Garry Schofield sympathises with Leeds Rhinos star STEVIE WARD, who announced his retirement from Rugby League last week
What an awful situation Stevie Ward found himself in as a result of those severe concussions he suffered early last season.
My commiserations go out to him following his enforced early retirement at the age of 27, and it probably won’t be any consolation when I say his decision is the right one.
Learning the problems Stevie has suffered – he has said he can’t even take exercise without making his symptoms worse – is really worrying.
I felt for him when he was still pulling on that Leeds shirt, because he was so often termed the next Kevin Sinfield.
It was unfair, because they were different types of loose-forward, although they did share those vital qualities of enthusiasm, desire and commitment.
Stevie had worked hard to get to where he was, and being made captain of Leeds was an honour he will treasure.
He can look back with pride on three Grand Final triumphs and two in the Challenge Cup, but it’s a shame he wasn’t able to make his mark at international level.
He did get close, being called up for the 2016 Four Nations without playing, then having to pull out of the World Cup squad the following year because of a shoulder injury.
Stevie was an important cog in the Leeds side, and without the issue that has forced this toughest of moves, he would surely have played on for several more seasons.
He’ll have taken advice from top medics, and hopefully his current problems will ease and he’ll be able to get back to a normal life, albeit without playing Rugby League.
Leeds are a good club when it comes to looking after their former players, and maybe there will be some kind of role that means Stevie isn’t lost to the game.
To cap a miserable spell, Luke Gale has been ruled out for three months with a torn pectoral muscle, and I can say from personal experience it’s a nasty injury.
It happened to me in my final appearance for the club, against Swinton in the Challenge Cup in 1996, and it kept me on the sidelines for four months.
Hopefully Luke’s surgery will be a success and he will be back sooner than that.
Stop moaning and start acting
You don’t hear an awful lot from the RFL chairman Simon Johnson, so when he did break silence recently, it’s a shame he was moaning rather than saying something positive.
The gripe was over the lack of a mention of the World Cup in the Sunday Times’ article about sporting events of 2021, which it advised its readers not to miss.
Now we all have our opinions in how the game is covered by the national media, and maybe how we think it should be covered.
There are some great and dedicated writers out there with a real passion for Rugby League, and they will be doing their best to get as many mentions as possible.
But do the powers-that-be do enough to put Rugby League in the public eye, especially when they know it’s a crowded marketplace and that our game isn’t top of the agenda for many people?
I’ve had some experience in sales and marketing, and I know that if you have a product, it’s no good just sitting there and hoping people come. You have to be very fortunate for that to happen.
You have to get out there, put it in the public eye, and show people that it’s as good as you are saying it is and that they need to buy it.
Does Simon Johnson, or someone at the RFL, maintain regular contact with the national newspapers and push the sport and its merits?
From where I’m standing, neither the RFL nor Super League do enough to publicise Rugby League and tell people why it’s something they can’t afford to miss.
We had a dramatic Grand Final, which plenty of people were talking about, yet was there any effort to keep them talking and cash in on the impact that match had?
It’s World Cup year, pandemic allowing, tickets are on sale and I live in a city that is going to play a key part in hosting the tournament.
Yet I don’t see any billboards proclaiming the feast of Rugby League that is coming, or even an advert on the side of a bus.
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