League Express Mailbag – Monday 30th August


We have recently been bombarded with publicity for the upcoming American Football games at Tottenham Hotspur’s Stadium on 10 and 17 October.

As usual, the NFL’s marketing effort has gone into overdrive, and they are clearly expecting to sell out both games. Fans are being encouraged to buy tickets before it is too late to do so.

It’s ironic that the first of these games is the day after this year’s Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford.

As yet I haven’t seen any marketing or promotional material encouraging me to buy tickets for that event.

You might think that the Super League would be particularly anxious to spend money on promoting the Grand Final this year because there is clearly a very good chance that the Catalans Dragons will be one of the teams contesting the game.

This should be a wonderful opportunity for Rugby League, and it is worth shouting from the rooftops about, but instead I suspect that those in charge of the game will give off negative vibes about the problems of filling the stadium because of the limited number of supporters who are likely to travel from France.

With the success of cricket’s new Hundred competition this year, we have seen how vital a smart, well-financed marketing campaign is.

Rugby League might claim that it lacks the money to spend on marketing, but interest rates on borrowed money are still at a historically low level.

Why do we have to beg the RFL and Super League to actively try to promote the great product that they are responsible for?

Bill Rees, Wakefield



As an annual subscriber to League Express over many years I have on occasion contributed a letter to the Mailbag, but over recent months I have become disheartened at the amount of negativity flowing from its pages.

Admittedly there is much wrong within our game at present and it could be in danger of losing out even more to other sports.

However, I worked for over thirty years for one of Super League’s best and most respected sponsors, Tetley’s. While working there I came into contact with a former Royal Marine called Jim Callahan who, after leaving the army, became a brilliant lecturer, tutor and motivator of people, and soon became my mentor. A phrase which for all who came into contact with Jim was PMA (Positive Mental Attitude)

Sadly Jim is no longer with us but his total belief in that phrase lives long in our memories.

“There is absolutely no point in dwelling in the negative,” he would say, “so get on with it. Dust yourself down, assess the failings, and implement acceptable and workable ways to improve the future success and longevity of our game.”

Those are words that the leaders of our sport could do well to read.

In closing, I compliment League Express on a most impressive article published over the past two weeks. It was a delight to read and be reminded about the life, times and career of the much-missed commentator, Eddie Hemmings.

Listening to his commentary on the sport for over twenty years was always a great pleasure. The friendship and camaraderie he struck up with Mike Stephenson brought a whole new approach to our beloved game.

Let’s get back to those much more acceptable times. Let’s learn to discuss, understand, agree, implement and trust in the future success of Rugby League within our country.

Richard Sanderson, Beadnell



In April 1954, my pal Hughie and I visited Station Road, Swinton to watch our team Warrington, ‘The Wire’, play Leeds in a Challenge Cup semi-final.

It was the days of Brian Bevan, Jim Challinor, Lewis Jones, Harry Bath, Arthur Clues and scrums.

I still have the programme, priced at sixpence. A large crowd (37,000) watched two fine teams battle it out, with Warrington eventually winning by eight points to four.

We were sitting near some Leeds supporters during that game. Three young women and a middle-aged lady (very vociferous) were slating the referee and anything Warrington did.

My pal (a big lad) eventually addressed the older woman. “Give it a rest, love,” he said. “You’ve not a clue what you are on about,” which was rather a mistake.

“You cheeky young bugger!” she replied, and she set about battering my pal with her large handbag. “I was watching Rugby League before you was born.”

Everyone thought it was hilarious. She frightened me to death and we beat a hasty retreat to a safer place.

Four years or so ago, my pal Hughie was diagnosed with terminal cancer. His grandson contacted Warrington Wolves and a few days later Hughie’s wife Jean answered the door to find Warrington captain Chris Hill on the doorstep.

There was no fuss, no publicity, an hour’s chat and the present of a signed Wolves shirt.

It was a wonderful gesture from the club and player. That’s the spirit of Rugby League.

Sadly, Hughie passed away two days later.

Terry Birkinhead, Newton-le-Willows.



In a recent column Martyn Sadler gave ten reasons why the World Cup may benefit from having been postponed for a year.

My first reaction was to disagree with him strongly, but having thought about it a little more, I’m inclined to think that he is probably right.

With Covid still rampant in the UK, there would have been no guarantees that all the games in the tournament would have been played this year.

None of us can predict the future, but I hope that by next year the virus will be under control, or at least all the players from across the world will have been vaccinated.

We now have another twelve months to generate interest in the tournament among the sporting public.

I’m sure that Jon Dutton and his World Cup team will be able to use that time profitably to generate as many full houses as possible in 2022.

Living in the northeast, I’m very much looking forward to the opening game of the tournament in Newcastle in October next year.

David French, Darlington



I got back from the Hull v Castleford game as a Hull supporter for fifty-plus years, and I had absolutely no qualms with the result. The best team won.

What I do have a massive problem with is ‘Association Football theatrics’ being introduced into Rugby League.

On numerous occasions during that match, when Castleford were under pressure, a player would be seriously injured and need medical attention (until the line was organised and everyone had breathed) and then was suddenly revived and fit enough to make the first tackle.

What with the standard of refereeing, the clowns in charge at Red Hall, and now this ‘football play acting’ creeping into what WAS the greatest game, after fifty-odd years my love for it is hanging by a thread.

Andy Maskell, Hull



It grieves me to say, as a Wigan Warriors supporter, that I agree with every word about Wigan printed in last week’s League Express.

I am at a loss to understand what has happened. The club’s recruitment policy is a complete mystery and their coaching methods likewise.

I would like to blame the problem on the fact that the squad is missing key players, but name me a Super League team that isn’t.

I also know that they have played more games than any other team, so may be running out of steam, but that could hardly have been the case when they started losing way back in May.

Maybe there just isn’t the talent; you know, the old saying about silk purses and sow’s ears.

I would never boo them, because they are playing a tough game for a fraction of what other top sportsmen are paid.

It would be nice, however, if someone at the top could just take a good, close, critical look and then act on what they see.

Val Andrews, St Annes on Sea



I cannot remember a more woeful game played by a Wigan team than the recent game against St Helens. Are a new coach and new ideas required?

Martyn Sadler mentioned in his column (Talking Rugby League, 23 August) our not having replaced injured prop George Burgess.

But as I can’t remember Burgess having a world-stopping game for us, I don’t think he has been badly missed.

John Bateman has slotted in okay, but, as with many other players returning from Australia, he will take time

D Rae, Barrow-in-Furness



In the Wigan-Saints match, Saints wore dark blue and the referee was in black.

Who decides on the ref’s outfit? Why not white, red, yellow, green or pink?

Christine Homer, Gloucester



The Rugby Football League has imposed fines on Castleford, Huddersfield and Salford related to Covid-19 and/or failing to fulfil fixtures.

These clubs are not the biggest or wealthiest in Super League, but they are traditional Rugby League clubs, each with a loyal fan base. The RFL should be supporting, not penalising them, in these difficult Covid times.

The circumstances may be different, but I draw attention to the RFL’s dealings with Wigan Warriors. They too have, more than once, been found in breach of salary cap rules and had a points deduction imposed. But it is always rescinded.

Unfortunately, the RFL appears to have one rule for big clubs and a different rule for everyone else.

Kathy Stacey, Worsley



 The Rugby Football League selected three Castleford Tigers to play in an international match.

All three of those players got injured, which left the Tigers with only fourteen fit players and unable to name a seventeen-man squad for their game against St Helens a week later, due to Covid 19 infections in their Academy team a week later.

The match was cancelled and a 24-0 win was given to St Helens, yet if the RFL had not selected three Tigers players for the international match, the club would have been able to make up a squad and play.

So, for the RFL to blame Castleford Tigers for cancelling the game against St Helens was bare-faced cheek.

The RFL also claim that after the Challenge Cup final the Tigers didn’t maintain social distancing rules on the bus back from London. Who told them that?

The RFL are now fining the Tigers £35,000 for something they themselves were partly to blame for. Is any wonder that Super League teams are reluctant to release players for international matches?

The RFL should look at its own actions before handing out fines

Graham Dawson, Castleford