National Conference League waiting game is nearly over

Talking Grassroots with Phil Hodgson of League Express

Details of the 2021 National Conference League season, and exactly what format it will take in the face of the many Covid-19 implications, is becoming something of a slow burner, as the consultation process between the league’s bosses and clubs continues.

Quite right too, in my view. There’s still plenty of time available in which to ensure that the correct decisions are made for clubs and players as a whole, while the effects on coaches and match officials – and club administrators – must also be taken into account.

There’s no great rush, with friendlies authorised from 24 April, local league games from early May and the league competition proper, in whatever form it takes, starting towards the end of June.

NCL administrator Alan Smith has confirmed that coaches from, I think, the lower three of the competition’s four divisions will meet this week, and the outcome of that chat should take us a step further towards knowing what the programme will be over the next few months.

It will be good to be able to publish fixtures in League Express for the first time since March 2020. I don’t think many of us thought, back then, that we’d be so long awaiting.

At least there are plenty of good things happening in any case. In St Helens, for example, Clock Face Miners are celebrating their centenary this year.

You’re always learning something new in this sport and I hadn’t known, until the Miners sent me their announcement, that they are the oldest amateur Rugby League club in the town.

As is often the way with these things there’s a caveat to that, in that for a couple of decades from the late 1960s Clock Face moved away from Rugby League and adopted soccer as their preferred code of football, happily (in my view anyway) eventually reverting to type.

So one or two outfits in St Helens might also be able to claim that they are the oldest Rugby League side in the area, in terms of unbroken commitment to the 13-a-side game – all of which is good for chewing the fat over.

Congratulations, anyway, to Clock Face, whose history is peppered with some great names.

More good news, meanwhile, has emerged from north Wales, where another new (or at least re-formed) side will be in action this year, in the shape of Conwy Celtic.

Following as it does on the announcement that Wrexham Crusaders will also be in operation, it’s yet another tonic as we prepare for a return to action.

I’m sure, meanwhile, that anyone with any interest in Wheelchair Rugby League (i.e. most if not all of us) will be taken by the sponsorship arrangement between the Scotland Wheelchair camp and Allied Mobility, who specialise in the manufacture of wheelchairs for sports teams.

The company will get plenty of publicity surrounding the forthcoming Celtic Cup, in which Ireland and Wales will also be taking part, in June, with the World Cup also on the near horizon, and that’s all to the good.

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