Talking RL: Nou adventure will provide real boost to Super League

You know it’s a crazy world when a Super League record crowd is set to be broken... in Barcelona!
Zak Hardaker celebrates his try at Wire which indicated Wigan are back as a real forceZak Hardaker celebrates his try at Wire which indicated Wigan are back as a real force
Zak Hardaker celebrates his try at Wire which indicated Wigan are back as a real force

Wigan are playing at the Nou Camp this weekend – it still hasn’t really sunk in!

Some, I’m sure, will point out even a 30,000 crowd at Saturday’s match with Catalans wouldn’t even be a third of the stadium’s capacity. Let them be miserable swines.

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The fact a competition based mainly in the north of England is set to get a new record crowd in Spain is fantastic.

For those at the ground, it promises to be a great

occasion – watching their sides, their sport, at the venue where Messi and his mates have cast their legacies.

Will it win over new,

Spanish fans? Who knows. For me, that’s not the point – it’s a great treat for those going over and, back home, it’s a wonderful tool to remind people what Super League is about.

It’s easy for rugby league fans to live in their own bubble at times – they arguably have access to more stories, more podcasts, more videos, more debate platforms than ever.

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But Super League is operating against a current of other sports growing, pushing, developing. And if it just does what it has always done, if it treads water, it will get swept further down stream.

It needs to fight back, it needs to push the envelope, it needs to look at ways to cut through, to appeal to those who aren’t already fans. And this game has already done that.

It needs to be on national TV and radio and it needs clips to be shared widely on social media.

This will give the competition a much needed shot of excitement and relevance.

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It has been set-up as the battle of the champions – Challenge Cup winners against Grand Final victors – but in truth, Wigan were invited back in September. If last Sunday’s Challenge Cup game is any indication, we can rely on Wigan to turn up and deliver the goods. And Catalans, on their day, are sizzling to watch.

Can we at least all agree it should have been a try.

As in, if video referee Robert Hicks policed the rules correctly, then the rules – the interpretation of what is a defending player making a knock-on – needs to be changed.

Because Kris Radlinski was right.

Thomas Leuluai’s shot on Blake Austin, which dislodged the ball, was the type of play which should be a selling point for rugby league.

And to be clear, this is not a moan because of the result (personally, I thought Wigan later got a fortunate ruling in their favour).

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Wigan only had themselves to blame for some of their errors late on – and there were some poor errors.

Yet in spite of that, I came away from the HJ Stadium richly encouraged and thoroughly entertained. Wigan had intent and style.

It was a cracking match, which suggested Wigan are getting close to becoming a real force again.

Good luck to Ryan Sutton as he prepares to play in NRL’s ‘Battle of Britain’ on Saturday morning.

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There were a few who questioned whether he would cut it Down Under. In fairness, higher-profile players have struggled. But Sutton has played an integral role for Canberra, his game has come on strides, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him in the Test squad later this year.

Sean O’Loughlin wants to play on next year.

Those who say he is – inevitably, at 36 – perhaps not the force he once was miss the point; Lockers at 70 per cent, says Adrian Morley, is still better than most players in Super League!

And I thought that was typified on Sunday. Moz, Steve Menzies and Jamie Peacock all played well into their late-30s. I see no reason why Lockers shouldn’t, either.