RFL Chief sees big year ahead for Rugby League

Rugby League Chief Executive Ralph Rimmer has spoken of his bemusement over knockers of the game, despite it battling out of the Covid crisis, while there are promising announcements to come and he believes that 2022 will be a big year for the game.

“It’s beyond me… I am aware of it [people knocking the game],” Rimmer told the Betfred ‘Last Tackle’ show.

He added that he would much prefer “being in the middle having a crack than on the outside chucking rocks in.”

Rimmer went on to say that alignment talks are ongoing between the RFL and Super League, and hinted that there could be an announcement before Christmas.

He believes that Rugby League is a huge piece of people’s lives, which is shown by the passion on the terraces.

“There are some positive announcements coming, but there will always be the occasional knocker,” said Rimmer.

The CEO hailed Betfred Super League Grand Final winners St Helens as a “formidable team,” but was also full of praise for Saints Women, who won the Women’s Super League Grand Final at Headingley, as well as the Leeds Rhinos Wheelchair team, which won the Betfred Wheelchair Super League Grand Final, beating Leyland Warriors at Gillingham’s Medway Park.

Rimmer is delighted that Toulouse will be competing in Super League next season and he’s looking forward to the two derbies in France, believing that Toulouse’s entry into big time Rugby League adds “fairy dust” to the elite competition.

“Toulouse will bring something special to the league… they’re a very wealthy club,” said Rimmer.

He also reckons the Championship will be extra special next season with the three Cumbrian clubs – Barrow, Workington and Whitehaven – giving it a “different flavour”.

Rimmer described the last 18 months, as the game battled to come out of the pandemic, as “hugely tough”, but he believes that the people involved in the game had become closer together, even though hard decisions had to be made quickly to maintain the integrity of the competition and ensure any distortions were manageable with games called off because of Covid.

Of the forthcoming announcements, he said that there are “a lot of exciting conversations behind the scenes,” and that there is enough momentum to ensure the game is in a good place with “some positive announcements coming before Christmas.”

He has been particularly impressed with the growth of the women’s game ahead of the now-postponed World Cup, picking out Saints captain Jodie Cunningham, this year’s Woman of Steel, for special praise.

And he is confident about England’s chances in the World Cup, now to be held next year, describing coach Shaun Wane as “incredibly dedicated” and that he will be able to deliver, despite now sharing his time with his new job at Wigan Warriors.

“It would be a very special moment to win it,” he added