Recently it was announced that Leeds City Council have approved plans to redevelop Headingley Carnegie Stadium. It is fantastic news not only for Leeds Rhinos, but for their sister rugby union club Yorkshire Carnegie and the Yorkshire County Cricket Club. It’s a giant step forward for all involved that the grand old stadia will finally be upgraded, to propel itself into the bracket of world class stadiums once again. Some fans don’t agree with the change, as they feel it takes away from the character and history of the Headingley ground; but the changes must be made to modernise the venue. Unfortunately, the stadium in its current state is stuck in the past and once the changes have been made then it’ll be better for everyone long term.
Over the weekend many friendly matches were played out, with a couple of performances catching the eye from the younger generation. Firstly, Wakefield battled back from 30-4 down to edge out Castleford 32-30. And Leeds’ fringe side nicked a seven-point win against Hunslet 21-14, in the Harry Jepson OBE Memorial Cup. Both games showcased strong academy structures; with Wakefield’s comeback showing great character, but Castleford’s youngsters doing themselves no harm in putting up a solid fight, in place of regular first teamers. The Leeds game had several ex-Leeds players playing for Hunslet, as Joe Sanderson stood out for the Hawks. The young Rhinos, captained by Liam Sutcliffe, did themselves proud in Adrian Morley’s first game as a coach.
After seemingly years, Bradford Bulls have new owners in Andrew Chalmers and Graham Lowe. This is great news, for the immediate future of the club and the remaining players. However, it has left a few bad and potential ugly points that need discussing.
So, it was announced that Bradford ‘Bulls’ have new owners. Unfortunately, only 18 players remain after several walked away from a struggling and frankly terrible situation. And not even the coach was safe as yesterday he posted a goodbye message on social media. The owners say they want an experienced coach, who that is remains to be seen with reports yesterday linking Henry Paul with the role, rumours the ex-Bulls player has since quashed. So not only does the club have very limited players but also no coach, and despite the new owners, the gloom doesn’t seem too far away again.
Michael McIlorum has had his fair share of injuries in recent times, with him missing most the 2016 season. However, a glimmer of hope was offered to fans as he announced he may be coming back to action for his testimonial game against Leigh. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem the case – and he looks set to miss the game. It is almost unheard of that a player would miss their own testimonial match, but I’m sure the 17 players picked for the game will do Micky Mac justice.
NRL legend Jonathan Thurston has confirmed all our fears by saying he’ll retire from international rugby league after the 2017 World Cup in Australia. So, if you haven’t seen him live, you ought to get saving for a trip down under, because time to see this immense talent is vastly running out.
I’ve covered the Bradford story at length, and even breaking it down into its very own ‘Good, Bad and Ugly’ segments. However, what still baffles my mind is why the players of the Bulls – former employees or not – were left to find out via social media about their futures? Surely, the players, fans and staff deserve better than that! They went unpaid for at least two months, pointed out by Leon Pryce, who elaborated on the story from his side of the fence in a recent tweet. But why is it like this? Even with new owners, 2017 looks to be a bleak one with a 12-point deduction and a current shortage of players, despite the owners stating otherwise, sound familiar?
Down Under for my next two ugly points as Jarrod Mullen, the Newcastle Knights half-back, has tested positive for steroids. And Brisbane centre, James Roberts has been accused of forcefully pulling a woman’s hair at a night club, in the Gold Coast. Firstly, another NRL player testing positive for drugs is not good for the game. There have been too many instances recently that raise serious questions about the credibility of the NRL and those that participate in it, at least from a drug testing point of view. Taking drugs to enhance your performance or otherwise shouldn’t even be in the thoughts of the players of the NRL, as they are fantastic athletes in a great competition – there’s no need to cheat to be good at your job!
Secondly, James Roberts is another player throwing his career away because of a stupid incident. He’s a solid player for a big Sydney club, with a great career ahead of him, why risk that. Not only does it ruin his reputation but that of the Broncos club that he plays for. I can’t imagine Wayne Bennett will be too impressed by this situation, especially when you consider all the bad press the NRL is getting recently in regards to fighting and dangerous incidents. Something has to be done to maintain the professionalism in what is meant to be the best rugby league competition in the world.