Leaue Express Mailbag : Monday 29th August

What a refreshing change last week, reading Martin Eastwood’s letter titled “Lay off the refs”.
Top guy Martin, I am 101% with you.
Week in, week out, in this Mailbag we have, “Kendall did this!” “Hicks did that!” “Thaler missed a forward pass!”, bemoaning something which (in the various writers’ opinions) the ‘whistler’ got wrong.
Perhaps they did, but they (just like you or I) are human beings and it is human nature to err at times.
What player goes though eighty minutes error free? What coach never makes an interchange mistake? What goalkicker has the perfect record every week?
Very few if any, of course, but do they receive similar ‘stick’ as our officials do? No way!
Referees are not biased. We as fans (me included) are. By which I mean that they give what they see in a fair manner.
They are also not cheats and not ‘bent’, because (unlike the fans, and I again am as guilty here) they are not bothered who wins.
If you think you can perform better than our officials, have a go yourself and discover what a hugely difficult job it is. And that comes from someone who found out the hard way.
Many years ago, I had a go in the middle myself, and I very soon realised (and accepted) that I was not (by a long way) good enough.
Since then, I have happily remained on this (far less traumatic) side of the touchline and retain a huge respect for those who are far better than I was at performing the hardest task this sport has to offer.
In closing, I politely remind those who shout the likes of, “Gerrem onside, linesman!” that, in Rugby League, there are not and have never been ‘linesmen’. They are touch-judges.
Pedantic? Perhaps. True? Without question.
Keep up the good work refs, and TJs. There would be no game without you!
John Spellman, Monton, Eccles

The to and fro about referees persists and probably always will, but there is more at stake than just a win or a loss.
Watching pretty well every game on TV (Super League, Championship or NRL) makes me wonder where we are going.
Last Sunday was typical; the Championship game I attended left me frustrated at having wasted an hour and a half of my life.
We lost, but that is nothing in today’s game; we are neither top nor bottom.
But the referee was one of the new, schoolboy breed, as were his assistants, and quite how touch-judges assist these days is bemusing.
One of them was visibly counting the number of tackles on his fingers, and while doing so missed many forward passes, high tackles and offsides.
The referee, who I am sure did his best, has officiated in several other games, and missed as much in those as in ours.
In truth, it has been clear that help via a radio contact is provided.
He was not offered many player-handshakes after the game and, not surprisingly, hurried off with his escort.
He may make a good referee one day, but I may not be around to applaud him.
The paying public look for improvement; it was frustrating that I and many others had no satisfaction from watching a hard-fought game because officials’ errors overrode everything.
The serious question I asked myself as I walked home was, “If I hadn’t bought a season ticket would I bother coming next week?” And after seventy-one supporting seasons my answer was, “probably not”.
Most supporters (behind the ‘we’ll support you ever more’) are realists and will admit their side has weaknesses. But the feeling that even when their side has produced good rugby, they are cheated by a bad call, destroys everything good about the game.
Odd decisions handed out in Super League may puzzle the gurus and the referees but they will be refereeing the World Cup games!
IMG have a job on their hands.
The game needs re-building from the bottom up if it is ever to grow even nationally; painting over the cracks won’t cut it.
And in closing, rumours that the whole format of the game may change to make it more attractive leave me cold, and thankful for my memories and DVDs.
Glyn Smith, Runcorn, Cheshire

Watching televised games and my local team Whitehaven, it is obvious that officials believe they are the most important persons on the field.
Yet if we are wondering why this great game of ours is dying, we need look no further than officials, who decide a thing was wrong when thousands of supporters (on the terraces and watching TV) know it was right.
There is no consistency in refereeing decisions.
It makes you wonder what the RFL is paying Messrs’ Ganson & Co to oversee, as most referee decisions are a joke. So too is the number of head shots and forward passes they miss, even when they are right on the spot.
Australia’s NRL officials keep the game flowing and are hardly noticed. Ours make you wonder if they are aware the game is not about them but about the players, their welfare, and the fans.
I am not saying players aren’t sometimes guilty, but the number of mistakes and missed incidents is becoming a farce.
All we ask, as fans, is a fair crack of the whip.
For us, against Widnes at home, the officials were a ‘no show’. Two important decisions that went against us cost us the game.
First our scrum-half got ten minutes in the sinbin for throwing the ball into the stand, whereas their man kicked the ball into the terrace after a knock-on and nothing was done.
Second, a Widnes forward made direct contact with his shoulder to Liam McAvoy’s head, with two officials right there but, again, nothing was done.
And when Liam McAvoy subsequently had to go off with concussion, leaving us short on the bench, the opposing player was not even put on report.
Mr Ganson should have a good look at himself and the officials he is (allegedly) overseeing.
J Mattinson, Whitehaven

I hate commenting on refereeing, and I have no affinity with either Leeds or Huddersfield.
However, I must comment on a decision by Jack Smith (and one video ‘accomplice) last Wednesday night.
Beginning early in the half, Smith’s and his video official awarded a try to Myler, what was clearly a ‘no try’ as the ball was put down short of the line.
Even allowing for continual motion a hand was clearly visible underneath the ball as it went over the line.
Thousands of viewers could see it from the same angle as the video official, so why could Smith pass it up as a try and the video official agree?
Later, Sezer made a tackle on Fage’s which was ‘split second’ and in my opinion unavoidable, didn’t appear to be high or a shoulder, (more unfortunate, with no malice) yet Smith deemed it deliberate and deserving a yellow card.
Later still, Hill made a smother tackle on Myler in one movement. Myler clearly kicked his own legs in the air (to con the referee that Hill had made a foul move), resulting in a ridiculous yellow card (which later led to Leeds scoring the winning try).
He then decided that a grounded player, Greenwood (with his back to play), was implicit in a tip tackle resulting in a second, last ten-minute yellow card to Huddersfield.
There is no doubt, in my mind, that at least the latter two decisions cost Huddersfield the game.
Unfortunately, this is becoming an all too regular occurrence; poor decision making deciding important games.
It must stop, and I have sadly to agree with numerous others, that the standard of refereeing has hit an all-time low.
I don’t have answers; that is down to someone else, but action must be taken.
Perhaps someone with no connection to either the RFL or the referees’ official body could comment on standards and decision making.
The game is suffering weekly.
Phil Haley, Liversedge

I very much doubt that I’ll be the only one commenting on the ‘Mylergate’ incident in this week’s Mailbag, but in all honesty, it’s as obvious as it’s possible to be obvious that he was merely attempting to escape Hill’s tactical (cheating) slowing-down grip to attain a quick play-the-ball before Hill clearly lifts and then drops him.
Anyone, even considering the usual anti-Rhinos prejudices, who thinks or believes any differently needs an urgent appointment at the opticians, including Giants coach Ian Watson and the idiotic Phil Clarke.
At the end of the day, if Hill allows Myler to play the ball, Huddersfield win the game, so maybe Watson and the Huddersfield supporters need to look a little closer to home.
Malcolm Bastow, Leeds

After watching the Leeds v Huddersfield game on Wednesday evening, I was amazed and appalled in equal measure.
Firstly that Richie Myler tried to perform a headstand after Chris Hill had completed the tackle. Hill was (wrongly) sinbinned and from the resultant penalty Leeds scored the winning try.
I was appalled that Richie Myler would try to milk a penalty, and amazed that the referee fell for it, although in fairness to the referee, he did consult one of his touch judges, but they still got it wrong.
The subsequent match review panel confirmed that Chris Hill had no case to answer and that he had not put Richie Myler into a dangerous position. The inference is that the panel confirmed that Richie Myler had put himself into a dangerous position to con the referee and gain a penalty.
However, having come to the correct conclusion, there appears to be no intention to penalise Richie Myler for his actions. This is so wrong. If the referee had made the correct decision, then surely Richie Myler would have been penalised, and possibly sinbinned, fined or suspended.
So, Leeds won the game when it appeared that Huddersfield had it in the bag. At this time of the season this result could be crucial, and Richie Myler has got away with it.
This is not what we want to see, unless you are a Leeds fan, and I’m sure even they could be embarrassed by Myler’s conduct.
John Clark, Stockton-on-Tees

On Myler, the Match Review Panel noted “player throws his legs upward seemingly to release the grip of the opponent.”  Unbelievable!
Malcolm Haigh, Huddersfield

During the game between the Giants and Leeds last Wednesday I was appalled that Jon Wilkin was openly encouraging faking injury with the intent to get players sinbinned.
This occurred when Chris Hill tackled Richie Myler and Myler deliberately jumped in the air, thus causing the referee to sinbin Hill.
We have enough faking in football, whereas Rugby League has always prided itself on being hard but honest.
I feel strongly that the comments from Wilkin are not what we want in the game and he should be removed from commentating as soon as possible.
On the commentary team with Brian Carney was Phil Clarke, who always has a true and fair interpretation of events, and Ash Golding, who was a breath of fresh air. Give him more air time, please.
There are a lot of other former and present players around who need more air time. A freshen-up is needed.
Steven Addy, Huddersfield

Congratulations to Wakefield Trinity for securing their Super League place for next season.
Well, somebody had to say it. Judging from the reaction of Sky and the media, both print and social, the success of big bad Wakey and the relegation of poor innocent Toulouse is the worst scenario possible. The outright hypocrisy of some ‘neutrals’ recently, lamenting the effect of relegation on Toulouse whilst simultaneously wishing the same outcome for Wakefield, has been puerile.
The straw man arguments, from ‘we like the away game in France’, to ‘there are too many clubs in West Yorkshire’, to ‘it will stop the game from growing’ have been wheeled out in force. Now Sylvain Houles is preaching the ‘three-year exemption’ line, the timing of which is convenient, given that their relegation is confirmed.
May I remind the anti-Wakefield brigade of the only valid argument – Wakefield earned more points than Toulouse. Both teams have played rugby, in a league format, and one side has won more than the other. Very simple!
Yet this meritocracy has been rejected by so many this week, usually fans of ‘bigger clubs’ who essentially don’t like travelling to Wakefield and thus feel climate, parking, concession stands and French nationality are the criteria to decide league places.
I wonder if they would be happy to rescind their league and cup titles on the basis that the points they earned to win them are (according to them) irrelevant. Shall we do away with the oval ball altogether and just give out trophies at the end of the season based on merchandise sales, franchised food outlets and toilet roll quality?
Aah, they desperately cry ‘but Wakefield’s stadium, their stadium….’ – As if they themselves had built their own shiny facilities in their home towns with their own money, bricks and cement. They conveniently ignore the good grace of a local council, benefactor or retail parks that have supported their grounds development as if this was something they had earned rather than simple postcode fortune. These are advantages they enjoy, and that Wakefield simply haven’t had.
The fact that Wakey’s ground development is underway (the recent wins over Wigan and Hull KR were played out in front of the demolished stand) is simply an inconvenient truth to them. I have every faith that their suggestions to IMG in the recent survey will simply read ‘kick Wakefield out’. I’d have more respect for them if they espoused a simple dislike rather than trying to justify their prejudice with ill-conceived arguments.
This is further highlighted by this week’s league positions, which show Wakefield in tenth and Warrington in eleventh. Has there been a call to relegate Wire and save Toulouse, because they are, after all, the team above them? No – because Wire ‘bring something to Super League’ – a misnomer of a phrase used only by the wealthiest clubs, which translates into ‘we love our club and assume everyone else in the league enjoys our success as much as we do’. What they assume they bring to the league is merely what they bring to their own community. If we are only going to allow teams to continue if they win titles, let’s reduce the Super League to two Wigan v Saints derbies every year and everyone else can go home. I think not!
If Wakey had finished bottom, not a single Wakefield fan would have begrudged going down – this is life, we knew the rules. But we’ve abided by them, we’ve played the sport and we’ve kept our place. We are entitled to support our club with the same passion as everyone else rather than have this positive for the club be besmirched or face a campaign to have this somehow taken from us.
I love this game; I believe in expansionism and would happily see Super League teams spread beyond the current twelve clubs. Let’s have 14 teams and do away with loop fixtures – let’s promote two and relegate two from Super League, but doing so based on what takes place on the pitch.
Simply kicking one team out to replace with a popular alternative is not expansion. Clubs should be promoted through their rugby merit and clubs should be relegated due to a lack of the same.
Wakefield have proven just that and even if I’m the only one saying so, well done to them.
Mark Drew, Worcester

I must disagree with most of what Mick Calvert was saying (Mailbag 15th August).
It is becoming almost impossible for anyone who is a straight, white, male or female, to show any form of disapproval of anything else without being labelled racist or homophobic.
Most of us have no problem whatsoever with gays or lesbians, only with organisations forcing their views onto others.
The Australian Rugby League players refusing to wear a multi-coloured strip have every right to refuse to do so; why are their views labelled “appalling”?
‘Black Lives Matter’ is another instance of people in general being told what to do. The kneeling should never have started; some players look embarrassed to do what is now just a ritual, promoted by Sky Sports TV.
As an agnostic, any kind of religion also means nothing to me; leave religion and politics out of it.
And “trans” people should in no way be allowed to play against (or alongside) natural-born females or males. I believe there is now a law preventing them doing so.
Mr Calvert should keep his “bigotry” comments to himself. They are not needed in our sport.
Barry King, Beverley

I urge all readers to look at rflrugby.com an American site calling itself the ‘Rugby Football League’; there is a contact email on their site.
As I have pointed out to them, there is only one RFL and it is in England.
This is very disturbing; it infringes on our game and s blatant violation of copyright.
And with the forthcoming World Cup in this country, people from other countries will be wondering who and where is the real RFL.
Our RFL must act now.
I would have thought Martyn Sadler would have known about this.
If we do not stop it now, Rugby League in general will be seen as an easy target yet the silence from the RFL and Rugby League in general is deafening.
David Whitford, London

I plead with supporters to complete the IMG online survey.
This is our chance to put our arguments before the authorities.
I would also, however, beg readers to consider the whole game and not just local interests.
Rugby League is on its last legs.
We need radical, ‘once and for all’ changes to bring the game into the modern era.
I would hate Rugby Union to be the only rugby code left.
I have watched enough paint dry.
Jeff Ward, Ivinghoe, Aston

In a few issues in recent months, Phil Hodgson has commented in the Talking Grass Roots column on the development of RFL policy around trans players in our game.
Phil suggests he may have “possibly been simplistic” – which I think is the case. If we want to be as inclusive a sport as possible, then we must encourage all to participate, and be sensitive to issues that could exclude anyone from our game. I think these changes do not help our game.
The changes in RFL policy (which can be read at https://www.rugby-league.com/uploads/docs/TransgenderPolicy2022_RH.pdf), and similar changes by the RFU, have been justified around the possibility of putting women players in physical danger. Player safety is clearly crucial, but the evidence seemingly referenced seems very limited to research conducted on physical development after using hormone suppressants for 12 months.
This certainly seems a limited research basis to generalise to conclusions that would ban transwomen from playing our sport and put barriers in the way of transmen playing. Is there any research based on the playing of either code of rugby? That would provide a better basis for making decisions around safety.
Obviously, there are difficulties in conducting such research if the player pool is limited. For one thing it isn’t the easiest thing to judge how many people are affected by such policies; there are no records of the numbers of trans people, while estimates in the UK range between 200,000-500,000, which somewhere between 1:136 to 1:340 people in the country.
Given that at present this affects a small number of players, would not a better and more inclusive position have been not to rush in with a ban but to examine these issues on a case-by-case basis? In Ireland, for example, the IRFU policy change affects two then registered rugby union players, whilst the RFU policy change also affects numbers of registered players in single figures.
Several women rugby union players who have spoken out against the ban pointed out that the vote there was a relatively narrow vote of 33-26, which moved from a position of a case-by-case basis, which seemed to work without any major injury issues. In the case of the RFU, many women and trans players have spoken out about how they feel consultation on this has ignored them. Unfortunately, there is even less information on how International Rugby League came to its position, seemingly on this same flawed basis.
The RFL repeatedly states that Rugby League should be a game for all, but we must consider what message is being sent to the LGBT community by this blanket ban in the context of recent events such as the seven Manly Sea Eagles players refusing to wear a shirt with a rainbow stripe.
I note that the policy does refer to the TackleIt campaign to deal with discrimination, but that campaign as far as I can tell makes no explicit reference to any measures to deal homophobia or transphobia.
Iain Dalton, Leeds

There has been a growing narrative in the game recently, that seems to have been driven by certain club owners, regarding what French clubs bring to Super League.
As a result, these clubs are having to justify their place in the competition.
So, if we’re playing that game, let’s make every club justify their place in Super League, because no one seems to turn this argument on ‘traditional’ clubs.
Let’s start with Wakefield. What have they brought to the game recently, other than multiple financial issues, changes of ownership, no stability, short-term thinking, and mostly mediocrity?
Leigh? Promotion followed by abject performances and immediate relegation with less points than other teams that have done similar.
Despite more success (and I applaud them for it) on the pitch, Huddersfield still can’t attract decent crowds. What do they add? Have they got their own TV deal?
Are any of these clubs increasing the profile of the game? Are they increasing revenue? Have they brought their own independent TV deal?
Hang on, have they brought a TV deal? Think about that, people are asking if the French clubs bring a TV deal, yet no one is asking if other clubs do that. Why? Who is driving his narrative and why?
It’s not difficult to figure out that it is being driven by people putting their own interests before that of the game.
And I know that some people will say that these club owners have pumped so much money into the game and because of that passion we should listen to them.
But turn that around. They have pumped, and are continuing to pump, money into clubs that are otherwise unsustainable. Despite their passion, they can’t make these clubs financially viable.
The game needs to increase its current revenue streams and to develop new ones to become viable, otherwise it will revert to being a part-time sport and mediocrity beckons.
If your parochial viewpoint is more important than the game as a whole, then fine.
But if that is the case, then we truly have the greatest game, with the worst owners, administrators and fans.
Chris Greer, Otley, West Yorkshire

Super League needs Toulouse and Toulouse needs Super League.
Who decided to have Toulouse playing Catalans on a Thursday night at the end of the season?
It should have been the first game on a Saturday night and would have been a sell-out.
I just hope IMG see how much Toulouse bring to Super League. Two French teams generate interest, publicity and ultimately money for the game both here and in France.
It’s not just about away fans, it’s about how much the game is worth.
The aim, if anything, should be to have a third French Team.
For all those who are thinking “what about the traditional clubs?”. we should be looking to expand the game. The more teams in Super League, the better.
After all, we do everything the Aussies do and they’re always looking to expand the NRL.
Jonathan Whitaker, Leeds