Is Bradford appealing?

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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!

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20 Glorious years of Army rugby league

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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

Super League preview 2014

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BRADFORD BULLS

So, it looks like this is going to be another season of off field turmoil for Bulls fans. After all the glory years at the start of the summer era, you’d hardly believe this was the same club who brought so much razzamatazz to the game. New chair, Mark Moore has rubbished any suggestion of the Bulls returning to administration, but they have revealed the club may have to make redundancies because of debts left by the previous owners. Moore took over as chairman at Odsal from Omar Khan in September. The local support has as always been superb, but a lack of play-off football again will hinder the Bulls chances of attracting the sort of high calibre players like Robbie Hunter-Paul, now the Bulls CEO, that they have in the past. The Bulls have extended their dual registration deal with Championship club Dewsbury Rams for a further year. All members of the Bulls squad, with the exception of overseas players, will be available to play for Dewsbury. Head coach Francis Cummins said: “Playing against fully-grown men is absolutely vital for the development of some of our younger guys. “A fantastic example is Adam O’Brien, who played so well for Dewsbury he won a place in our first team.” Dual registration aside, Cummins will be looking for his established stars to be wary of the younger talent that the Bulls will be keen to nurture if they are to enjoy the sort of success that they have in the past. For their opening game, Bradford Bulls host Castleford in a West Yorkshire derby at Odsal. Last season the Bulls won this fixture, 38-12.

CASTLEFORD TIGERS

I’ve already written elsewhere about the Tigers coach Daryl Powell and how his chance to coach again with a top flight club was long overdue. Daryl’s record as a coach is a 70% win rate with Leeds, Featherstone and so far with Castleford, so no pressure there then… 2013 now behind him, Daryl will be looking to push on and hopefully, with a stable base to build on and a strong squad both on and off the field, we should see a return to the “classy Cas” rugby of old. Powell’s teams are known for an attacking style of play that excites (and frustrates at times) the fan on the terrace. With Ryan Boyle signing a two-year contract extension to stay at the club to the end of 2016, the future is certainly looking good for Tigers fans. The 26-year-old Cas academy graduate played 17 times for the Tigers after returning from Salford in April in a swap deal involving prop Ryan Emmitt. Boyle told BBC Radio Leeds: “We’ve got a good competitive squad so fingers crossed it will be a big year for us.” I felt like I was playing the best rugby I’ve played in my career for the last third of the season.” He added: “The coaches Daryl Powell and Danny Orr have really brought my game on and they’re really fair blokes.” I think the fans can be really optimistic. With the side we’ve got you have to think top eight is a possibility.” Having been beaten by Bradford last season, they will be looking to put one over them at Odsal when they meet on the 16th February.

CATALAN DRAGONS

Strictly speaking, Catalan have had more players involved in the World Cup than any other club. 16 of the first team were in the French national squad that went out to England in the quarter finals. So, they should be pretty much the most match fit team in the league come February. Catalan Dragons full-back Morgan Escare has signed a new three-year contract, keeping him in Perpignan until 2016. Escare broke into the Dragons squad in 2012 before becoming a regular last term, a season in which he scored 14 tries in just 17 Super League games. That form won him a place on the shortlist for young player of the year at Super League’s Man of Steel awards. Also Catalan Dragons have signed winger Michael Oldfield from Sydney Roosters on a two-year contract. Oldfield, 23, was part of the Roosters squad that won the 2013 NRL title, having also been part of the Manly Sea Eagles side which did so in 2011. He also won his first international cap for Tonga earlier this year. Dragons head coach Laurent Frayssinous said: “He is a young and fast player and his pace will be a great value in our backline next season.” Oldfield is the Super League club’s third, and probably last, close-season signing. “We found an agreement with the Sydney Roosters and his agent to release Michael from the final year of his contract and allow him to join the Dragons,” said chief executive Christophe Jouffret. “After the signings of 2011 Lance Todd trophy winner Jeff Lima and Ben Pomeroy from Cronulla, we were looking for a fast winger and we are delighted to welcome Michael to Perpignan.” Having lost their last league match of 2013 away to Hull FC 14-4, they make the trip back to the banks of the Humber to open their season in 2014, hoping for a better result.

HUDDERSFIELD GIANTS

What more is there to be said about the Giants after last season? Apart from the fact that they managed to almost prove all of the critics wrong by going on to finally win the league leaders shield, but then going out of the playoffs to finalists Warrington, 30-22.

Close season signing Jodie Broughton from Salford Red Devils on a four-year deal. Leeds-born Broughton, 25, scored 12 tries in 22 Super League games for Brian Noble’s side this season. He is the third player to sign for the Giants in the last two weeks after Chris Bailey and Antonio Kaufusi joined from London Broncos. “Once I’d spoken to [coach] Paul Anderson I knew this was the place to be,” Broughton told BBC Radio Leeds. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Salford albeit we never finished in a play-off place. It was a good experience but coming here now will help me to push on. “I needed a new challenge and this was it. I think they can come away with some silverware next year.” With reigning Man of Steel and Scotland captain Danny Brough organising things, and Eorl Crabtree who narrowly missed out on a place in the England squad for the World Cup, the Giants will certainly be there or thereabouts when the business end of the season kicks in. The Giants will be opening the season away to the current champions, Wigan, on the 7th February, ahead of other clubs to allow the Warriors to take part in the World Club challenge.

HULL F.C.

The Arlie Birds will be on the hunt for silverware this year under new coach Lee Radford. With a host of new faces, the Old Faithful at the KC will have plenty to smile about with players like Fetuli Talanoa, former rugby union international Tom Biggs, Tonga’s World Cup forward Mickey Paea, ex-New Zealand prop Feka Paleaasina, Wigan forward Chris Tuson and utility player Jordan Thompson all arriving through the doors ahead of 2014. With Joe Westerman and Richard Whiting also signing new deals until 2016, Radford will be hoping to lure silverware and success to the stadium as well as top class support and talent. Off the field, Hull have partnered with local firm Veolia Environmental Services has further strengthened its partnership with the Hull FC Foundation after becoming one of the first local businesses to back a new project aimed at improving the lives of local people. A key supporter of the foundation’s State of Mind project in recent years, the UK’s leading recycling and waste management company will now play an active role in supporting the club’s mental health awareness workshops as part of the new “Play80” initiative. Recently launched by the Black and Whites, the scheme will deliver a range of health projects in the local community focused on obesity, healthy hearts, lifestyle and mental health. Gavin Smedley, business manager at Veolia Environmental Services, said, “We are delighted to be involved in the Hull FC Community Foundation partnership. “Social value is at the heart of our business and we look forward to working closely with Hull FC to inspire, educate and engage students across the city.” Hull FC’s community director Richard Munson added, “Once again, we are delighted to have Veolia on board with another exciting project for the Hull FC Foundation. “They have been excellent partners ever since I joined the club and their passion for helping the local community really shines through in the support they offer to a wide range of projects. “With the State of Mind scheme and now Play80, they have shown a particular passion for the mental health side of our work and we look forward to continuing our ongoing partnership into the New Year.”

HULL KINGSTON ROVERS

Across the great divide that is the River Hull, the Robins will be preparing for life after Dobbo. The talismanic playmaker who has headed off to the Newcastle Knights was the go to player for the club for so long, it’s now up to players like Greg Eden and Travis Burns, along with returning player Ben Cockayne to step up and take charge on the field and lead the robins to another top 8 finish. Last season Coach Craig Sandercock started the campaign with 17 players either injured or unavailable. That’s an entire first team, out. Hopefully, barring any injuries, He will be able to start with his strongest team from game one. The recruitment has been thick and fast at MS3 Craven Park. 10 new players have arrived, whilst 9 have left. Hopefully, Craig will be able to mould a team spirit into the squad that will allow them to make progress on the field and secure a top 6 spot. Rovers kick off 2014 at home to the Leeds Rhinos. Last season’s meeting ended 10-44 to the Rhinos, but with the addition of the new North stand being filled, it is hoped that the swell in numbers on the terracing will translate to atmosphere around the ground and improved performances on the park.

LEEDS RHINOS

After a season that will be classed as a failure by some, the Rhinos will be looking to take the Super League title back to Headingly in 2014. Success on the pitch is vital to this club who have had more than their fair share over the last ten years or so. It’s not luck that wins you as many titles as the Rhinos have done, its hard graft and planning. With a settled squad, the signings have mostly been making certain that the crop of younger players are tied to the club until 2016, with players like Jimmy Kleinhorst and Alex Foster committing to the cause alongside newcomer Paul Aiton, although the loss of young signing Andy Yates will be a blow to the coach, The St Helens-born prop joined the Rhinos from Hunslet Hawks for the 2014 season but will now face a lengthy spell on the side-lines after an operation earlier in the week. Commenting on the news Head Coach Brian McDermott said, “We are all desperately disappointed for Andy, especially at the start of his time at the club. However, the six months will not be wasted time for him, instead he will have a full programme of rehabilitation from the conditioning staff and we will get him fully up to speed so he is ready for the step up to Super League. He is in the best possible hands here at the Rhinos and I am sure this will just be a minor setback for him given the determination he has already shown to succeed.” Leeds will be buoyed by the fact that their England stars all came through a tough tournament without any serious injury, add in the players they lost towards the back end of last year, like Danny McGuire, returning and you can be certain that Leeds will be back on the silverware trail.

LONDON BRONCOS

After a close season of turmoil (yet again), the Broncos will be glad to start the season at the Hive, home to Barnet FC and actually get on with the task of avoiding relegation at the end of the season when Super League reverts to a 12 team structure for 2015. As it stands, the Broncos have avoided a point’s deduction by not going into administration and probably some very frantic calls between Red Hall and Barnet to secure the use of the ground. I’m not one of those who feels that a London based club in the top flight is essential for the good of the game, because at the grass root level, there are plenty of clubs beginning to grow regular interest in the sport. Another problem will be has Sean Long got enough players, because looking at the amount of support the club has on twitter (8000+ followers) if half of those who claimed they want to see rugby league in the capital actually turn up, then they should be a roaring success OFF the field, but as we all know, it’s the on field success that brings in the fans.

SALFORD RED DEVILS

It’s been a very quiet close season at the newly named A.J. Bell Stadium…Only 14 or so new signings and none of any real note.*

Just a real mixture of youth and experience that will (according to the good Dr Koukash) ensure that the way the game is played and run in the UK will change forever. When you sign players of the quality of Harrison Hansen from the champions on 4 yearlong deals and then look at who he will be joining, former Castleford Tigers star halfback and international Rangi Chase, and fellow England player Gareth Hock. The former Warrington Wolves captain Adrian Morley, ex-Wakefield Trinity Wildcats’ Tim Smith, and Samoa internationals Francis Meli and Tony Puletua, both formerly of Saint Helens, complete the signings from Super League teams. Signings from the Australian NRL were the former Parramatta Eels fullback Jake Mullaney, ex-Melbourne Storm centre Junior Sa’u and Steve Rapira, previously of New Zealand Warriors. Also signed were former Salford Academy product, Jason Walton, and Greg Johnson, both from Championship side Batley Bulldogs. You know that the club means business. With one of the most experienced British coaches in charge, this season the place to be is the A57, just before City Airport, Salford. The wealth of talent on display is breath-taking and if Dr Koukash has his way, once the salary cap is raised, he will no doubt be bringing in more quality over the next few seasons as the Devils push for the silverware that the Dr has promised the loyal and vocal support that the club has.

*Sarcasm alert

ST HELENS

Here is a club that is building on the foundations laid last season by new coach Nathan Brown. Only 5 new signings, but a new 5 year deal to James Roby says a lot about the direction the club is moving in. With Paul Wellens saying he is happy to hand the No.1 shirt over to Jonny Lomax, shows a maturity within the club that only comes when you move talent like Keiron Cunningham into the back room to give a club a sense of continuity. I see a couple of fallow years for the Saints, but they will as usual make the top 5 and the quarter finals, if not the semi-finals of the Challenge cup. With players like Luke Walsh at 7 and the arrival of Matty Dawson, who says says his goal is to play as many games as he can this season. The 23-year-old’s signing from Huddersfield Giants has gone under the radar a little with the arrival of Walsh, Mose Masoe, Richard Beaumont and Kyle Amor, but he is keen to make his mark. “I only played a few first team games at Huddersfield so it’s understandable I’m under the radar,” he said. “Hopefully that will help me.”I was coming off contract and I heard Browny (Nathan Brown) was interested in signing me. He took me from Castleford to Huddersfield but I never had the chance to play for him because I had some bad injuries. The loyal saints following will be looking to actually take silverware back to Langtree Park, but they will have to wait at least one more season in this writers view before the club hits the heights of seasons past.

WAKEFIELD WILDCATS

Another club who have been very busy recruiting are the Wildcats. After losing players like Paul Aiton, Justin Poore and Ben Cockayne move on in recent weeks, they have recruited players like Samoan international Pita Godinet, former Parramatta Eels forward Matt Ryan, Scott Anderson, Paul McShane and Richard Moore to the cause and Richard Agar will be hoping for a larger points tally than the 21 garnered in 2013. After his stint coaching France in the World Cup, Agar will arrive in 2014 with some fresh new ideas to make certain that he isn’t relegated at the end of the season. An opening fixture against the Salford Red Devils will give fans and commentators alike a good idea of where the Wildcats will finish. A six game losing streak towards the end of last season undoubtedly cost them a place in the play-offs, but a strong start to the season will be needed and better fitness levels across the full eighty minutes will see them make it over the line this year I think.

WARRINGTON WOLVES

The perennial cup kings will be looking to go one better in 2014. Last season’s beaten grand finalists will still be smarting from the defeat to Wigan at last year’s grand final, and nothing is more dangerous than a wounded animal! Tony Smith is one of the shrewdest coaches in the game, and his policy of recruitment has paid dividends in the challenge cup and is beginning to show it in the league as well. As Smith told the clubs website: “We just want to be one of those clubs that’s up there competing. There’s no guarantees, as we’ve found out over the last couple of years, as to whether you win those trophies or not. A lot of things have to line up and fall into place but we’ll certainly be up there competing for those and giving ourselves every chance. I’m excited about the young talent that we’ve got. We are going through some transition but I think it will be fairly smooth as there’s an opportunity for some of the young guys to really step up and some are ready and fully prepared now. It’s only natural that as your team ages and matures that some need to move on. We are really grateful for all the contributors who have helped to bring this team on but it’s all been preparation for this team to come through. We’ve got plenty of depth and competition for places this year which is really healthy.”

WIDNES VIKINGS

Head coach Denis Betts will remain with Widnes Vikings until the end of the 2016 Super League season after agreeing an extension to his contract. Betts, 44, has overseen a steady progression since He took over in 2010. The ex-Great Britain forward guided Widnes to 10th last season and has sights on a top-eight spot next term. “We are in a really strong situation. We have a very good board of directors, playing staff and fan base but there is still so much to do,” he said. Widnes Vikings have signed prop Paul Johnson on a one-year contract after his release by Hull FC. The 25-year-old only joined the Black and Whites last year but was released early from his two-year contract after struggling to stay in the first team. The former Wakefield and St Helens forward joins recent new signings Danny Tickle, Danny Galea and Liam Carberry. “I’m confident that moving back home will show itself in my performances,” Johnson said. On signing Johnson, the Vikings head coach Denis Betts added: “As an out-and-out front-rower, his work ethic, ability and no-nonsense approach make him the person that he is. “There were certain times last year when we were missing those character traits, and his inclusion will certainly go a long way towards steering us in the right direction.”

WIGAN WARRIORS

So, we finally come to the current Champions of Super League.

The big question here is how will they fare without a certain Sam at one and perfect Pat at 5. In coach Shaun Wane is probably the hardest man to please at any club. He demands nothing less than 100% commitment and perfection from his players. I’m certain that He will have looked at the squad, made a few alterations and that the Warriors will once again finish in the top 2. You don’t become a bad team overnight a good friend of mine often says, it takes years of hard work, but losing those two plus Harrison Hansen to Salford will mean that Wigan will need a period of adjustment on the field. Shaun won’t allow anyone to rest on their laurels, and you can be assured that preseason will be tougher this year with a trip down under to look forward to as they take on the Sydney Roosters for the world club challenge, the first time it’s been contested outside of the UK since 1994, when Wigan beat Brisbane. I can see Wigan bringing back the trophy that Leeds allowed Melbourne to borrow last season home to the UK and then they will embark on a run of tough games in Super League.

PREDICTIONS

Top 8 (in no order)

Wigan

Warrington

St Helens

Hull FC

Salford

Hull KR

Wakefield

Catalan

Challenge Cup

Leeds Rhinos or Salford

The end of Days…

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It’s been 2 days now since Australia won the 2013 Rugby League world cup and I feel like I’ve lost a limb. After 5 weeks of covering the event as a social media journalist, I really don’t know what to do with myself. OK, there is the 2014 domestic season to look forward to, but that is over 12 weeks away! Between now and then, there is only Football, and the sight of fully grown men rolling about like the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan after someone breathes heavily on them is no replacement for rugby league.

This has been the best attended, most watched and most profitable world cup ever. We know that because Nigel Wood has told us so, and for once, I am inclined to believe the powers that be. No one outside of the most diehard fan (and even then, it was a stretch) predicted that this would be as successful as it has been. A lot of the credit has to be removed from Nigel Wood and be given to the real person responsible for delivering, General Manager Sally Bolton. Her team spread over Media City in Salford and Red Hall in Leeds really have worked miracles at times. The hours they have put in to ensure that everything has gone to plan would give an HR manager apoplexy. I don’t think they even know what the “working time regulation” is. I know for a fact that Emma Neve has been in the office until 3am on some days sorting out emails, answering questions (Sorry Emma!) and confirming last minute details. 48 hours a week was seen as a minimum…They all deserve a real pat on the back and a couple of weeks off, somewhere warm & sunny.

Backing every single one of them up were the members of Team 13, all 702 of us. For me, the chance to actually work as a journalist was too good a chance to miss after writing for Forty-20 and Weloveleague.com and presenting on the radio in both Hull and Leeds over the years. The uniform was a tad bright to say the least, and as we found out at Rochdale when someone forgot 6 of us were waiting outside, the jackets were waterproof. Thanks Martin! Team 13 were drawn from all over the volunteering spectrum. Some were professional volunteers, who had been at the Olympics and post Cup were heading off to Glasgow for the commonwealth games in 2014, whereas most had had little experience and just wanted to be a part of an event for a sport they loved. Meeting these people and working with them has been amazing. Everyone has given their time and although we all had the odd moan about things here and there, to a person, every one of Team 13 would hail the tournament a success. I’ve met people I know I’ll keep in touch with and meet again, just as I hope many others did. Team 13 were the people that made the tournament flow. OK, we didn’t all stand about doing the viral dance as was predicted, but as someone in a senior marketing position for a well known multinational said to me, the thing about viral is it’s a growth idea, It has to be organic and good. You can’t just call it viral & hope everyone will take it up…Social media mangers take note!

The legacy of the cup has to be at international level. In an earlier post, I mentioned that perhaps getting the smaller nations to play in double headers in a mini tournament parallel to the Four Nations might be a good idea. I’d certainly go to see Fiji v Tonga before England v France or Samoa v Italy before Australia v New Zealand. That way, the teams can be alternated and the emerging nations can continue to grow between world cups and we can have even less of the blow outs scores that have thankfully not been seen too often this year.

From game one in Wales to game twenty eight in Manchester, the cup has shown that there is some real talent out there. No one expected Wales to be dumped out at the group stage, just as no one expected the USA to get past it, but that’s what tournaments are all about, minnows overcoming the odds. For me, the team of the tournament were Tonga. The pride and passion that the smaller emerging nations had been exemplified by this island nation and its leader, Charles Tonga. Both on and off the field, they conducted themselves with far more dignity than quite a few other nations did, believe you me. Below Dave Woods lists his team of the tournament, and it’s very hard to disagree with him. My player of the tournament is a close run between Sam Burgess & Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, but I would have to give it to the Kiwi. For me, he was immense in every game I saw New Zealand play in and his loss in the final was not the turning point, but it certainly helped the Kangaroos.

So, we turn in the domestic realm once again to governance. After 6 clubs (Catalan Dragons, Huddersfield, Hull FC, Hull KR, Warrington and champions Wigan) all walked out of a meeting in October, Super League fans were once again left wondering what was going on at the “elite” level of the game. In a statement published on the 23rd October by Super League, Brian Barwick was quoted as saying “It is very disappointing that we were unable to take a vote on such important issues because some clubs chose to leave the room and refuse to participate further. “In many ways this form of action is unprecedented. These proposals would have had a positive impact on the whole sport but they were halted by a minority of clubs. “Clearly some of the clubs have deep-rooted issues and between us we have to find a way of resolving our differences for the benefit of both Super League and the wider game. “It is my view that this was a very unsatisfactory way for the six clubs to demonstrate their frustration.” Brian, the clue is that you (The RFL) don’t want to discuss the actual problems that you have within the game, all the clubs want is an open and frank discourse on the governance and commercial management, or lack thereof before allowing you to push through the reforms. Brian, Nigel and anyone else at Red Hall who really does love this sport and wants to see it grow, please, stop being so insular and listen to the clubs and the fans. We make the sport and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, just because we don’t work for you or don’t wear the right tie. Without clubs in the heart of the community, there is no Super League, no Championship and no NL 1. Grass roots governance will spread upwards and pay benefits for decades to come. Look after the penny, not the pound. That photo shoot of the England lads wearing their feeder club shirts that I’ve placed just below, that’s what inspired each and every one of them to play the game, a club in the heart of their community…

 

England players in the colours of the community clubs that gave them their start in the game.

England players in the colours of the community clubs that gave them their start in the game.

Back row: Lee Mossop (Hensingham ARLFC), Kallum Watkins (Latchford Albion), Chris Hill (New Spring Lions), Thomas Burgess (Dewsbury Moor), Sam Burgess (Dewsbury Moor), George Burgess (Dewsbury Moor), Leroy Cudjoe (Newsome Panthers), Liam Farrell (Wigan St Patricks), Ryan Hall (Oulton Raiders).

Middle row: Tom Briscoe (Featherstone Lions), Zak Hardaker (Featherstone Lions), Brett Ferres (Smawthorne Panthers), James Graham (Blackbrook) , Carl Ablett (Hunslet Parkside), Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan St Patricks), Ben Westwood (Normanton Knights), Michael McIlorum (Queens).

 

Front row: Josh Charnley (Wigan St Patricks), Rangi Chase (Dannevirke Tigers), Rob Burrow (Featherstone Lions), Kevin Sinfield (Waterhead), Sam Tomkins (Wigan St Patricks), Gareth Widdop (King Cross Park), James Roby (Blackbrook).

Below are a couple of links to other writers who have covered the tournament. I particularly like Ian Ramsdales ideas for expansion of the domestic game.

 

http://ianramsdale.tumblr.com/post/68702289407/rugby-league-world-cup-2013-success-one-step-closer-to

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/rugby-league/25105316

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/sport/rugbyleague/article3937527.ece (PAYWALL)

 

 

I know what I’m here for!

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Dr Koukash at a press conference

Dr Koukash at a press conference

Recent still from Game of Thrones

Recent still from Game of Thrones

Well, I’ve finally been told what I’m going to be doing at the World Cup. I am to be a social media journalist & venue media assistant for the duration of the tournament.

And that’s all I know at the moment. I went to chat the other week to Emma Neve about the recruitment process ahead of a piece for Forty-20 magazine, the first of a series chronicling my experience from start to finish of the event as a volunteer.

She told me that interviews had taken place with people from all over the world, even Aussies who are over here for the cup and want to help out in between games have applied and interviews even took place via Skype! There were about 1200 applications for 8oo positions, so it was imperative that they got the right people for the job.

It was initially expected that most would want to do perhaps 3 or 4 matches, but its been more like 7 games that people have said they are willing to be at.

In other news, Al Boyle of the Sephton Trophy has been in touch and is looking to me to help out with a bit of Forces RL feature writing, which I’m more than happy to do. I need to sit down with Al once he’s home & settled from his latest trip to Afghanistan & sort out the details. If you want to know more about the Lawson Cup, which is the Armed Forces Rugby League trophy, then follow this link: http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/armyrugbyleague/ where you can learn all about it.

So, Rugby League on telly.

We’ve come a long way since the BBC2 Television Floodlit Trophy in the 60’s. Now we have HD, 3D and even the ability to watch the game on your mobile phone from almost anywhere in the world!

First of all, let me say what Sky has done for the game in the summer era is amazing. Live games, play offs, Super League Supermen all fantastic. As someone who wasn’t too sure about Mondays, I can honestly say I’m a convert. Perhaps next season more for longer please Mr Murdoch? 3D is superb; the presenting style for Mondays was a real breath of fresh air as well. All the snazzy handovers, presenters on the pitch really adds to the entertainment for those not able to get to the game. As a former publican, I wish we’d had Super League Mondays back then. Rugby League was bigger for us in a little village outside Halifax than Football and we always had a great crowd of lads in for every game, probably just for the free pie & peas at ½ time, but either way, they were there also there to watch the match.

However…not everything Sky touches has turned to gold.

Boots N All is (let’s be honest) as dull as ditch water some weeks. I don’t know who produces it, but if Brian Noble thinks the on field game is being sanitised, he should watch B&A more often! Having watched the coverage of the game from other parts of the world, why can’t we have a fun filled hour that isn’t too stale, promotes the game in a fun way and allows more interaction with the fans? Perhaps a few competitions, ticket giveaways, phone in’s and stuff like that. I’m not asking for a 3 hour soccer AM style show, but an hour of fun, chat, competitions and something lighter than B&A has become.

What we need is a TV version of Forty-20 magazine. Super League back chat comes close, but its only 30 minutes and is well presented by Rodd Studd & Emu, sorry, Stevo along with a bewildering array of top quality journalists who all know the game inside out and are very opinionated on the subject.

Add 30 minutes to it and a few competitions & we might get more non RL fans tuning in to see what the fuss is about and then watching the games. We already know viewing figures are up for matches, but what about the rest of the shows?

Super League Supermen interviews are often moving, well presented and full of superb tales from the game, from the people who played it and again, those doing the interviews often make interviewees talk in a way they might not to someone outside of the game.

A good, honest down to earth programme that isn’t too stuffy, not afraid to tweak the noses of those in charge of the game and also with a few laughs and jokes as well. Barrie & Terry are underused, and they would make great hosts for the lighter side of the game. Remember the Varsity commentary we used to get from them? It was priceless.

We’ve always had a great rapport between players and fans. Why not use that openness to get right inside the game? A fan rep from each club in the studio, or, like the old fan zone for the football, commentating via the red button & then appearing with the pros to chat about the match.

Rugby League has never stood still. Perhaps we need something new from Sky to freshen up the way it’s seen by the casual fan & those who really love the sport for what it is.

The greatest game.

Lets make it a real “Super” League

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It’s not long now until the next rounds of franchises are set out for Super League. All the usual suspects will be applying, Featherstone Rovers, Halifax, Leigh and a host of others (hopefully), but if we’re to REALLY broaden the game, how about a Cumbrian club?

It’s always been a hotbed of the game and as much as I’m against clubs merging for the sake of merging, why not have a sole Cumbria club that uses the local talent and the resources of the established clubs, like Barrow and Workington to apply? Surely, if we can’t get our own areas of interest involved in the game at its elite level, we’ll struggle in places like Toulouse, The Midlands and the South West of the country? At its heart, we are a grass roots sport. OK, the fan base in the area may not be as big as a metropolis such as Leeds, but surely, a healthy, successful club in Cumbria will breed further rewards for the area in terms of producing more players like Rob Purdham who will go on to international honours in the future?

Rugby League NEEDS a strong Cumbrian club, be it One of the two I’ve mentioned, or a “Super Club” using them as a feeder to keep the grass roots healthy and the sport stocked with more and more talent.

OK, fans of other clubs will moan about travelling to away games, but let’s face it; we’re now a summer game, and who wouldn’t want to spend a couple of days in the area before or after a match? After all, it’s beautiful…

I know that even the mere mention of the dreaded M word will have people all over quoting history, heritage and Hull, to name but a couple of things, but if we are a modern game, then let’s make sure we look at the problems of the game in a modern way and although we keep our heritage alive (I hope Stevo finds a home for his stuff. It was a great way to spend time in Huddersfield and I hope the RFL will help him find that special somewhere), it shouldn’t stop us from looking ever forward.

Should it?

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Looking forward to later this year, I will once again be heading to Warrington for the Tom Sephton Memorial trophy (http://www.facebook.com/sephtonmemorialtrophy). Despite last year’s deluge of almost biblical proportions; it was a great day of family entertainment, good causes and rugby league. This year’s event is on the 29th June, to coincide with Armed Forces day and all money raised this year is going to the Royal British Legion and as per usual, there will be two outstanding matches being played.

For those who don’t know, Tom was an Infantry Soldier in The Mortar Platoon, The 1st Battalion, The Mercian Regiment (Cheshire) – 1 MERCIAN who tragically died in July 2010 as a result of the wounds he received in Afghanistan on Operation Herrick 12. Tom came from Penketh, Warrington and was an outstanding sportsman. For many years he played rugby league for Crosfields and was a key and influential part of the 2006 Crosfields ARLFC Under 16’s squad that swept all before them, winning the Under 16’s North-West Counties League Championship and reaching the National Cup Semi-Final.

From this squad an impressive number of Tom’s team mates have gone on to achieve great things in their young rugby careers, playing professionally with Super League clubs, Widnes Vikings, Warrington Wolves, St Helens and Salford City Reds.

First up is the Army grudge match between rival regiments 1st Battalion the Mercian Regiment (CHESHIRE) – 1 MERCIAN versus 1st Battalion the Duke of Lancasters Regiment – 1 LANCS, followed by a Crossfields ARLFC XIII Versus The Royal Engineers. Last year’s day was a roaring success and I for one will be making it a regular day out in my calendar.

For more info and to place an advert in the programme, check the link above for more details. Last year over £4000 was raised for SSAFA, I hope that this year, given better weather, they can beat that total by some way.