Time to re-think Easter for the Championship

GARETH WALKER, the Championship correspondent of League Express, asks whether the heavy Easter programme should apply to Championship clubs.

IS the Easter programme unfair on part-time players in particular?

Last week this column charted the considerable sacrifice that these players have to make in the four days over the holiday period, playing twice with little rest.

It’s long been a bone of contention among certain Super League coaches – and that is in a full-time environment where recovery techniques are as good as they’ve ever been.

But outside the top flight, all 12 Championship clubs also took on the test of endurance, with eight of those sides fully part-time. And even then some had it more difficult than others – Halifax, Oldham, Sheffield and Dewsbury didn’t play until Easter Monday evening, which has a major knock-on effect for work the following day.

Rams halfback Dom Speakman provided an insight into his situation by posting on Twitter in the aftermath of the defeat at Sheffield. Speakman wrote: “Not sure why championship play 2 games in 4 days at easter. Just finished playing at 21:30, the games away in Wakefield so after a shower, back to Dewsbury on the bus and a drive back to Widnes I won’t be in until 12.

“I start work in the morning at 6, it’s hard enough being full time, never mind when we’re part time and all have to work for a living. Definitely needs looking at.”

Speakman gained support from players in similar positions, including Oldham’s Sam Gee. He wrote at 10.08pm on Monday: “Still not left Halifax… 2 hour journey home… back on site tomorrow… #sweeeeet good idea RFL.”

Now there will be some that say this is the way Rugby League has always been and the players should just crack on with it, and others pointing out that the two late kick-offs on Easter Monday were the main problem here.

The second point certainly has some validity, but clubs have their own reasons for that kick-off time, with Sheffield having to wait for tenants Wakefield’s Super League game with Wigan to finish, for example.

But to brush these concerns off would be to ignore the players who entertain supporters royally at this level every weekend. It’s a fair sacrifice to be a part-time Rugby League player, and while it undoubtedly brings plenty of benefits, it is certainly far from a life of glamour in most instances.

Many of these players have physical day jobs, and with the sport being as demanding as it’s ever been, perhaps it’s time for the powers-that-be to listen and maybe spread the Easter fixture list outside Super League more evenly across the weekend, with just one match per club.

At the very least the players’ voices deserve to be heard.