in the cost of fuel, the future price of which is unpredictable.

Unfortunately this will have a disastrous effect on the amateur game, of which I am an enthusiastic supporter.

Coach travel is already very expensive, with a trip to Cumbria from West Yorkshire costing at least £750 and even shorter trips costing £400.

How do amateur clubs survive in these circumstances?

I think there are two avenues to explore.

First, increase the price of admission and the cost of food and drink.

No one likes price increases, but the amateur clubs provide the best financial value in any sport. You can have a wonderful afternoon out, seeing top-class Rugby League, meet fellow spirits and have food and a drink for under a tenner. If that cost were increased to £15, it still would represent marvellous value.

Secondly, it might be inevitable to move to a regional basis, say East and West. This would eliminate the absolute nightmare of travelling from Humberside to Cumbria.

There are 27 National Conference sides in the east and 21 in the west, so there is no easy split.

Nevertheless there are ways to even up the balance, by a subsidy, say, to eastern clubs having to do more travelling.

Some might consider the possibility of appealing to the RFL for help, but I am not at all sure about that route. I think it best for the amateur side of the sport to administer its own affairs. In that way the game is self-supporting and not beholden to anyone.

Alan Simpson, Leeds



How can it be right for teams to take in loan players to cover for players who have been suspended, with Wakefield signing Morgan Escaré as a replacement for the suspended Max Jowitt being such an example.

A suspension is supposed to be a punishment for a team and, as such , they should draw on resources within their own club to cover for suspended players, not stick two fingers up at the system.

Angie Austin, Chorley



I can’t help wondering if ‘Baz and Tez’ and Jon Wilkin get paid according to how many words they can gabble and growl in a minute, with a bonus for Baz for every big word he throws in to show us he is erudite.

They talk more than the commentator, but don’t bring anything to the game that we can’t see for ourselves, unless you are a newcomer, in which case you won’t get time to take in anything you are bombarded with.

With all due respect to them for their past playing careers, I know I am not on my own in thinking a bit more silence would be golden.

To borrow one of Tez’s constantly repeated sayings, “They know exactly what they have to do.”

    Shut up a bit!

Kay Cooper, Saddleworth



Do Sky pay Jon Wilkin by the word?

The man just can’t shut up. Is he a summariser or the main commentator?

For me, he ruins the match. I’ve taken to watching with the sound off. For heaven’s sake, Mr Wilkins, shut up!

Why don’t today’s commentators listen to Eddie Waring or Ray French?

Eddie was much maligned, but he knew that when it comes to commentating, less is often more. If your point of view doesn’t add to the nation’s knowledge, then shut up.

As for the Mahe Fonua sinbinning, if this is the game in 2022, then you can keep it. It is currently being ruined by woke 30-year-olds who don’t know their posteriors from their elbows.

We have young men refereeing who are obviously in terror of the Brown/Ganson cabal. Add Karen Moorhouse and you have a recipe for the death of the game.

Well done, Sky! You have helped ruin Rugby League in this country.

As for the Aussie Jenna Brooks, I have just two words to say – Angela Powers!

Chris Riordan, Chorley



Every week, I pick up my pen to write about the modern interpretation of the rules and how it is making the game a laughing stock.

Then I put it down again, reassuring myself that things will improve.

But they don’t.

It started with the sinbinning and subsequent ban for a totally innocuous tackle by Leeds Rhinos hooker Brad Dwyer and it has continued through many similar cases.

There were two ludicrous decisions recently involving Jermaine McGillvary and Danny Levi, was sinbinned for simply ‘touching’ Joe Westerman.

That was surely the low point. But no, worse was to come.

When the referee stopped play in the Wigan v Castleford game, as Mahe Fonua tackled, I thought it was because Fonua got a hand to the ball and knocked on.

To see a penalty given was surprising, but then to see a yellow card was totally ridiculous.

It seems that every season now there is a new directive.

Common sense goes out of the window and it takes weeks before pressure from coaches, players and fans restores some sanity.

It doesn’t seem very long ago that players were deliberately placing the ball on prone tacklers, in the play-the-ball, to milk penalties, because that was a new directive.

Thankfully, common sense off the field prevailed in that case, and changes were made.

We can only hope that the same will happen this year before we lose too many fans.

Stuart Lonsdale, Pontefract



If the coaches and fans want to stop the game being ‘softened up’ they should be arguing for a return to two substitutes?

Players would have to play eighty minutes then, instead of coming off when they get a bit tired.

We could leave it to the referees and RFL to crackdown on foul play.

Talking about foul play being punished, allowing fouls to go unpunished (or to incur lesser penalties) does not make the game tough.

It makes the game ill-disciplined.

Phil Howard, Hedon, Hull



Now that the RFL have surreptitiously changed the Laws of the Game to allow refereeing by committee in televised games, it is essential that the ‘Committee’ shows some consistency in what it does, which was sadly lacking in Saturday’s match between Leeds and Castleford.

Late in the first half, when Brad Dwyer’s foot came into contact with Kenny Edwards’ foot, the referee saw absolutely nothing wrong with the challenge in real time.

However, when the Committee Chairman, the video-referee, over-ruled him and decreed that the contact was a trip, warranting a penalty and a sin-binning, the eeferee duly did as he was told.

I have no problem with these Committee decisions, provided the Committee is consistent.

However, in the fourth minute, when McShane whacked Leeming on the nose with his forearm (accidentally, I suspect) and again the referee did not see it, the Chairman of the  Committee clearly did see it if he was watching the same TV footage as I was, as it was shown repeatedly, yet he did nothing, and the offence went unpunished.

This sort of tackle at the moment is attracting a sin-binning at least, yet the Committee Chairman chose to ignore it.

I am prepared to believe, despite the treatment of Leeds by the Discipline Department this season, that this is not an example of bias, but it is nonetheless worrying due to its dreadful inconsistency and unfairness.

John Dearden, Huddersfield



Due to my age I have a lot of time on my hands, so I spend a lot of time viewing all televised games two or three times.

And after only six games I have made up my mind that the worst referee for 2022 will be Chris Kendall.

I know that, as a ref, he must follow the rules but I think he enjoys sending players to the sin-bin or sending them off.

I also think that half of his decisions are too harsh.

Wakefield v Warrington was a good game and well reffed – (without all the “I’m the man” issues).

I like to see more of the first and less of the other.

So if he is the ref for our home game, I don’t go

David Topley, Selby



Those among the Warrington support who booed the players at full-time last week may wish to ask themselves how such behaviour will impact positively on their team.

Have none of those booing ever endured a less than successful day at work?

As a supporter, you pay your money and you take your chance.

Daryl Powell’s apology in his post-match interview with Channel 4’s Helen Skelton was quite unnecessary.

It was also a potential undermining of what may already be a fragile mental toughness within the dressing room.

There seems to be a soccer element attached to Warrington’s supporters – a snarling, churlish hardcore, that quickly gets on the back of the very players who they hope will send them home happy.

Kevin Brown alluded to this in the pre-match chit-chat on TV.

Far better, surely, to encourage and applaud, despite adverse results.

We love Rugby League for its demonstrations of skill, speed and no little courage.

Those who get paid to play it are owed our appreciation irrespective of results, or a subjective perception of performance.

Finally, Robert Hicks and his team of match officials got every call right

I suspect Hicks may have been under instructions to let borderline forward passes go, to not detract from the television spectacle.

The game wishes to attract more TV viewers and, crucially, more paying spectators at the grounds on game days.

This applied to both sides and Hicks refereed superbly, even explaining the laws of the game to the players on occasion.

Dr Michael Sheard, Northallerton



It is getting serious for us fans when Karen Moorhouse of the RFL is referring to Netball and Rugby League as being similar, and this is supposedly from someone in the know.

I am an avid fan of our game, but surely this can’t go on.

I, like countless others, am getting frustrated and annoyed at the constant cards being dished out.

Referees are only carrying out instruction from above, but in my opinion, those above are destroying our game.

Ours is a collision sport and a business that relies on income from us fans.

If we are constantly getting frustrated, we will vote with our feet.    And what if we walk away?

I am so frustrated now.

Alan Kirk, Northallerton



I am afraid that referee Chris Kendall is not playing his cards right.

Former players like Frank Foster, Jim Mills, Chris Burton and Eddie Szymala would not get a game now.

So come on Chris (or is it Bruce), use some common sense.

Reg Jackson, Hull



Why do referees feel they have to give yellow cards to Castleford players for the same things they let other teams get away with?

Do they have a grudge against the Tigers, or have they been told by the RFL to do this?

I have just watched Warrington v Wakefield on TV, and there were at least four penalties for contact with the head but no yellow cards.

Had those head-contacts been by Castleford players they would have been yellow-carded.

Why is that?

Other teams go on to win after a Castleford Tigers player is sin-binned for the slightest of accidental contacts with the head.

What have referees got against Castleford Tigers?

Referees are human beings, by nature prone to making mistakes, so why are players, coaches and club officials not allowed to criticise them?

It is really time, now, for their performances to be looked at so they can improve.

Something needs to be done. They are ruining the game for everybody.

Graham Dawson, Castleford



Another game ruined by an incompetent referee.

Why can’t Sky TV get Chris Kendall on screen to explain his ridiculous yellow card, which gifted last week’s game to Wigan.

Our wonderful sport is being ruined by the RFL and incompetent referees, Kendall being the worst of those.

I am close to giving up and leaving Rugby League.

Jason Ridgway, Castleford



The current debacle is referees handing out cards like casino croupiers, but the influence this has on results can easily be solved.

Empower the match review panel to dismiss unfair dismissal and retrospectively send them off where necessary.

Final scores can then be adjusted accordingly; tries added or scratched off, depending on the sent off players’ involvement in the game or estimated contribution.

The updated panel approved results could be revealed on TV later in the week.

“Wigan won on the night, but let’s see the result the panel have decided on [dramatic pause, open envelope]; it’s a Castleford win by a last-minute drop-goal!”

This seems the fairest, easiest, and most exciting way to overcome the current issues.

We might eventually get to the stage where teams don’t even need to play each other.

Each week the panel could estimate the results and decide which players receive suspensions.

It would also bring the bonus of dramatically reducing injuries, which is a win-win!

Cliff Lonsdale Toulouse



Work must be a helluva job for midwives, who work very long hours, I guess.

In the birthdays section of on Monday 14 March, Ollie Burton is cited as having his 20th Birthday whilst his twin Joe will turn 30.

That must have been quite a pregnancy!

Tony Sutcliffe, Sutton on Sea



I have been a rugby supporter for fifty years and have written to our Rugby League headquarters numerous times.

I wonder whether any of your other readers have written to the RFL and got a reply, because I have never received one. There must be a shortage of stamps, writing paper and so on at headquarters.

I am thinking of sending them a supply.

Also, for forty years I have sent enough money to cover the Recorded Delivery cost of sending my Challenge Cup tickets, yet they always come by second class post, sometimes opened.

Dave Bell, Hull



The Mailbag is always my favourite part of your newspaper and I just read the letter by Michael O’Hare (Mailbag, 14 March).

The only difficulty I had in understanding it was that the last part was a bit blurry on account of the tears of laughter rolling down my face.

Brilliant, absolutely spot on and, yes, I completely agree!

Mike Sproston, Hull