Talking RL: The Super League table can quickly change

Seven points. Sounds a lot to make up, right?

Thursday, 22nd June 2017, 11:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 8:52 am
Anyone going to write the Warriors' top-four hopes off yet?

But the picture can quickly change.

Tomorrow night, when Wigan travel to Huddersfield for another ‘must-win’ game – I hate the misuse of that phrase – there are three other games: Hull FC v Wakefield, Leeds v Castleford, St Helens v Salford.

All seven teams have something in common... they’re all above the Warriors in the ladder.

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Which means, inevitably, some will drop points.

Which means, if Shaun Wane’s men keep chipping away, they could soon climb the ladder.

Get the win at the John Smith’s Stadium, they could go sixth and the gap on the top-four would narrow.

Week later, in the round when Wigan host Widnes (finally), six of those leading side are in action against each other again.

More points dropped from the teams above them.

Chip, chip, chip.

Anyone willing to write the Warriors off yet?

I watched Wigan’s win at Warrington back at the weekend and, midway though, I couldn’t help wonder: Is BBC’s coverage of rugby league now better than Sky’s?

It certainly didn’t used to be. The terrestrial footage used to be dull compared to Sky’s slick shows.

But now, I think the Beeb has edged ahead.

Mark Chapman is a likeable presenter, dancing the banter/professional divide efficiently, and I’ve long thought Brian Noble - congratulations on the MBE, by the way - has been a balanced, assured summariser.

Jon Wilkin is surely made for a TV role when he hangs up his boots and, while Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s thick Yorkshire tones can be hard to understand at times, his candour and colourful descriptions add value.

Onto the main coverage, Dave Woods is authoritative and, while I much prefer John Kear to Jonathan Davies, I also understand the latter carries cut-through with other audiences.

I quite like the animated, on-the-pitch preview by Robbie Hunter-Paul (and I’d have incorporated my missus’ maiden name into my own, too, if she had a surname like a Gladiator) - even though I’d have prefered him to keep off the turf during the match.

And I liked how they incorporated both a player mic’ and the video referee’s live comments. All good stuff.

I wondered whether my opinion was influenced by the fact it was a nail-biting, incident-packed game, as well as the ‘freshness’ of different voices after hearing the Sky mob so often.

I’m not one of those who moan too much about Sky’s coverage - other than the lack of it, during the week, following the axing of Backchat and Boots ‘n All.

Brian Carney - despite the fact he once whacked me high in a charity match! - does a fine job, Barrie McDermott can be funny, Terry O’Connor tells it straight and I like, particularly, Jon Wells’ video review, even if it can fall on the gushing side at times.

But Sky used to lead the way - by a distance - with its coverage of rugby league in this country.

Now? I’m not so sure.

Here’s the truth.

I said, tweeted, and reported Stefan Ratchford should have been sinbinned for his trip on Sam Tomkins.

But when it happened, I’ll admit, I thought Sam had dived.

It was only when I watched the replay I realised I’d been wrong.

So I’m not going to join those in lambasting Ben Thaler for making an error.

He made a few.

Of course he did! He’s human!

Just like Joe Burgess – great finishes, by the way – made an error in sailing a restart out on the full. And Ryan Atkins – great take for the first, by the way – messed up with a weak tackle on try-scorer Liam Marshall. And Sam Tomkins – great performance, by the way – made an error when he dropped a high-ball. And Frank-Paul... where do we stop?

Why are players allowed to make mistakes, but we expect perfection from the officials?

I came across an unfamiliar player in the Warrington team-sheet.

Will Dagger.

What a fabulous name! He’s now joined Rangi Chase and Kruise Leeming on Super League’s short but illustrious list of players who sound like they should be Hollywood stuntmen.

Regular readers will know my thoughts on official websites.

Many do a very good job at promoting themselves. But just because they have a website ticker saying ‘news’, it doesn’t mean they report the news!

This week, we learned Wigan have been reprimanded and ordered to pay costs for the farcical fixture switch with Widnes in February.

A cynic may question why the RFL released the statement at 8pm, on a Sunday night but - either way - it’s not on the club’s own website.

And the ‘exclusive’ video interview with Ben Barba on the Super League site doesn’t ask the questions many of us want answering, related to his ban for taking cocaine.

And this isn’t a criticism of these sites, or the people operating them.

Just a reminder of why they exist – to tell fans what they want them to hear and read.