The Spotlight is on… progress and improvements: Rugby League is to undergo some fundamental changes in 2015 after the RFL announced that Super League members were ‘virtually unanimous’ in voting for a 12-team competition with meaningful movement between Super League and the Championship.
The Championship will also revert to 12 teams and in the latter stages of the season, the two leagues will split into three groups of eight, which means two teams will be relegated from the Super League at the end of this season.
This new format has been met with widespread criticism from supporters of The Greatest Game with many showing a preference for a more traditional format. It seems there is a genuine intention is to bridge the gap between Super League and the lower leagues and in the short term this may well have the desired effect. We don’t believe straight promotion and relegation will work, but perhaps this new ‘innovation’ will prove to be successful.
FUSL: Independent gas and electricity supplier First Utility will sponsor Super League for the next 3 years. After a few years without a title sponsor, this news has come as a great relief for Rugby League supporters in Britain.
Sky’s the limit: The RFL CEO Nigel Wood announced in January that the sport has signed a 5-year broadcasting deal with Sky Sports. This news was met with a mixed response from owners as Marwan Koukash lamenting the decision, sarcastically likening the situation to dating, whereas Ian Lenaghan showed his support. RFL Chairman Brian Barwick responded publicly of his disappointment at a ‘small minority’ of clubs’ criticism but announced the deal was a significant improvement on the last. Only time will tell if the deal has been a financial success for clubs in our top league.
Leaderboard: Wigan are in Australia for the World Club Challenge and Huddersfield have a week off after their victory over the Warriors last week. Widnes are top after thrashing London; at the bottom the relegation places are occupied by Warrington and London.
3 St Helens
7 Hull FC
12 Hull KR
Try of the week: We were treated to a host of quality tries in week one; St Helens centre Jordan Turner set up Tommy Makinson with a fabulous offload and Zak Hardaker benefited from a mazy Rob Burrow run to score under the sticks away at Hull KR. This week’s winner is Hull’s Jordan Rankin who burst through a double tackle, rounded the Catalan full back Morgan Escare and sprinted 40 meters to score a wonderful debut try.
Class in a glass: Kevin Brown inspired Widnes to a 64-10 trouncing of London on Sunday, scoring 3 tries and setting up a further 4 in a superb opening-day performance.
Devilution: Salford owner Marwan Koukash’s heavily-publicised ‘devilution’ got off to a perfect start as the Red Devils defeated Wakefield in front of a record crowd. Over 7,000 fans packed into the AJ Bell Stadium and watched as the new look side squeeze past Wakefield. There were debut tries for Gareth Hock, Harrison Hansen and Andrew Dixon; Jake Mullaney kicked 4 goals.
No place: There is no place in the game for dogs acts of the like seen on Friday night at the KC Stadium. Catalan captain Oliver Elima twisted Hull FC hooker Aaron Heremaia’s leg in the tackle during his side’s 36-34 defeat. It was a shocker and the RFL must come down hard on players who’s technique places players’ safety as risk.
Burgess leaves the Burrow: Rugby League has been left reeling at the news that South Sydney and England superstar Sam Burgess has signed a 3-year deal with Bath RU. Burgess is a huge loss to the game, and in particular England, who now have to try and bridge the gap between themselves and world champions Australia without their best player.
We don’t believe that this about money, he earns a fortune in the NRL. This is about the prestige of playing in a sport that has a significantly bigger international competition. Sam Burgess is a unique athlete and Spotlight has no concerns that he will be a big hit in Union. Burgess will be fast-tracked into the England side, he will go to the world cup in 2015, and he will be a household name across the globe as a result.
We are disappointed to be losing such a talent to a lesser sport, but we wish him all the best for the future.
This does highlight a problem that Rugby League needs to address. The international game must continue to grow and be supported or else we risk the loss of more players who want to test themselves in front of a larger audience than we have. After such a wonderful world cup, here’s hoping plans are afoot to do just that.
Record breakers: Hull Kingston Rovers and Salford Red Devils announced that they had broken their attendance records at the weekend. Hull KR attracted 11,526 in their defeat against Leeds and Salford beat Wakefield in front of 7,102.
Player transfers: Bradford have lost both Garreth Carvell and Jarrod Sammut in the past week, who have joined Hull and Wakefield respectively. Bradford will seek legal action over Carvell transfer, whereas Sammut took to Twitter to thank Bulls fans for their support, and explained that he moved to secure a future for his family. Hull FC have also signed winger Liam Colbon on a one-year deal.
Suspension: Oliver Elima has received a four-game ban after pleading guilty to a grade d dangerous contact charge. Hull KR’s Michael Weyman entered an early guilty plea and will serve a two-game ban for a grade C dangerous contact offence.
Injury update: Hull KR winger is looking at 12 weeks on the sidelines after damaging his knee against Leeds on Sunday.
Final thought: A petition calling for the Man of Steel award to be re-named in Steve Prescott’s honor has been handed into the RFL. Graham Middleton, Paul Whitaker, Debs Fitzgerald and Alison Watson handed over the petition, with 12,664 signatures, to RFL this week. Spotlight would like to congratulate them and wish them every success in achieving what would be a fitting tribute to Steve Prescott.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com