TALKING RUGBY WITH PHIL WILKINSON - Did vocal Kear cross the line?

Phil Wilkinson - sports editor
Phil Wilkinson - sports editor

MOST people want a sport where coaches and athletes aren’t afraid to give their opinion.

But Wakefield coach John Kear touched a nerve with his criticism of Jeff Lima, while working as a summariser for the BBC last Friday night.

Kear has previous for criticising Wigan.

Last season he thought the Warriors’ 54-14 mauling of his side, with two-try Amos Roberts in scorching form until getting injured, was like “watching paint dry”.

Most people I spoke to disagreed with him and thought Wigan were incredible to watch, and that’s fine. That’s sport. Rugby league thrives on such lively debate.

But when Kear reacted to Lima’s tackle on Chris Clarkson – around the knees while he was being held by two others – he not only called for the prop to be banned for 12 weeks but then said: “If he escapes with anything under six weeks, the Rugby Football League disciplinary aren’t doing their job.

“You don’t want people attacking your joints just to hurt you.”

Michael Maguire, a coach who normally sidesteps controversy, summed up what many thought with his response – that Kear, as a Super League coach, had crossed the line.

Whatever your opinion, one thing is for sure – it will make the game on Easter Monday an extra spicy affair.

And certainly more exciting than watching paint dry!

GOT to hand it to Michael Maguire. He turned Sam Tomkins from a very good stand-off into a great full-back, and backed that up by successfully moulding Lee Mossop from a back-rower into a prop.

For his next trick, he is adapting Joel Tomkins to the centre role – his display against Leeds last Friday night, against wily veteran Keith Senior, suggested he has a big future in the three-quarter line.

Madge is now thinking of playing Gareth Hock at prop once he returns from suspension in June. I can’t want to see how that experiment pans out...

FINALLY, the Martin Gleeson saga is over.

The rumours that Gleeson had been booted out first surfaced at the start of March, though confirmation only came via a sugary statement issued by Wigan last Monday night.

Warriors confirmed a breach of discipline was, in part, behind the decision to split.

I’m sure Gleeson (pictured) will regret the way things have worked out – if not yet, then certainly in the future.

On his day, he is real quality, and I always found him a decent bloke to deal with.

But Wigan set sky-high standards and the fact they have parted ways with a marquee £100,000 signing, sends out a very clear message to the current players – and the stars of the future.

As for Gleeson, I genuinely hope he revives his career.

DARRELL Goulding did fantastically well last season to score 29 tries in 24 appearances. Many of his touchdowns come from close to the opponents’ line. But anyone who thinks his tries don’t need scoring should watch his effort against Leeds last Friday night in freeze-frame. The way he plucked Sean O’Loughlin’s bullet-pass from the air and grounded it, without going into touch, was extraordinary – and just as impressive as a try from inside his own half.

I KNOCK the RFL enough when they put a foot wrong. About time I praise them for something good. Their plan to take the Four Nations opener to Wembley is long overdue, and is just the kind of ambition we need to strengthen international rugby league. A double-header – Wales against New Zealand, followed by England against Australia – is a mouth-watering prospect. And if the fans don’t turn out to support the idea, then they can not complain in future if the RFL scuttle back to smaller venues such as Huddersfield and Bolton to stage their showcase Test matches.

IT’S hard to sympathise with any sportsman who knowingly takes banned substances, but I must admit it was hard not to be moved by Brett McDermott’s circumstances which, he says, drove him to taking steroids. The Barrow prop, celebrating his testimonial, needed a functioning elbow to help his dad deliver coal around various remote locations in the south Lakes, and he needs the extra money he receives from rugby more than ever following the birth of his third child. It doesn’t make it right... but it makes it extra sad that the likely two-year ban he will receive will end his career in such a way.