Talking Grassroots: Never a dull moment

Talking Grass Roots Rugby League with Phil Hodgson of League Express

The off-season is often reckoned to be a quiet spell in the Rugby League calendar, but I’ve never been so sure about that.

We’ve been treated over the last few days, for example, to international Wheelchair fare involving England and France, with two Test matches and a ‘development’ game, all of which have been available for viewing through the BBC or live-streaming, and I‘m sure everyone who tuned in – or who actually turned up at Medway – will have been exhilarated by the action on offer.

France won all three games and, going solely by the scorelines, comfortably – but we all know that scorelines don’t always tell a full story. While the French undoubtedly deserved their victories, they were given a bit of a leg up by their opponents in the two Tests. Historically, the French – in the ‘running’ game anyway – have perhaps all too often been seen as overdoing the flair, and as being indisciplined. Not so in Wheelchair Rugby League, where it seems to be the other way round. There’s a World Cup coming up in twelve months’ time and if England can cut out giving penalties away, especially when in possession, and avoid being too frantic with ball in hand, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to turn the tables if – as is perfectly possible – these two sides meet in the final. The real business is next year, as England coach Tom Coyd is fully aware.

Yes, there’s certainly plenty of things happening right now, and I must apologise to those stalwarts who have sent me news stories in recent weeks that have yet to feature in our pages. There’s only so much that can fit into a newspaper and the rule of thumb is that time-sensitive stories take precedence. Rest assured, however, that I’ll continue to submit articles for publication.

One that will have made the ‘cut’ today regards the decision of the National Conference League’s management committee to reshuffle its four divisions ahead of next year in the wake of Underbank Rangers’ recent withdrawal.

The fact that Rangers were in the Premier Division made the task of Alan Smith and his colleagues a trifle messy, given that they are keen on having twelve teams in each section.

After due consideration Thornhill have been elevated to the top flight, Saddleworth Rangers are in Division One and Heworth find themselves in Division Two.

That leaves two slots spare in the bottom section. Applications, as League Express readers will be aware, have been received for inclusion from 2022. I’ve no idea who the hopefuls are, but fingers crossed Conference bosses will like the cut of their jibs and will invite them to take part from next March.

One well-established outfit, Woolston Rovers, are now in Division Two and I can see them working their way back to the top flight (I’ve vivid memories of how they were one of the best amateur teams in the country, back in the mid-90s) under their revamped coaching structure.

Two former professionals have returned to their roots in Tyrone McCarthy and Billy Sheen, and the duo will bring a wealth of experience to the cause.

I like it when ex-pros get involved with their old junior clubs. For one thing it signals a real love for Rugby League which, since full-time professionalism was introduced a quarter of a century or so ago, is in danger of becoming a job just like any other for some.

And it also suggests a ‘giving’ nature, which is always good to see.

There are many other examples (Castleford Tigers’ Paul McShane at Hunslet Club Parkside is just one and Jamie Rooney at Featherstone Lions another – I’ll stop there as the list could go on and on) and for all the worries about the grassroots game, when you have tales like that you have to feel confident about the future.

Woolston’s news is heart-warming. And with scrums being reintroduced next year, the sun seems to be shining somewhat.

On a sad note, however, I’m sure that everyone involved in Rugby League, whether at amateur or professional level, will join me in extending condolences to Kenny Tinsdale and his family following the sad death last month of his wife Linda.

Linda passed away suddenly but peacefully at home on Wednesday 27 October, after a long illness, at the age of 70.

Only four days earlier she had enjoyed a happy day at the wedding of her son, John, and daughter-in-law Rachel.

She would, on 28 April next year, have celebrated 50 years of marriage to Kenny, much of it spent supporting him in his various roles in Rugby League, ranging from playing for Three Horse Shoes (now Oulton Raiders), refereeing, acting as a referee’s appointments officer and, latterly, operating as the Castleford & Featherstone District League’s BARLA Representative.

Kenny told me: “Linda was a really strong person, the matriarch of the family, and she also gave me lots of support in my Rugby League activities, although she certainly didn’t like a lot of the language on the touchline! I was the luckiest man in the world to have been married to her.”

Linda Tinsdale leaves, in addition to Kenny and son John, daughter Paula, together with grandson Ryan and granddaughter Sophie. Funeral arrangements have yet to be confirmed.

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