Red Star Belgrade playing in League One? Do me a favour.
Please can someone at the Rugby Football League explain exactly what they will bring to the table?
I’m trying not to be negative for the sake of it, but I really can’t see too many positives.
Red Star were well beaten by Millom in last season’s Challenge Cup, and while that’s just one match, where are they going to get the players capable of making them more competitive?
Bringing them in from other places will prove costly, and there isn’t too much money around at that level.
Is there any appetite over in Eastern Europe for sponsoring, or watching, that standard of Rugby League?
Clearly Red Star would bring very few fans to away games, so there would be little financial benefit to existing clubs already struggling to make ends meet. Then there is the logistical and financial equation of League One sides getting to Serbia.
Yes, Toronto Wolfpack have made it to Super League, but could Red Star Belgrade seriously do the same thing, or would they be more like Hemel Stags, who were only a few hundred miles from the heartlands, but still struggled to make an impression?
Super League should play for the Rob Burrow Trophy
It’s no surprise that Rob Burrow seems to be approaching his battle with Motor Neurone Disease the same way he approached opponents on the Rugby League field – with total commitment and total courage.
The one positive to have come out of an awful situation is the way the game has come together in support of Rob and his family, and that was again evident at the Leeds versus Bradford testimonial game on Sunday.
And again, I repeat my suggestion that from this season onwards, Super League clubs should be playing for the Rob Burrow Trophy at the Grand Final.
Rob has been one of the best players of the Super League era, with eight Grand Final wins – all with Leeds, the side he served so loyally – and to name the trophy after him would reflect the reaction of fans of all clubs since the news of his illness emerged.
He’s a true ambassador of our sport, a man who has total respect, so come on Robert Elstone, do the right thing.
Warrington’s Widdop blow
Losing marquee signing Gareth Widdop to a pre-season injury is clearly a big blow for Warrington as they prepare for a crucial campaign.
Gareth, of course, is seen as being the final piece in the jigsaw as the Wolves seek not just to reach the Grand Final, but to win it.
The pressure is on coach Steve Price to produce the goods, especially given St Helens’ dominance during 2019, the signings made by Wigan and what I believe will be strong challenges from Castleford and Leeds.
Make no mistake, Gareth Widdop is a quality player, and one who has been improved by his experience of playing for St George Illawarra in the NRL.
And, of course, Warrington will have had a thorough medical on a player who has had his fair share of shoulder problems.
The latest injury, picked up during training, has been described as ‘lower limb’, and is set to keep him out at least until the clash with Toronto on February 21.
Nothing is won in February, and in the overall scheme if things, a month isn’t too long.
But the worry for Steve Price is that crucial time on the training ground, then in the first few rounds of matches, will be lost as he tries to hone what all be a crucial partnership in the halves with Blake Austin.
Warrington won’t want to give their rivals a head start.
Over at Wakefield, there has been encouraging news with the return of Tom Johnstone, but a setback with the revelation that his fellow winger Ben Jones-Bishop faces a fairly lengthy spell out due to illness.
First things first, best wishes to Bish for a speedy and full recovery.
While Tom, who is returning from a knee injury, has rightly received plenty of plaudits for his scintillating play, Bish is also a great operator, and a bit of an unsung hero.
Most clubs would love to have either of them, so for Wakefield to have both is a real bonus, for coach Chris Chester and the supporters too.
Our game is all about entertainment, and there are few things as exciting as a winger doing his stuff and bursting over the tryline.
I always think of Martin Offiah, and I don’t mind admitting I saw more of the back of him than the front!
Can Hornets get their mojo back?
It was good to see a bit of a buzz about the Rochdale versus Oldham Law Cup clash at Spotland, or as it’s officially known, the Crown Oil Arena, on Sunday.
We’re talking about two very historic clubs here, both founder members of the Northern Union in 1895, but who have both led nomadic and hand-to-mouth existences in more recent times.
It seems a while since Rochdale claimed that memorable win over Toulouse Olympique in France to win the 2016 league One Grand Final.
Since then it’s been pretty tough going, and last season was a shocker, with just one Championship win.
I remember the disruption before the season due to a reduced budget, and it was clear relegation was going to happen way before the final game.
Just like his predecessor Carl Forster, who did such a good job at Whitehaven, Matt Calland was up against it.
But the takeover by a consortium led by Andy Mazey, the former Swinton Chairman, has provided some optimism for Hornets fans, and it’s good to see.
Andy is a proper Rugby League man and he did a good job at Swinton, even if it ended a bit abruptly after the supporters’ reaction to the plan to rebrand as Manchester.
It could well be that Swinton fans end up bitterly regretting Andy’s departure, because, let’s face it, people willing to take on lower-division Rugby League clubs don’t grow on trees.
It’s a long time since Rochdale graced the top flight, 1990-91 in fact, and it’s a long, long road back.
League One is far from glamorous, money is in pretty short supply, and life is only likely to get tougher following the end of the current television deal in 2021.
But as the old saying goes, every journey starts with a single step, and the arrival of Andy Mazey is certainly a move in the right direction, with Sean Penkywicz something of a statement signing.
While Rochdale were dropping, Oldham were moving in the opposite direction after two years in League One, and they will be aiming to consolidate in the Championship.
After the long tenure of Scott Naylor, they have had a change of coach, with Matt Diskin handed the reins.
Matt’s spell in charge of Batley will have provided valuable experience and knowledge of the Championship, and it will be very interesting to chart their campaign.