League’s changing landscape

League Express - 12 Aug 2013League Express Editorial, Monday 12th August 2013

Our sport’s attempts to spread its wings over the last century and a bit has drawn many critics and resistance from many within the game.
Some are of the opinion that trying to expand outside the so-called heartlands has been a complete and utter waste of time. And money, although the strength of the game today in New Zealand and Australia can be cited to rubbish that particular viewpoint.
A quick glance down today’s scoreboard will also indicate that things are moving on a apace, Gloucestershire All Golds’ comeback draw at top-of-the Kingstone Press Championship 1 table Oldham the most stunning result of the weekend, while South Wales and London Skolars also producing a nail-biter was another stand-out.
And now we learn that 12 months after Surrey school Howard of Effingham won the Steven Mullaney Memorial Trophy by beating Castleford Academy 24-22 in the Year Seven curtain-raiser at Wembley, another school from the south of England will again play Castleford in the final.
Royal Grammar School High Wycombe’s Year 7 boys will compete in the Champion Schools final on Saturday August 24 before the Tetley’s Challenge Cup clash between Hull FC and Wigan Warriors.
And in Year 8, another London team in Royal Grammer School Colchester came close to a finals appearance, but were beaten by St Cuthberts of St Helens by one point.
The long-term benefit of a school with a reputation in many sports excelling in the national schools knock-out can’t be properly measured, but one thing is for certain. Without the presence of a top-flight side in the capital, there would have been no southern presence at Wembley over the last two years. Allied with the terrific development work that has taken place in the capital and its surroundings over recent years, and the organic growth of community League clubs, the emergence of semi-professional clubs in Hemel, Oxford and Cheltenham has been made possible.
The only obvious weakness in the growth of Rugby League in London and the south is currently the London Broncos club, which faces many problems, including finding a permanent home. Considering the club’s strategic importance to the future growth of Rugby League, putting the Broncos back on course should currently be the Rugby Football League’s priority.