Garry Schofield reflects on the differences between the two rugby codes in the way they promote their international selections.
Different code, but the same level of pride for the players concerned!
I’ve got to say, I felt a tinge of jealousy when the British and Irish Lions party for this summer’s tour of South Africa was unveiled.
A lot of Rugby League fans have no time for union.
But even the most partisan person would have to admit, even if it’s grudgingly, that the 15-a-side Lions know how to do a squad announcement.
It was hard not to compare how it was carried out live on TV with the distinctly low-key way our sport revealed Shaun Wane’s latest international squad.
Shaun is a proud Englishman and often speaks about the passion he has for the national team.
I can assure you that players do as well, so why can’t we reflect that?
Getting an international call-up, particularly for the Lions, really does make you feel ten feet tall. There’s no greater recognition you can get.
The emotion I felt on learning I had been selected for the first time back in 1984, when we toured Australia and New Zealand, is still crystal clear.
At that time, I was working on a building site through the week, and the first I heard of my call-up was during a tea break via one of my workmates, who said he’d just heard it on the radio.
I didn’t get the official letter for a few more days.
Things have moved on a bit since then, but we still have an awful lot of work to do in promoting our sport – and reflecting just how much international rugby means.
We’ve got a World Cup on home soil coming up this Autumn, with matches being staged from Newcastle all the way down to London.
But other than existing fans, do people in places like Coventry, Middlesbrough, Liverpool and Sheffield – or even Hull, Leeds and Manchester – know anything about the great product that will soon be served up on their doorsteps?
In comparison, union’s Lions have been on TV, radio and websites and in newspapers ever since last Thursday morning – not just the current crop, but past players as well, all reinforcing just how special that team is.
In other words, the powers-that-be in rugby union tell people all about what’s happening.
I know there are claims of bias in the national media, but do we really do everything we can to put ourselves out there?
How often do you see the RFL’s Ralph Rimmer or Simon Johnson, or anyone from Super League, on TV?
Why isn’t there a weekly press conference talking up the positives and previewing the action, and why doesn’t the RFL get together with TV people and give our squad announcements a bit of glitz?
If we don’t tell the general public about Rugby League, how will we ever attract new followers?
A game that Leeds need to win
Is there a crisis at Leeds?
I’ll tell you what – if they don’t beat Wakefield on Friday, there will be.
Regular readers will know I’m a fan of Richard Agar; he’s an experienced coach I rate highly.
But things aren’t working too smoothly at Headingley, as successive defeats by Castleford, St Helens (in the Challenge Cup), Wigan, Hull KR and Huddersfield show.
I know he has had a lot of injuries, and also some suspensions, to contend with, but I’ve been scratching my head at a few of the team selections, with so many playing out of position.
As well as four defeats from five in the league, there’s another figure in the table that really concerns me.
Leeds have scored only 63 points, the lowest of any Super League side.
I’ve already heard a few supporters questioning Sean Long’s input as assistant coach.
A reasonable record in defence means the points difference is only minus 36, but without finding more of a cutting edge, it’s going to be hard to get those crucial victories.
Getting some key players back in the side is important, and it sounds like Luke Gale should be okay for a return this week with Rob Lui hoping to be available by the end of the month.
Wakefield have also lost some important personnel since pushing Leeds close on the opening day.
I’ve pointed out a few times that it’s no good playing with spirit and producing good spells during games if you can’t hold onto a lead or prevent the opposition building one up.
However close Wakefield might have come, they still don’t have any points to their name, and the longer that carries on, the greater the worry.
So with the pressure on, who will win on Friday? I think Leeds will edge it, but only by eight.
Catalans reveal their old faults
The Warrington versus Catalans Challenge Cup quarter-final clash was a bit of a step back in time.
Because the Dragons were back to their indisciplined worst, and that’s a big part of why they lost.
Over the opening rounds of this season, they seemed to have turned a corner, and racked up some impressive results.
But against the Wolves, particularly in the first half, it looked like Steve McNamara had dragged people off the street and handed them a shirt.
There was no sign of any respect for the ball or each other among the Catalans side, and given their recent history in the competition, it was surprising they were willing to go down without more of a fight.
It’s only fair to give some praise to the Warrington forwards, because they were outstanding and really took the game to the opposition.
What a brilliant hat-trick for St Helens’ Regan Grace in the win over Huddersfield.
He’s a great finisher, and Saints fans will be disappointed his recent contract extension doesn’t cover more than next year.
I can see why Regan wants to keep his options open, because with talent like his, he won’t be short of offers.
As for the team, they continue to give the impression they are running the tap lukewarm.
Perhaps it’s part of a Kristian Woolf master plan, but some games seem closer than they need to be, and if they take an approach like that too often, they might come unstuck.
I’m delighted to see my old club Hull in the semi-finals after an outstanding performance.
Last week I spoke about my dislike for the ‘arm wrestle’ approach Wigan are so fond of.
In this tie, Hull knew what was coming, outdid their opponents at their own game and took their chances.
If I were a Wigan supporter, I’d be pretty cheesed off at my club going out of the competition in the manner they did.
And how unlucky were Salford to go out as Castleford won in extra time?
Kevin Brown got some stick in this column recently, but on Saturday, I thought he got the ball down for the effort that was disallowed.
Salford had a really good go, which bodes well for an improvement in their league performances and results.
They just let themselves down with some poor discipline, giving away too many needless penalties and set restarts.
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.