Page XIII: Reasons to be cheerful amid the rugby league gloom as new season beckons

HAPPY New Season everyone! I trust that many of us are excited and full of early optimism for the season ahead?

Every new season starts with high hopes. Sadly, it doesn’t always continue like that, and if your team is unfortunate enough to lose a few early games, it can suddenly feel like you’re facing a long seven or eight months ahead.

I know for some, 2024 may already feel like it’s starting on a low note given the mixed reaction to the news of Magic Weekend’s move to Elland Road and the IMG Grading system meaning that even if London do as well as Leigh did last year after their promotion, the Broncos already look unlikely to remain in the top flight no matter what.

Our Six Again feature this month looks at some of the things we hope to see happen in the game this year, but aside from just hoping, there are some good things definitely happening.

With Sky Sports committing to showing every Super League game throughout the year, and the BBC looking set to agree a separate broadcast deal, the game will be visible to more people than ever before.

The BBC have always done a sterling job with their coverage of the Challenge Cup, but they just haven’t been able to show rugby league often enough, so if they can seal what is thought be a prime Saturday evening slot on terrestrial television, interest in the sport should increase massively.

A larger audience can only be a good thing, and viewers will see that many of our biggest stars, such as Jack Welsby and Mikey Lewis, have committed to Super League for the long-term when they could easily have explored career options down under.

We also have a new team going out to defend their Super League title after Wigan’s win at Old Trafford, and the fact that the Warriors halted fiercest rivals St Helens’ four-year dominance will certainly add a new dimension to those derbies this year.

Wigan’s first big test of the year will come on February 24th, when the World Club Challenge returns to UK shores for the first time since the Covid pandemic turned the world upside down. The ‘Sold Out’ signs at the stadium show the appetite for seeing the games’ best go head-to-head is definitely there.

There is certainly lots to look forward to and the fixture booklet that comes free with the print edition of Rugby League World is the perfect companion to guide you through it. It highlights all the key dates across all pro leagues in the game, as well as club-by-club guides for all clubs across Super League, Championship, League One and Women’s Super League – get yours now by clicking here.

I would just like to say a big thank you to the RFL media team, and Bronwen Jones in particular, for answering all the queries I had to make the booklet as accurate as possible.

Bronwen, alongside Women’s Super League general manager Tom Brindle, did all she could to provide us with the fixtures for the WSL as well. It was touch and go at one stage as the clubs were still confirming games right up until the day before our deadline, but we got there in the end and I’m sure you’ll agree that the inclusion of these fixtures once again is a welcome one, and illustrates another way that the women’s game continues to grow.

It might seem a bit strange to mention this point, seeing as it’s highly likely that by the time you’re reading this, those fixtures will have already been released into the public domain. However, in the world of magazine publishing this booklet had to be with the printers almost two weeks before it started landing on your doormats. They say a week is a long time in politics, well it is publishing as well, and so is a fortnight!

Hopefully, you will find this guide useful, and as you will see from the 36 pages of content inside the magazine, there is plenty of action to be found around the country over the next nine months, so get out there and enjoy what this great game has to offer.

First published in Rugby League World magazine, Issue 493 (February 2024)

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