League Express Mailbag – Monday 8th March


Now that Robert Elstone has departed Super League, I think we can reflect that his appointment was a very expensive mistake by the Super League clubs. Unfortunately, he was the wrong man for the job in the wrong organisation.

The Super League clubs now need to accept the fact that they are part of the Rugby Football League, and that whoever they put in charge of Super League has to be answerable directly to the RFL board, not to the Super League clubs themselves.

If that does not happen, I predict that the infighting we have seen in the last three years will continue, and the game will go absolutely nowhere. Is that what the clubs really want?

They must surely realise by now that giving power to the clubs, is the equivalent of having twelve ferrets fighting in a sack. In one way it is entertaining, but in the long term destructive.

Bill Rees, Wakefield



With regard to a replacement for Prince Harry as patron of the RFL, her majesty the the Queen would have been ideal of course.

On the occasion of a glorious, flying last-ditch tackle by Featherstone fullback, Brian Wrigglesworth – in the 1967 Challenge Cup Final – she was noted by some observers to be up on her feet applauding, in rapturous appreciation.

Failing the Queen, Prince Charles is my choice by a country mile.  In my role as a sports and sheep-shearing commentator at Yorkshire Dales shows, I have met him on four separate occasions. A smashing person, he takes a passionate interest in all the intricacies, of all the activities of the land, and he is also a genuine man of the people.

When I was competing at the Braemar Highland Games one year, he came off his seat in the Royal Enclosure to exchange a few pleasant words with me, and also introduced me to other members of his smiling family.

Other potential choices are the Princess Royal, whose sports involvement extends mainly to horse events, Prince Edward, who I once met at the palace but appears to have limited interest in sport, and Prince William, who seems a very pleasant and popular person, although his prime sporting passion is football.

But does the patron have to be a royal? If not, my choice after Prince Charles would be Alistair Brownlee.

Although more normally associated with finishing first in one of the most challenging of Olympic events, he is also also a man recognised in just about every country in the world, and coincidentally, a man who knows the game.

I once sat opposite him on the county-team coach, coming back from an English Schools Cross Country finals at Brighton, and I recall we spent more time discussing Rugby League than the sport we had just attended. He is a personality par-excellence.

Roger Ingham, Skipton



As a St Helens supporter, I welcome Kyle Eastmond back to Rugby League through gritted teeth.

Kyle left Saints in 2011 after a superb early career, that had seen him play for England so it was disappointing to see him go.

To this day, I don’t know whether St Helens were at fault for not doing more to keep him in Rugby League, but unfortunately at the time they seemed to fall out with him and were never able to repair the breach that had been created.

As we watched his rugby union career unfold from afar, I thought we would never see Kyle return to Rugby League, particularly when he earned international honours in that code after putting on a considerable amount of weight, to bulk up against some of the giants who these days play that game.

But Kyle seems to have passed his peak as a rugby union player and has not been selected for England for several years.

Leicester released him after the last union season, so I wonder now if he still retains the natural talent and brilliance, so apparent when he first burst into the St Helens team as a teenager. I shall look forward to finding out, even if it means watching him play for Leeds.

A word of warning for Rhinos fans, however. It is very rare that a League player who goes to rugby union comes back anything like as good as he used to be.

Richard Williams, Newton le Willows



Having seen the advertisement for them in League Express, I quickly acquired the two outstanding novels by Chris Berry: ‘Tough Season’ and ‘Tough Season in the Sun’.

Both are a compelling and excellent read, exuding authentic Rugby League content about the game itself and about its characters, both male and female.

I am looking forward to the third part of the trilogy: ‘Tough World’.

Geoff Bullock, Ackworth



I am not often in complete disagreement with Phil Hodgson, but I most certainly am on his suggestion that returning Rugby League to schools would be the guardian of youth and junior rugby.

Anyone who knows the history of the Hull and District Youth Rugby League Association will tell you that it was born, in 1975, after a decision by senior schools to play only Rugby Union.

That was a deliberate and calculated decision against Rugby League; I know, because I was at one such school.  What I did not know at the time was that the decision was city wide.

Anyone who has played for any club, or indeed has merely watched young players play in this city, owes a debt of gratitude to Geoff Oldroyd, Brian Jeffries and Bill Watts who, among others, stood up and ensured that the mistake made by schools then did not end the game in Hull forever.

Those same three also ensured that their legacy would continue for the next 45 years, under inspirational leaders like Brian Holwell, Mike Stanley, Nev Kelly, Jeff Bunting and Alan Parker.

To all our current volunteers, and to would-be ones out there, Heather Small put it better than I ever could when she asked: “What have you done today to make you feel proud?”

The answer is that you made your own contribution, no matter how small, to those same youths today (though with different faces) who share the same, age-old passion for our sport.

Paul Stephenson, Keyingham  (ex Hull & District Youth League)



We have been informed that this year each club will play two extra games at the start of the season, in addition to the 22 home and away games plus Magic Weekend.

These extra games, however, do not appear to be fair to the lower teams.

It was decided to have only three extra fixtures added to the normal twelve teams playing each other twice, but it would have been a lot fairer if the twelve teams had been split into three groups of four, based on last year’s table, with the top four, the middle four and the bottom four playing each other.

Instead (unfortunately for me, as I support Hull Kingston Rovers who finished bottom last year), the additional games we have been allocated are St Helens (Grand Final winners) and Catalans.

To add insult to injury, we have to travel all the way to St Helens twice, whereas Leigh (the promoted team who may need all the help we can give them) have been allocated neighbours Wigan (League Leaders last year) while Warrington will play Leigh and Wakefield.

All the above games could have a big impact on both the top and bottom of the table, come September.

Added to my frustration, in the remainder of the fixtures Hull Kingston Rovers have three away games on the trot, in one month. How can a club manage their cash flow with fixtures like that?

I do appreciate that with some clubs using football pitches, and with matches on four different days over a weekend, arranging matches is not straight forward.

Hull FC supporters will of course be saying ‘so what’ to Hull KR’s run of away games, because they have four away games in succession. But that has nothing to do with whoever prepares the fixtures.

The fact there is that their pitch will not be available for a month due to urgent work, which has to be done.

Alan Parker, Hull



Richard Sanderson mentioned a game he invented for his family (Mailbag, 1st March), involving “lowest points scored”.

Thank god we are nearing the end of lockdown.

A return to normality could never be more welcome, I am still amusing myself by watching paint dry.

Tony Winstanley, Castleford