Talking RL: Competition, player-cam, referees and dark horses

When you draw a game and still go top, you know things are going pretty well for you.

Thursday, 23rd March 2017, 1:26 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:08 am
Romain Navarrete has a golden chance to strengthen his claim

What’s really impressed me about Wigan’s unbeaten start has been the way they have gone about their business without any self-pity about their current injury woes.

Shaun Wane has repeatedly stressed they have a ‘no excuses’ policy.

Even though, from the eighth minute on Sunday, there were 13 players sidelined by injury.

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The injury crisis was so deep, Wane himself needed knee surgery on Monday!

Take out the fringe players, and I’d say there were nine ‘starters’. And of those, a couple are ‘like for like’ with those currently in the squad (would Wigan be significantly strengthened if Ryan Sutton replaced, say, Romain Navarrete in the side?).

But there’s no doubting the quality of Tomkins, McIlorum and Manfredi. There’s no one suggesting O’Loughlin, Bateman, Burgess and Farrell wouldn’t walk back into the side. Tierney, too.

Thankfully, many of them will be fit and available in the next two or three weeks. And that should ensure we get a Wigan performance tomorrow night which is full of energy.

Because while Wane’s hand is being forced at present, he should soon have genuine competition for places.

And the likes of youngster Liam Marshall and even senior players like Willie Isa know Wane has a track record of sticking with players if they impress.

I applaud rugby league chiefs for trying new ideas, so I’m not going to hammer them for the failure of the first ‘player cam’ last week.

Kurt Gidley wore the new kit on his chest in the first-half against Leigh, though it was strangely removed in the second-half due to “technical reasons” (really?).

For me, the issue is how the footage was used.

Instead of trying to edit the fast-moving coverage into the live game, I’d imagine it would be better used as a short, edited segment either at half-time or full-time – similar to when a player is mic’d up.

A few fans had an issue with ex-Huddersfield academy player Chris Kendall taking charge of the Giants’ game with Wigan on Sunday.

It’s easy to see where they’re coming from – by allowing ex-players to referee ‘their’ club, it leaves them, and the RFL, open to criticism. Especially if they make crucial, incorrect decisions which go in the club’s favour.

I get that.

But the best way to improve the standard of refereeing is surely to increase the talent pool. And many of the best-suited people to take charge of games - to know the rules, the nuances, and be fit enough - are ex-players. Surely, the more former players we can encourage into refereeing, the better.

And before anyone says, ‘That’s fine, just don’t let them take charge of a former club...’ – where would that stop?

Kevin Brown is at his fourth Super League club. So is Jodie Broughton. Tommy Lee and Scott Moore have each turned out for seven clubs. If they became refs, should they be banned from taking charge of matches involving any of their former clubs?

Regular readers of this column (mum, dad, wife...) will know my thoughts on “club news”.

Clubs, through websites and social media, do a pretty good job of building-up their matches, reporting on games and interviewing their own players.

Cronulla Sharks even boasted of an EXCLUSIVE interview with new signing James Segeyaro yesterday (question for another day: could he have been formally disciplined if he had refused the interview request from his current employers?).

But ‘club news’ is what they want to tell you, and so it can’t be the best place to learn the news about a club.

Want proof? Google news ‘Leyton Orient’ and you will find a stack of stories relating to the football club’s tax debts. This week, they appeared at a winding-up hearing at the High Court. The BBC reports the club remain “in mortal danger”.

Now go to the Leyton Orient website, click on ‘news’... and you’ll find an Under-18s match report, a kids commentary competition and a ‘star in the community’ story!

Last week, Thomas Leuluai tipped Salford as dark horses for a top-four spot this season.

Days later, they became the first team to beat high-flying Castleford.

When you think they were only just denied against Wakefield, and lost at Leeds to a forward pass, maybe Tommy is right.

They’re doing pretty well so far... and the player with the most glittering CV, Todd Carney, can’t even get a game.

Fair play to them.

There was an interesting note in the minutes printed of a meeting between Latics CEO Jonathan Jackson and fans groups this week.

He said they wanted to help solve the persistent DW Stadium pitch problems by installing a Desso surface – a hybrid grass system used by a number of clubs in the Premier League and NFL clubs, at multi-functional stadia.

He apparently said the cost was too high to justify at present, but the stadium will eventually get one.

Is there an end in sight to the long-standing pitch issues?