Five things we learned from this week #56

Danny Richardson Saints

Plenty of promise for England

Wednesday’s England announcement reminded me just how bright our future looks. The reintroduction of the Knights concept will do wonders for the confidence and experience of our up-and-coming players, while its good to see 12 different English clubs represented.

London Broncos hooker James Cunningham.

The likes of Chris Atkin, Niall Evalds and Reece Lyne haven’t been overlooked and neither has James Cunningham, who has been ripping it up in the Championship with London. As for the senior squad, one name that stands out is Tom Johnstone. His selection is long overdue after last year’s injury, so it’s pleasing to see him rewarded for this season’s good form.

 

Richardson going from strength to strength

What a week for the 21-year-old! He backed up Wednesday’s England Knights selection with a blockbusting performance against Warrington, racking up 14 of his side’s 30 points. It was always a gamble for Justin Holbrook to back him ahead of Matty Smith, but it’s a gamble that’s paying off.

Saints’ assistant coach Sean Long has sung Richardson’s praises since he started in the academy, and the youngster has clearly absorbed plenty of his coach’s traits. The sidesteps for Percival’s first and third tries, for example, were similar to that of Long in his heyday. Richardson has bags of talent and with the right nurturing, could become world class.

 

NRL is back!

The Australian competition returned this weekend, with some absolutely blockbusting games. Two matches were won by margins of just two points, while Newcastle v Manly boiled down to golden point, with Mitchell Pearce kicking a drop-goal to win it for the Knights.

The usual contenders in Melbourne and North Queensland should be up there come seasons end, but there are plenty of outside bets. St George Illawarra blitzed Brisbane, while Wests Tigers and Newcastle both have their strongest squads in years. Parramatta are another team that should be competing but need to have a rethink after losing to Penrith. Either way, the NRL is promising to be as exciting as ever in 2018.

 

League 1 quality rising

In this weekend’s League 1 round, no less than 52 of the players involved had Super League experience. That’s in addition to seven players contracted to Super League clubs but yet to make their debuts, players who have previously come through Super League academy systems, young players chomping at the bit for an opportunity and lower league veterans who are still going strong.

The likes of Ryan Bailey, Ben Cockayne, Graeme Horne and Jordan Tansey all featured, in a competition that is increasing in quality every season. Even the traditionally ‘less dominant’ clubs are looking strong. Newcastle Thunder thrashed London Skolars 60-16, with homegrown stars Lewis Young and Tom Shaw starring. The one let-down for the competition the attendances, which still aren’t improving. It’s probably quite low in the RFL’s priority list, but an Eddie Hearn Matchroom spice-up could be just what it needs.

 

SL gets its first female official

It was International Women’s Day this week and rugby league had its own part to play. In Sunday’s game between Wigan and Wakefield, in-goal judge Tara Jones became Super League’s first ever female on-field official.

It’s great to see and is a big step forward for women in our game altogether, especially with the women’s game growing so quickly. The seven-team women’s Super League kicks off at the start of next month, with Featherstone Rovers Ladies playing Leeds Rhinos Women. What’s even better about that fixture is that it plays as a curtain raiser to Featherstone men’s game with Dewsbury. More double header fixtures like that are exactly what the women’s game needs to get the support and publicity it deserves.