Woolford slams “irresponsible” Hetherington

Simon Woolford has slammed Gary Hetherington’s comments regarding player welfare.

The Leeds Rhinos chief executive, in a wide-ranging interview with the media last week, said he would be disappointed if he heard people “whingeing” about players having to play too many games, while he also suggested it wasn’t unreasonable to ask players to take to the field three times a week.

“We have a rule where we can’t play five days after the last game, and that’s going to have to go out of the window because we will have to be playing three times a week,” Hetherington said.

“But that’s not a player welfare issue, it’s a performance issue.

“It will certainly impact on performance and the skill levels, but it demands real character, durability and resilience.

“I’d be disappointed if I started hearing people whingeing and using player welfare as an issue for playing too many games, when it’s not an issue. Player welfare is very serious, but that’s not about playing more games than one would hope to play.”

But those comments have frustrated the Huddersfield head coach, who strongly disagrees with Hetherington’s views.

“I think what he said was irresponsible and out of touch,” Woolford said.

“Welfare is paramount and three games a week is not in the best interest of players.

“Squads will be decimated, the product will be nowhere near where it should be, clubs will limp into the finals and those games won’t be of the quality we expect either. So who wins?

“Look at the Giants recently – we had back to back five-day turnarounds and the effect of that was pretty evident. You’ll get more and more second-rate games, more and more injuries, which in my view contribute to the welfare of players.

“Something Gary spoke about is being tough and resilient. Players don’t need to play three games in a week to prove they’re resilient and tough, they prove that every week already.

“There are scenarios we can work through that shouldn’t involve Easter type weekends or turnarounds any shorter than five days. Welfare is paramount and even one-off, five-day turnarounds are difficult. It’s not in the best interest of players.

“I understand revenue to the game has suffered, clubs are really doing it tough, I get all of that, but cramming a full season into a short amount of time isn’t the answer. This will clearly have a negative impact on the players, who inevitably are the most important people to consider when mapping out how the season look when we return.

“Like I said, I think Gary’s comments around playing three games in a week not having an effect on player welfare are off the mark and irresponsible.”