Talking RL: '˜Halfway point, Kelly's rant, Nuuausala's swipe...'

It's no doubt a reflection of how well Wigan are doing this season that all the grumbles are about next season!

Thursday, 26th April 2018, 11:17 am
Updated Thursday, 26th April 2018, 11:26 am
John Bateman congratulates Oliver Gildart, two players who have been linked with the NRL

I was flattered to be asked to take part in Wigan fan TV’s video interview this week.

The hottest topic was Sam Tomkins.... followed by the uncertainty over the futures of Oliver Gildart, Ryan Sutton and John Bateman!

As I’ve previously said, I don’t get as worked up about players coming and going; Wigan’s continued success over the years has given me a confidence that – whatever happens – they’ll be okay.

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I was disappointed when Pat Richards departed, but look at what happened next – Joe Burgess burst on to the scene.

I do understand why people become concerned about who may leave – they pay their money, they want to see their favourite players.

I get that.

But, either way, isn’t it nice to reach the halfway point of the regular season without any concerns?

No injury worries, no controversies. No goal-kicking concerns, no moans about their style.

Instead, they are in second spot, in good form, with a promise of more to come. They have nine wins from 11 games and – how about this for a stat – in the two defeats, they scored as many tries as the winning side.

A video emerged last weekend of Albert Kelly calling a woman in McDonald’s a ‘whore’ and ‘a slut’.

The story was picked up Down Under, made the Daily Mail website and the Yorkshire Post, but for some reason wasn’t touched by the league sites and the rest of the nationals here.

Even the Hull Daily Mail gave it a wide steer.

If I was surprised by the lack of media interest in the story, I was staggered by the response of the club and the governing body.

This, remember, is one of Super League’s biggest stars – he was shortlisted for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel last year – launching a foul-mouthed, slurring, tirade at someone in McDonald’s. On camera.

And since then, the RFL has said nothing. Club officials have said... nothing.

Nothing, other than an unattributed remark from FC that the issue has been dealt with “internally”.

What a cop out.

We don’t know if Kelly will be punished, fined, warned. We don’t know if his employers have condemned his actions, reminded him of his responsibilities... maybe even offered him some guidance on what is acceptable.

We don’t know if he’s sorry about it.

We don’t even know, as some who have tried to defend Kelly have pointed out, whether he was provoked, which would hardly seem an excuse if it was. Does anyone think Jamie Carragher wasn’t provoked before he was captured on camera spitting at a fan?

Another defence I saw was, ‘She was probably a KR fan’, which is laughable. Imagine if one of your loved ones returned home and told you a Super League player had called her a whore in McDonald’s. Would your reaction be: ‘That’s terrible, how... wait, which club does he play for?’

No.

I’ve also seen some FC fans saying they are fine with FC keeping everything secret. But, as my colleague Steve Mascord pointed out: “Professional sportsmen are held to the same standards as elected officials because they trade on ‘representing’ a community. You can’t have it both ways – earn money from the illusion of idea and then excuse yourself from it when it suits.”

Yes, Hull may have dealt with it firmly. We don’t know. And their silence, and the RFL’s lack of leadership, sends the wrong message to players, supporters and sponsors.

If rugby league really wants to be treated like other major sports, it’s time officials started to act like them.

Well done to the RFL and the BBC for arranging yesterday’s Challenge Cup draw on Chris Evans’ breakfast show.

This being rugby league, some fans found reason to moan – obviously – but it gave the competition and the sport great exposure.

The Beeb has done a great job with its live-streaming of the early rounds, including Sunday’s entertaining game between York and Catalans which drew a crowd of more than 3,000 to Bootham Crescent.

And this at a time when there are murmurings of cutting the central funding League One clubs receive – York get £75,000 – to funnel more of that cash into the top-flight.

“Some people are worried about the slice of the pie, rather than thinking about the size of the pie,” said York chairman Jon Flatman.

Food, pardon the pun, for thought.

Liam Marshall has an impressive highlights reel and a new four-year deal in his pocket.

Yet he admits that if Wigan didn’t have a reserve team, he would be crunching numbers as an accountant rather than racking up tries.

He reckons that, across the country, there are players who have slipped through the cracks because of the insufficient pathway for young players who are cast aside by clubs once they are too old for the Under-19s.

At a time when Super League is finding it harder and harder to sign top overseas players, I find it disheartening that only two Super League clubs – Wigan and Wakefield – choose to operate reserve sides.

Frank Paul Nuuausala’s interview in Australia was, erm, interesting to say the least.

And it caught a few by surprise. Sure, his wife had moaned about the ‘terrible club, terrible country’ they had left... but she had posted a similar rant about their previous home, Canberra, too.

But Nuuausala, who many felt had left on good terms, backed that up in an interview last weekend to say Wigan weren’t professional about releasing him from his contract.

“They didn’t want to release me early and they were just trying to play hard ball,” he said.

I’m not quite sure what he expected.

Imagine if the situation was reversed. Imagine if he was playing poorly (stop laughing) and Wigan wanted to cut him free to save some cash, even though he was under contract.

In that circumstance, if the player was training and doing everything asked of him, I’d say he had every right to dig his heels in. He signed the deal in good faith, and it was the club’s fault for offering the terms in the first place.

As it stands, he was the one who wanted an early release, and yet – in his mind – Wigan are at fault for wanting to hold him to the contract?
It can’t work both ways.