UpFront: Here’s hoping for a Happy New Year

One out of three ain’t good, and while we’re all hoping to avoid a raft of postponements and, even worse, cancellation of matches this year, Boxing Day did little to ease our growing worries.

Out of a trio of pre-season matches scheduled for December 26, only one, Leeds versus Wakefield, went ahead.

The decision to pull the plug on Bradford against Halifax was down to overnight snowfall on the Odsal pitch, it must be said.

But Covid did for the Batley-Dewsbury clash, and while there is a degree of uncertainty over the weather, there seems no doubt that the virus will cause problems for Rugby League for a third consecutive year, one which is due to end with a World Cup that has already been postponed once.

There would be deep concerns about the viability of the event were it not to go ahead this Autumn, but hopefully the situation will be sufficiently under control to enable the best players on the planet to perform in front of packed stadia in October and November.

There’s a domestic season before, and there could well be bumps in the road, particularly during the early stages.

A pressing issue for the RFL is that of player vaccination levels.

The governing body has made clear its view that a needle in the arm, as the phrase goes, is advisable for a player’s own health, that of others and for the “effective running” of competitions.

But there remain some who don’t want the vaccine, which also provides a poser for the clubs who employ them and clearly want to have as many players available as often as possible.

There is also the issue of the different Covid-control legislation in France, with officials from Catalans Dragons and Toulouse Olympique due to meet RFL officials this week. There’s an in-depth article about this on page three of today’s issue.

For anyone who thinks players are too young to be seriously impacted, a salient reminder of the danger posed by the Covid pandemic has been provided by the plight of Frank Pritchard.

The former Hull, New Zealand and Samoa star had to spend time on life support due to Covid complications, which included a collapsed lung.

The second rower, who featured in Hull’s Challenge Cup-winning team of 2016, is just 38, and was playing for Parramatta Eels in the NRL as recently as 2017.

According to another of his former clubs, Canterbury Bulldogs, he is thankfully out of a coma and recovering.

League Express sends best wishes for 2022 to Frank as well as players, staff, officials and supporters of clubs all over the Rugby League world, and in particular to our readers for a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

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