Challenge Cup Semi finals preview

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Castleford v Widnes
Following Tuesday evenings disciplinary hearings, Castleford will go into the game missing arguably two of their more influential players in Weller Hauraki and Justin Carney, the former having lost an appeal against his ban for striking with the knee and Carney, who had pleaded guilty to making a Grade B dangerous throw on London Broncos’ Thomas Minns last weekend, the very same game in which he scored a hatrick of tries.
Understandably, Tigers fans are up in arms about the bans, given that Leeds skipper Kevin Sinfield actually head-butted Luke Dorn and it was only cited as a grade C offence, allowing him with his exemplary record in the past to only miss two games with an early guilty plea.
As it is, Castleford will still field a strong side, one that has for some been the surprise package in the top flight this season.
Widnes Vikings on the other hand have no such problems and actually welcome back Kevin Brown following an injury scare. Brown, who suffered a knock two weeks ago and was thought to be a doubt. The form of ex-Huddersfield man Brown has been key to Widnes’ rise to eighth in the table, although a recent dip in form had seen Hull KR close to within a point, but the Vikings victory over the Robins last weekend has seen the gap increase to three points.
Chemics face Castleford Tigers in an eagerly anticipated semi-final at Leigh Sports Village on Sunday, and Betts is hopeful that his men will be in the best shape possible to go and claim a spot at Wembley. “We have to put all our focus on getting over this massive game, putting a really strong performance in, and dealing with what we can deal with, and getting on and performing the best we can,” he said “My job this week is to prepare the side and put them in the best possible shape to get to the start line and let them go. “This is a great rugby league town, it’s a massive thing for them. The Cup has always been held dear over the years. The ‘Cup Kings’ of the 1980s, and the great teams that played, players like Andy Gregory, Kurt Sorensen – they’ve got some fantastic history at this place. “But we’re writing our own history at the moment. We had to start again a couple of years ago, but we’re still aware of what our tradition is, and what this town is, and what it means to have a great rugby league side in this town.
Both clubs will beat the eager to put on a show for the packed Leigh sports village and also for the viewing audience on BBC 2 in the UK
The game on Sunday between the two is a sell-out, meaning a capacity crowd of 12,005 will be in attendance at Leigh Sports Village, eager to see which team will make it to Wembley for the first time in over twenty years. “It is fantastic to see the last remaining tickets get snapped up,” said RFL Marketing Director Mark Foster. “These fans are clearly hungry for what is sure to be a fascinating semi-final tie. Leigh Sports Village is a top-quality venue and I anticipate an electric atmosphere on Sunday. The fans of both Widnes and Castleford are incredibly passionate, so we can expect the decibel levels to be sky high”

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Warrington v Leeds
Leeds and England skipper Kevin Sinfield will return from his two game suspension to lead the Rhinos in yet another semi-final for the club he has served since 1997. The Rhinos have not lifted the cup for 15 years and have lost three finals in the last four years. Sinfield has publicly stated that the team are firmly focused on the game against Warrington and no further, although adding to their tally of six grand final wins must seem like a dream they will never fulfil given their record in finals since 1999.
Sinfield is rightly disappointed in himself for his behaviour, but is determined to show the Leeds fans that he is fit, focused and ready to lead the rhinos on to another Wembley appearance.
Warrington have had a steady build up, and Ben Westwood is relishing the tie. “We all look forward to these kinds of games as rugby league players. We’ve been fortunate over the last few years to play in some really big games. “We’ve got some experience in our team, some older heads who’ve been in this situation, and we look forward to all a good tough game. “Hopefully we’ll do a good job and come out winners.” Westwood is well aware of the threat posed by many of the Rhinos’ star names. “Leeds have got some dangerous players,” he said. “Rob Burrow has always been a threat all his life. But he’s been really good for them since he’s come back from his injury. “They’ve got Kevin Sinfield who’s coming back from his first ever ban, so he’ll be looking to repay his mates for being missing. “Jamie Peacock’s played in numerous finals and semi-finals. He’ll bring all his experience for the young guys there. “So they’ve got players who can be dangerous and hurt you, but so have we. We’ll be looking to do a pretty good job on them, and hopefully it’ll be good enough.”

Leeds were beaten last week by already relegated Bradford Bulls. Westwood knows that form goes out the window when it comes to cup clashes. “I’m not reading anything into the Bradford game, I know they had a few players missing, and rested a few,” he said. “Form goes out the window when it comes to the big games. Anyone can win in these. “It’s just down to whoever performs well on the day. “Both teams will want to perform well, and it’s a question of who comes out on

Heros or villains?

Back when Sir Alex Ferguson took over as manager at Manchester United, it was widely reported that there was a drinking culture rife throughout the club.

Fergie decided to put a stop to this and slowly but surely he weeded out those who were overly fond of a few pints no matter what time of day, and began to instil his own methods of discipline in the way the players trained and rested. Fergie walked into a drinking culture at United and chief culprits allegedly were fan favourites Whiteside and McGrath. It was unpopular but to cleanse the squad and prove his iron fist selling the pair was a vital early decision.  The drinking school Fergie discovered on his arrival allegedly featured Captain Marvel. Though Whiteside and McGrath were sent packing, Robson’s commitment and performances never wavered despite off-field partying. Fergie stuck by his skipper and Robbo remained a key figure.

Now, back in the late 80’s, going out and getting mullered was seen as a manly thing to do as a sportsman, even Bobby Moore advertised a visit to your local. Fast forward to the present day, and it’s very much the opposite unless you happen to be a rugby league player.

Last year’s World Cup. England, all together as a squad with high hopes of reaching the final. Gareth Hock ignoring the coach and not only going out for a drink, but taking other unnamed players with him and he lost the chance to represent his country on the biggest stage possible for the sport, and this was AFTER his rehabilitation from a two year ban after testing positive for cocaine! Another who was due to shine was Zak Hardaker, sent home for “personal reasons” only to be fined after a Leeds Rhinos club investigation and who has been back in the news for a different reason lately. Zak made a stupid comment in the heat of a TV game that was caught on camera. Who hasn’t said something stupid in the heat of the moment? Only we’re not professional sportsmen and we didn’t have a camera on us at the time. There were even people who wanted him banned for life! Now, you go and ask anyone in the LGBT community what they think and they will tell you he’s a d**k head who made a mistake.

And things have altered a lot this season. Gareth has been in sensational form for Salford and no one hears about his off field antics, which is great, but there are others who seem to think that every Monday is Mad Monday, or that it’s OK to drink drive because you’re a local hero, or try certain substances because they are offered to you on a plate for free, because of your job.

I appreciate that players need to let off steam after a game, but the advent of social media (mainly twitter) means that everyone gets to see your indiscretions as soon as you make them.

In the past week, the Cronulla Sharks have fired Todd Carney for posting a “lewd” photo of himself and Hull KR have fired Wayne Ulugia for “repeated breaches of club discipline”. He was two months into an 18 month contract, and you’re telling me the bright lights of Hull sent him off the rails?

Come on, don’t be so naïve.

Hull KR have had their fair share of players who liked a drink and then wanted to drive home, or lash out at someone after too many pints of scotch on a Sunday night just as all clubs have. I grew up in East Hull, and the rumour mill on a Monday was always alive with who drunk what or slept with another of the local bikes after having had too many, but I’m sure other clubs were just as bad, just better at either keeping out of the papers, or had fans with a little more discretion.

I really thought those days were long gone, until 2011 and Ben Cockayne. He allegedly posted the racist remark “p*** c***” on his friend’s Facebook Wall. Ben is another who has really turned a corner in both his private life and on the field. Another from the Hull stable of bad lads turned good is Paul Cooke. In October 2006, he was convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm following an altercation in Pozition nightclub in Hull, and then in 2008 a conviction for drink driving. Again, Paul has turned things around and is doing a great job at Doncaster, Josh Charnley, posting a nude photo of himself on what must have been a very, very cold day (Sorry Josh) was lucky. He just had people rib him about it. Another player who has spent time working in East Hull…

But why do rugby league players seem to think that it’s still OK to act like an idiot?

Todd Carney is claiming his mate’s brother lost his phone which led to “that” photo going viral and him being fired from his au$650,000 a year job. Whatever the reason for it getting out there, the fact is that players need to wise up when they are out socialising, and it’s up to the clubs who employ them to make certain that players coming through academies and those already on top contracts get taught what’s right and what’s wrong.

Journalists will always follow the story and when you’re an athlete in a sport as community centric as rugby league, you can bet your bottom dollar that any whiff of scandal will be plastered all over the news. Not to try and damage you, or your club, but to garner more views or sell more copies in a dog eat dog world. That’s just the way it is. Remember Gazza and the kebab night out with Danny Baker and Chris Evans? Just before a tournament, and he’s daft enough to be led astray, the golden boy of English Football as he was at the time.

Be it Hull, Leeds, Castleford, Wigan or Sydney, players will have to learn that there is no one who won’t sell their story or photo to a local paper if the money is right. Money talks and morals walk. I pride myself on keeping a confidence, and even as a journalist, I wouldn’t wilfully post a rumour that would hurt either a club or a player without checking all my facts first, or I risk losing the confidence of players, coaches and media mangers and then my job is pointless.

There has to be a sea change at club level as well. It’s OK having suites of people who look after your clubs media image, and who proudly claim to be a media manger, but who teaches the kids in the academy how to handle the press, or some of those players who may not be as tech savvy as others? Clubs need to act now to ensure that players and staff at all levels are not just aware of their responsibilities where social media is concerned, but also teach them how to use it properly, after all, it’s another tool in their bag to showcase themselves and connect with fans worldwide.

I’m very pleased to say that those I’ve mentioned here are the minority and they have all returned to the game reformed characters. You never hear of Jamie Peacock rolling out of a nightclub drunk, or Sonny Bill Williams lashing out at someone. Hell, Sonny is playing the next month without breaking his strict religious views as its Ramadan. He should be on the front pages of every paper for putting his body on the line like that. No food or fluids after 7am? Rather him than me…

Let’s celebrate the fact that on the whole, our superstars are actually decent, hardworking people who thrill us week in and week out with their skills, rather than focusing on the minority who give the rest a bad name.

 

 

Who will win in the battle of the Odsal points push?

It would appear the Marc Green is determined to drag out the Bradford Bulls point’s saga for as long as possible.

Or maybe it’s not Marc…

I think I speak for most fans of the sport (not Super League, but the sport as a whole) when I say enough is enough.

No real fan of rugby league wants to see the Bulls go out of business, but that club has been badly run by a number of people for a while now. Every couple of months, there was a new investor waiting in the wings, the fans would be owners of the club or some other such line trotted out by another suit.

This time, when the Bulls went into administration, fans of other clubs couldn’t quite understand how they were allowed to remain in the top flight, after all, this was a second offence. Mr Green rightly asked for a review of the RFL decision, and lost. At one point, the club turned up and didn’t even have its own paperwork in order, yet still expected to win!

Now on “legal advice” he has decided to take his battle to the high court. A club statement read: “The Bulls’ legal representatives have reviewed the independent panel’s decision and decided to further pursue legal action against the RFL. The decision to do so has not been made lightly and will be continually reviewed to ensure that any action taken is beneficial to the club, players, partners, supporters and the sport as a whole. “We would not embark upon such an exercise without good reason and cause. We are not doing this just for us as a club, we are pursuing matters for the good of the wider game.”

On what planet can the possibility of the relegation of a club from the top flight of a major UK sport being decided in a law court be good for the “wider game”?

Don’t forget, this is a club which had to cough up over £500,000 in compensation to Leeds after the Iestyn Harris saga rumbled through the courts.

There can and will be only one winner here.

Lawyers.

Who gets paid if it goes to court?

Lawyers.

Who will advise the Bulls to take it further if they lose this round?

Lawyers.

Who will drag the whole of the RFL and Super League to the Court of Arbitration for sport if they lose?

Lawyers…

Anyone else beginning to see a pattern here?

Did any of the clubs who failed in the last round of licencing take the RFL to court? No. Because the clubs all agreed to abide by a set of rules and regulations. It appears that Bradford’s new chairman feels that these rules and regulations don’t apply, and just because he’s new to the game and wants to suckle at the teat of the RFL and Sky for a little longer.

Sometimes you just have to accept what’s happened and move on. If Mr Green is so certain he can hang on to the players he’s got, and bring in new ones, then perhaps he should back them to bounce back into the top flight at the earliest opportunity.

All in all, it’s the loyal fans of the club I feel for. They have had to put up with so much in the last few seasons, and they are desperate for the glory days to return to Odsal stadium. The Bulls were the first club to really bring the razzmatazz into the sport. Sadly, this, along with the silverware has dried up.

Fans of Bradford, I for one truly hope that this time, you have a chairman who isn’t there just to collect some kudos and cash from the RFL before bailing and leaving you in administration for the third time.

Is Bradford appealing?

I can sympathise to some degree with Marc Green and his determination to try and get the clubs six points back, following their time in administration. I’m also certain that like other fans of the sport, that Bradford were not that hard done by. After all, six points was at the lower end of the sanctions that could have been levied.
One of the definitions of insanity is to do the same thing, over and over again, but to expect a different outcome.
For Mr Green to make the following statement:
“In respect of the point’s deduction, despite this being unpopular with others in the game, the club will be making a decision next week as to whether to take matters to the High Court. While I appreciate the comments made suggesting we should accept our medicine and move on, I can only acquiesce to such thought process if I am satisfied the original decision was correct,” he said.
“Just because a doctor provides a diagnosis, it does not mean you are not entitled to a second opinion. The issues surrounding the point’s deduction and our appeal were and remain extremely complex.
“However, we believe the decision reached by the Sporting Sanctions Appeals Panel was not only flawed but completely wrong and, as a result, I am willing to continue fighting the fight for this great club.”
Just shows how determined he is as chairman, but surely, the time has come to just say enough is enough, lets fight for our survival.
No. Let’s sack the bloke who worked for free when this club was in its darkest hour, because it’s obviously his fault we’re in this position. It can’t be the players that went off whilst he (loyally) stayed with the club.
This was the second time the club had been in trouble, and in all probability they could have been kicked out of the top tier just for that, but the point’s deduction was a fair and reasonable way to deal with this. Mr Green’s point that it was the fault of the previous owners also has its merits, but he knew when he went into this that the club were in a bad way. He had his second opinion at the review panel, but it seems he wants a third! Where will it end? At Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne? The previous owners of the club should be barred from ever being involved in the sport again. Bradford has a long and proud history in the sport of Rugby League, and overall the sport would be poorer if they disappeared from existence.
Let’s look at it another way. Liverpool FC also have a long cherished history, but if they were to go bust and out of business and left the league, everyone (apart from a few Everton and Manchester United fans) would agree that the competition would be a lesser one without their name taking part.
What I can’t understand is the continuing appeals process. Why can’t people just accept the decision that was made by an appeals panel? Especially when you are told that one of the two parties involved couldn’t get all their paperwork in order for a date and meeting that could very well decide the fate of a club for the next few years. Appeals are all well and good, but sometimes you just need to admit that you’ve lost and move forward.
Mr Green should now look to set up the club for life outside of the Super League, at least for one season, given the announcement of the sums of money to be distributed to the clubs at the end of the season. With that sort of money and an increased salary cap in the Championship, Bradford may well bounce back if they can keep hold of their core support and (hopefully) increase it. Judging by some of the comments made, they will be one of only a couple of clubs able to be promoted!

20 Glorious years of Army rugby league

So, British Army rugby league.

Believe it or not, until 20 years ago, the playing of rugby league in the British armed forces was deemed to be illegal. That was until brave members of the armed forces such as Sean Fanning and Damien Clayton alongside the members of the all-party rugby league group that finally allowed the announcement in the Houses of Parliament that the ban on playing the game had been lifted.

And now, twenty years on, and over 20 years since I left the Army, after attending the Sephton memorial trophy and meeting Al Boyle and then Jamie Doig, I found myself taking my seat at the Royal Military academy, Sandhurst to celebrate what is fast becoming the must play game in the services. After meeting up with everyone at the pavilion, and seeing everyone taking the obligatory photo with the legend of the game that is Andy Gregory, we all set about catching up with old friends and making new ones.

Little known fact, Andy was one of the first Army RL coaches.

Little known fact, Andy was one of the first Army RL coaches.

It was due to my former service and the fact I’d written about inter services matches that Major General Richard Semple, president of Army RL had invited me to join over 200 guests from the Army, the RFL and the Political animals to celebrate the liberation of a game that we all loved.

There were two games to play before we headed for dinner, the first of which was supposed to be Combat support services v Combat Support, which in reality meant a mixture of Royal Engineers and Army vets v everyone else.

The Royal Engineers are by far and away the best Corps team in the Army, and at half time, to be told they were losing seemed to stir them into action, however the damage had already been done and the final score of 38-16 left a bitter taste in the mouths of the engineers.

Game two saw the Army VETS take on a team formed of those formed from the political world in the shape of The Political Animals who are a rugby league football club comprising Lords, current and former MPs and Councillors. As the Animals were short a couple of players, they brought in Ikram Butt, former Leeds, Featherstone and England player and founder of the British Asian Rugby association, as well as a couple of players from the Army who were looking just to pull on a shirt and get involved in a game of Masters rugby league. One member of the Animals was 74 years old, and moved with enough pace to outsmart players a lot younger than himself!

However, despite certain media outlets reporting of the game, the match was a close fought affair, with Chris Brown, one of the original Army players scoring for both sides in a 5-4 win for the army.

Greg Mulholland MP, member of the Political Animals RL team

Greg Mulholland MP, member of the Political Animals RL team

After the games, everyone headed back to the lines to get suited and booted to have pre dinner drinks in the Indian Army Memorial room and a photo to commemorate the day.

Once we had all imbibed a couple of gins, it was time to head into the dining room.

Accompanied by the band of the Royal Logistics Corps, we first had a briefing from Major Rich Naivalura (Nav to his friends) on the etiquette of the evening and no matter how much we drank, we were not to heckle the guest speakers or he would be escorting the offending party out of the room…Oddly, no one took him up on his escorting offer!

With the wine flowing, and the band playing in the background, over 200 of us started to swap old army tales of battles both on and off the fields of play. Of those who for whatever reason had been unable to make it for the event, and those lost in the course of battle. As Major General Semple said, Rugby League is the perfect Armed Forces sport. It requires team work, speed of thought and movement, courage and the ability to put others ahead of yourself when needed. As the port arrived, it was time to raise a glass to those who had gone before, and who were no longer with us, some of whom had been instrumental in getting the ban or playing the game in the armed forces overturned.

At the end of the meal, the Army presented the Animals with a framed Army RL shirt and the Animals presented the Army with one of their original playing shirts. The food was simply delicious. I don’t remember the Army Catering Corps ever making my lunch as a humble squaddie look and taste as good as this meal did.

Once the top table had adjourned to the bar, and the beer began to flow in earnest, Andy Gregory auctioned off a signed photo of him leading Great Britain into battle and a ball signed by the entire Wigan Warriors side from last season in aid of Soldiers League, the official charity of Army rugby league and raised a little over £300.

As I crossed the famous old parade ground in the company of Al Boyle and Mike Donnison, chair of Crosfields ARLFC, I could look back on a very memorable day of both rugby and dining. There are not many occasions when I can truly say I’ve been overawed, but finding a cannon next to the parade ground that was taken at Waterloo certainly ranks up there with the best of them. All the way through to the magnificent Indian dining room where we had pre dinner drinks, to the dining room itself, the whole day was inspiring, and reminded me why being a soldier was the best job I ever had.

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A very special thanks has to go out to Major Dave Groce, who had managed to organise the entire event whilst also getting ready to take up his new four year posting with his family in Canada. Dave, you will be a very hard act to follow. I’m sure everyone at Army Rugby League will join me in wishing you and your family happy trails in Canada and we hope that we get a replacement who is just as passionate and knowledgeable about the sport as you yourself are.

Animals MOM Chris Brown

Chris Brown. Army Stalwart & try scorer for both sides.

Chris Brown with Mullholland receiving MOM shirt

Chris, receiving his MOM prize.

Dave Groce

The man, the leg end, Dave Groce in full flight.

Animals in silence

On Zak Hardaker…

So, here’s the thing. We all saw Zak Hardaker make those comments live on TV. I’m no lip reading expert, but I do have a deaf aunt who taught me the basics (only got as far as the bottom lip…) so I do have some small ability here. Even my 13 year old sat up and said “Did he just say what I think he said?”

After Castleford were fined £40k for a small section of fans directing homophobic chants towards Gareth Thomas, everyone thought that Rugby League had seen the back of this sort of thing, and certainly, I can’t remember the last time I heard anything like it on the terraces, and I don’t get to spend every game in the luxurious press boxes, I love chatting to the fans of the sport and asking them their opinion of what they have seen, just as much as asking the players and coaches theirs.

Now the RFL have (rightly) taken their time to investigate what was said by Zak, and banned him for 5 matches, I hope that sends the message to other players that this sort of thing will not be tolerated, either on the pitch, or off the pitch. In today’s ever connected social media world, where every little tweet and Facebook comment is avidly poured over by fans of all sides and ages, it’s all the more important for Clubs to take the lead and employ someone to educate players and staff on the use of social media and on their roles within the community. Players for the most part DO understand these responsibilities, and in the heat and passion of a game, sometimes things get said, but its how the players and clubs, and more importantly, the RFL react that counts.

I’m happy to say that in this case, the RFL have been fantastic. They stood back, avoided the kneejerk reaction that some were demanding, investigated it thoroughly and reached a decision that for the most part we can all agree was a fair and reasonable response to what was said. All of this came during the same week that the UK’s first LBGT club had most of their equipment stolen.

All I can say is anyone who thinks that homophobia is rife in our sport should look at how the rugby league family responded to Martin & Stans call for equipment that they could borrow.

We are lucky to be involved in a sport where things like this are a rare occurrence. I hope that Zak takes his punishment like a man, learns from it and comes back stronger, as we need exciting young players who are ready to be role models for both the clubs and the wider community.

First Utility Super League Round 15 preview

We begin our round with the first televised game of the week as Wigan Warriors travel across the Pennines to take on the Huddersfield Giants. Huddersfield Giants are without Wales international forward Craig Kopczak for their home game with champions Wigan.
Winger Jodie Broughton is still missing with the injury he suffered at Magic Weekend, which also kept him out of Friday’s loss at St Helens.
Wigan captain Sean O’Loughlin is back after a month out injured, while full-back Matty Bowen also returns after missing last week’s win at Salford. With Wigan having players starting to return from long term injury, and as the business end of the season appears over the horizon, Mr Wane (Smiler to his mates) will be wanting to make certain that his young guns don’t rest on their laurels, and are fighting for their spot in the squad game in and game out.
The Giants beat Wigan in the opening game of the season at the DW Stadium, courtesy of a hat-trick of tries from winger Jermaine McGillvary.
I see this being a close fought game, with Wigan gaining revenge. Paul Anderson will be looking to see an improvement from his squad, but for me, Wigan will be at least two converted tries too good for the Giants.
Friday sees three games from the First Utility Super League take place, all kicking off at 8pm.
Your live TV game is from the Halliwell Jones as Warrington Wolves take on the Leeds Rhinos.
Warrington’s Ben Westwood begins a three-match suspension after being found guilty of making a dangerous throw against Wakefield on Sunday, whilst another second-rower, Trent Waterhouse, is out with the knee injury he suffered against St Helens at the Magic Weekend.
Super League leaders Leeds welcome Jamie Peacock back from injury. His return sees winger Ben Jones-Bishop excluded from the squad in the only change to the 19 players named for last week’s home victory over Hull FC.
Leeds are right where their legion of fans want them to be, sitting pretty at the top of the league, but Warrington at home won’t be an easy game to win. Even with influential players like Westwood missing, Tony Smith might just have a little surprise in store for his old club. For me, this is Warrington by 6.
Game two of Friday sees Widnes Vikings take on Catalan Dragons. The Dragons still don’t travel well and the Vikings are red hot at home this season. Danny Galea and Danny Craven have recovered from injuries to be named in Widnes’ 19-man squad, and Paddy Flynn starts a two-match suspension after admitting a punching offence during the loss at Castleford.
Catalan’s joint-captain Jason Baitieri replaces Antoni Maria in the only change to the squad that beat Bradford. Laurent Frayssinous will want to put his teams travel sickness behind them if they are to mount a serious challenge for the top of the league, but this won’t be the evening it begins. I see the Vikings winning this by at least 12 points, and probably by more.
Friday’s third game is St Helens v Salford. I’m beginning to fear for Salford. A squad with that much experience should not be getting pummelled into submission as easily as the Red Devils seem to be at times. If this carries on, there will be wholesale changes (again) at the end of the season. I don’t know if the fans will want to see yet more promises dashed on the rocks. To be fair to Dr Koukash, he really has put his money where his mouth is, but it’s now time for the players to start showing that they have what it takes on the field to deserve not only the shirt, but the fans respect as well.
As for St Helens, they will be confident, even with players like Willie Manu, Adam Swift, Jonny Lomax, Alex Walmsley and Mark Percival all out that they will easily overpower a Salford team who are yet to really gel as a squad on the field.
Either way, I see a Saints win, by at least 30.
Only the one game on Saturday, London Broncos v Hull FC at The Hive.
The only way Lee Radford’s season could get any worse is if his Hull side become the first to lose to London this season. On paper, FC should breeze past London, but this game isn’t played on paper. Radford will have taken heart from his side’s performance at Leeds last week, where they held the Rhinos for long periods, despite ending up on the wrong end of a 20-6 loss. After three straight losses, Radford will have left his 19 man squad under no illusions as to what he expects from them.
Two points.
His opposite number will also be on the hunt for those elusive points. With Bradford Bulls hearing against their point’s deduction due to begin next week, getting off the mark is more important than ever for the London outfit. If, as expected, Bradford get a couple of points back, London could be all but relegated in a few weeks’ time. With the club looking to establish itself in yet another new home and trying to entice fans of the sport to come and see quality rugby league, then staying in the top flight really has to be a priority. With all that said, I can only see one team of fans leaving happy, and they will be wearing the Broncos colours, but only by four points.
Into Sunday and the first game today sees Bradford v Wakefield in what many expected to be a relegation four pointer. That could still be the case depending on the outcome of the independent tribunal that sits on the 4th June.
Should Bradford regain points that will really pull Wakefield into the basement battle. With only 8 points themselves, and had Bradford not had the deduction, they would have 12 points already and be up in contention for a play-off spot.
All that said, with the Bulls being at home, I see them gaining a fourth win of the season, ahead of some good news later next week. This will be a win for Bradford by at least 12 points.
The final game of round 15 is Castleford Tigers v Hull KR. Despite recent results, Hull KR coach Craig Sandercock will be nervous about going into this one. Castleford are one of this seasons form sides, and at home are exceptional in attack. Rovers are no slouches themselves, but can at times lack a spine and solidity to their defence. Being only three points away from the top of the table will give an added expectation to this. Usually these are great matches, and as such, I wonder why this one is not on TV. With the fans at the Hose being up close and personal to the pitch, the atmosphere is usually intense and that transfers onto the pitch and the players. This will be a great match for those there, but I only see one team winning, and that’s Castleford by 16 points.
So, there you have this week’s preview. If you’d like an event previewed for your website or publication, feel free to contact me for more information.