If you are a rugby league fan in the UK who only follows Super League and not the NRL you must have had the time of your life on Saturday morning. Not because Wigan put in a respectable performance, though they did, and not because the shoulder charge seemed to reappear for a game (hallelujah!!).
The reason you would have had such a great time is because you had the opportunity to watch a quality game of rugby league without hearing the irritating observations of imbeciles like Eddie Hemmings and Mike ‘Stevo’ Stephenson.
I’m sure Eddie Hemmings is a good bloke, but his constant brownnosing of anything and everything involved with British rugby league is not good for the game. The way he goes on about some of the players is plain embarrassing. If you listened to one of his commentaries without watching the game, the bloke would have you thinking that Eorl Crabtree is Petero Civoniceva, or Paul Wellens is Billy Slater.
I’m not old enough to have been around during Stevo’s playing days, but by all accounts he was a really handy player in both England and Australia. The fact that he was such a quality player makes his ramblings and stupid catchphrases even more disappointing. He frequently utters his favourite phrases like, ‘T-R-Y’, ‘Skill Factor’ and ‘They’ve Gotta Use The Dummy Runners, Eddie’, over and over again to the point where any person with a fully functioning brain and ears knows it is time to either change the channel or hit the mute button.
I am personally uncomfortable with the fact that ‘Stevo’ is the face of rugby league coverage in the UK. The strength of his presence gives the impression to the uninformed viewer that rugby league is still a game only played and watched in the north of England. Don’t get me wrong, I know that the north is the heartlands of the game and that should never be forgotten. But lets also acknowledge that there were two Welshman (who came from the welsh system) and a Londoner (who came from the London system) in the Wigan side that took on the Roosters on Saturday.
If I had it my own way every onscreen employee of Sky Sports rugby league coverage would get the boot apart from Brian Carney, Jon Wells, Phil Clarke and Paul Cullen. I’d bring in people who would speak their minds and leave their pompoms at home. Ellery Hanley and Gary Schofield spring to mind. Martin Offiah would be decent for the game because he has a fairly high profile. I don’t ever see that happening though.
However, don’t mistake my criticism of the usual British coverage of the game as a ringing endorsement of the coverage in Australia. Although I enjoy the coverage of Channel Nine, they are certainly not immune from criticism.
If you watch the NRL in the UK, then you know we don’t get the complete bombardment of commercials that I hear the Australian viewer has to deal with, so I can’t comment on that.
My main gripe with Channel Nine is the conflict of interest amongst its pundits and analysts. Phil Gould, who I do enjoy listening to, has more jobs than Sonny Bill Williams. He writes for the Sydney Morning Herald, is the General Manager at Penrith Panthers and is Nine‘s lead analyst on Friday Night Football. Though, I do believe he is fairly impartial, it isn’t a good look for the game. He is there to be shot at.
Andrew Johns is in a similar situation. He coaches the halves at Manly and is also a pundit. Again, I do enjoy listening to Johns, but how can I trust him to criticise Daly Cherry-Evans or Kieran Foran if he is the bloke who has been telling them what to do all week.
League fans in the UK, will have noticed that Sky Sports is putting a greater emphasis on rugby league this season after a successful RLWC. As a fan your first thought is ‘great’. You’re second thought is ‘better turn the sound down’.
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