Talking Rugby League with League Express editor Martyn Sadler

Can McDermott achieve Featherstone’s dream?

No Super League coach has been more successful than Brian McDermott.

But since leaving Toronto Wolfpack he doesn’t seem to have been widely sought to fill any of the vacancies that have subsequently arisen.

He did spend some time as a consultant at Oldham late in the 2021 season, but by then the Roughyeds’ fate seemed to be sealed.

He now will take over at Featherstone Rovers with a single objective in mind – to get Rovers into Super League at the end of the 2022 season.

It’s certainly within his capabilities, but even if he attains that objective, the bigger task subsequently would be to keep Featherstone in Super League.

It’s an interesting challenge and in most respects a much bigger one than the challenge he faced at Leeds, when he oversaw a squad that was well resourced and financially secure.

If Brian can take Featherstone to promotion and then establish Featherstone in Super League, he really will have performed wonders.

Benjamin Casty for Super League?

In Saturday’s Test match in Perpignan, it was interesting to see a French referee, Benjamin Casty, taking charge of the game.

It was good to hear a referee who could speak to French players in their own language, while being able to do the same with English players.

And Benjamin Casty, the brother of former France captain Rémi, didn’t do a bad job in my opinion. He had a natural authority and controlled the game well. The only mistake he made was to sinbin Jonny Lomax when the culprit was Liam Farrell, who pulled Mark Kheirallah back when the French fullback grubbered through towards the England line.

With two French teams in Super League next season, surely it would be logical to have at least one full-time French Super League referee, which we have been missing since Thierry Alibert quit some years ago.

Of course, I don’t know whether Benjamin Casty would be up for it, if he were to be offered the opportunity.

It was a great pleasure to watch the game live on television in England, even though the French started with a lack of confidence, going 20 points down in 18 minutes. Fortunately, they recovered after that and made a game of it in the ensuing 60 minutes.

It followed a Women’s international that was also screened live by the BBC.

In that game I was impressed by the athleticism and skill that was on display, particularly from England, although they will need to rise another level against the Aussies and Kiwis next year.

One other thing that impressed me was the presentation by the BBC, with an excellent commentary team led by Sharon Shortle, of BBC York, with Kyle Amor and Andrea Dobson, and with the excellent Danika Priim and Jon Wilkin in the studio.

Danika can really analyse a game well and it would be good to see her working as a pundit more often, which I assume we will do at next year’s World Cup.

I hope both games got the TV audiences they deserved.

Lenagan’s strong support of Toulouse

It’s interesting to see Wigan Chairman Ian Lenagan coming out so strongly in support of Toulouse Olympique, as the French club prepares for a first season in Super League next year.

Some clubs, and some supporters, seem to resent the accession of a second French club to Super League, but, as the Wigan boss recognises, the advantages of having a Super League club based in France’s fourth largest city are potentially enormous, if the game is ready to grasp them.

The obvious first step is to secure a French TV deal, now that we can offer a game every week to a broadcaster.

The possibility of doing that must have increased exponentially as a result of Toulouse’s success.

The only negative from this point of view is that we still have relegation in place, and Toulouse could go straight back down again next year if they don’t get their recruitment right.

And I feel the same about any other club in Super League.

Relegation can have a devastating effect on clubs, especially if they can’t gain promotion the following year.

We urgently need a much better league system that will perhaps accommodate more clubs from France and perhaps the home nations in the long term, while also strengthening the clubs that lie in the northern heartland of the game.

Some time ago I put forward a proposal that I think has even more relevance now.

You can read it at

Raising the Bulls’ profile

Bradford Bulls have made an interesting move at the club bids to regain its former position as a major organisation in the sporting and cultural life of the city of Bradford.

They have announced that former Rugby League professional Bolu Fagborun has joined its Voluntary Advisory Board to take on the role of the club’s Corporate Social Responsibility Director.

Bolu is also a former professional with Huddersfield Giants, Batley Bulldogs, Sheffield Eagles, Rochdale Hornets and he also represented Nigeria on the international stage.

As a Development Officer for community club Birkenshaw Blue Dogs Bolu has helped that club recruit 22 new female players to its ranks in the last five months and Bulls Chairman Nigel Wood has explained what the club is hoping to do.

“The club has made no secret of its vision of becoming a leading corporate citizen in the city, more than simply a Rugby League team,” he said.

“We are striving to be a force for civic pride and good, a provider of hope, aspiration and employment for the people of Bradford, whether that is on the field or indeed off it.

“Bolu understands precisely the journey we are looking to go on and we are delighted that he has agreed to join our team trying to move the club forward across all agendas.”

Bolu has outlined his plans to the club’s official website.

“Sports can be used as a vehicle for recovery, as we come out of lockdown and young people try to recover to normality through its social, mental and physical benefits,” he says.

“I believe the Bulls can help in Bradford’s recovery from this Covid period with all the wide-ranging benefits a professional sports club can offer from fans watching safely at Odsal, encouraging participation in grassroots, player pathways and the cultural feelgood factor for all.

“As a Bradford resident for over 30 years, I am keen to see the Bulls be a pillar of strength and aspiration for all, regardless of your sporting preferences, by leading people’s hearts and minds with the fantastic relationships built around our delivery on and off the pitch.

“After speaking to Nigel, Jason and people at the club, it’s a period of great excitement and I want to fulfil the club’s and fans’ ambitions.

“I’ve always put myself at the heart of community-based activities and I think that will serve me well in this role, as I look to strengthen relationships with all our stakeholders and partners both old and new.”

I sincerely hope he succeeds.

I would like to see the Bulls regaining some of their past support.