Talking RL: The real reason I'm looking forward to this derby...

It's been 18 years since I last watched a Wigan game without a notepad, pen and laptop in front of me.

Thursday, 19th July 2018, 8:43 am
Kris Radlinski after the stunning win against Bradford in 2000
Kris Radlinski after the stunning win against Bradford in 2000

I think it was the game when Renouf broke and Radlinski scored and Wigan celebrated.

Since then, every game I’ve watched has been in a professional capacity – but that changes tonight.

As it is my 40th birthday, I’ve taken the day off work... and I’ll be going to the DW Stadium.

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I realise a few people may think that I’m sad. Actually, quite a lot might!

But I’ve not had a beer watching Wigan since 2000 and I’ve never been to a match with my wife and three children.

I’d look forward to the derby under any circumstance, but this was especially.

The press box can be a soul-less place, with everyone rushed and conversations hushed.

I’m looking forward to being able to yell again!

Manchester United player Alexis Sanchez has reportedly missed out on their summer tour of USA because he couldn’t get a visa due to a previous conviction.

Don’t be surprised to start seeing cases like this in rugby league as Toronto Wolfpack begin mixing it with the top sides.

From what I understand, players with criminal convictions – including drink-driving – can not fly to Canada until five years after they have served their punishment.

This season, some Championship clubs have had to leave players at home because they have not been able to get them visas.

Those incidents have gone largely unnoticed, but that could change in the Qualifiers in a few weeks’ time.

Imagine the scenario: A big Super League club needs to win in Toronto to avoid the Million Pound Game... and yet can’t get visas for a couple of their best players.

I sense trouble ahead.

Got to love rugby league.

Only two professional competitions in the entire world, and it can’t even sort out an international calendar.

Just when we thought the Lions were being revived for a tour Down Under next year, along come the Aussies to propose their own set of fixtures – which features a Kangaroos tour of these shores next season!

Imagine this in any other sport? Of course not.

If this smacks of arrogance from the Aussies, it also indicates what they really think of the toothless Rugby League International Federation.

An organisation, remember, headed up by John Grant and Nigel Wood, who were nudged out of the NRL and RFL respectively.

And yet they have to try and fix this.

What a mess.

Ralph Rimmer has been appointed the chief executive of the Rugby Football League.

He was formerly chief operating officer and had been working as interim CEO since Nigel Wood was nudged out – with a £300,000-plus pay-off.

His appointment smacked me as being, at best, uninspiring.

I’m reminded of the story about a man who got married his next door neighbour and proclaimed: “What are the odds of finding the best girl in the world living next door?”

And what are the odds of the RFL finding the best chief executive to lead the organisation, actually already leading it?

A blessing, I suppose, is that heading up the RFL is no longer the role it once was. Not now the Super League clubs have taken control of the competition and appointed Robert Elstone as their own CEO.

Rimmer has an early chance to win over the doubters; by defusing the off-field row since the Super League shake-up and getting all the clubs in the sport pulling in the same direction.I sincerely wish him all the best.

Ian Lenagan says one of the problems with the Super-8s structure is it puts the focus on the bottom, rather than the top. And I think he’s right.

Tonight, Wigan face St Helens, 1st v 2nd.

Yet it’s no surprise a lot are more interested in what is happening among the clubs at the bottom of the ladder. And I can’t see it changing over the next few weeks.

Not with the top Championship clubs looking vibrant and the bottom Super League clubs vulnerable. Is it possible that there will be more intrigue in the Qualifiers than the elite competition?

A colleague who follows the Championship closely says new Wigan signing Chris Hankinson was one of the stand-out players in the competition, despite Swinton struggling at the bottom of the table.

Good luck to him.

Jake Connor has been sidelined by a long-term injury. What a real shame.

Connor, Joe Burgess, Liam Farrell, Kallum Watkins and Ben Currie are among the best players in Super League. And all are out for the rest of the season.