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5 Things We Learned #70

Yet another off-field drama

Frankly I’m bored of off-field negativity. It seems like every week there’s another drama to do with the politics of the game, with this week’s instalment being about league structure and how the game’s run. New Super League boss Robert Elstone put a marker down last Tuesday by announcing the scrapping of the Super 8’s, igniting a heated war of words between club chief executives across all three professional leagues.

St Helens’ Eamon McManus and Wigan’s Ian Lenegan seemed to liaise very closely with Elstone, leaving many other club bosses in the dark, even leading Leeds’ Gary Hetherington to call it a ‘mad grab for power’. It’s now looking like no real decision has been made on the Super League structure but I think I speak for all fans in saying it all seems confusing and unnecessary. People wonder why our great sport doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, but how can we grow and move forward when those at the top of the hierarchy can’t even seem to communicate properly? I really hope Elstone is successful but I’m optimistic after this week’s farse.

Referees need common sense

There were a fair few contentious decisions this week, particularly surrounding foul play and discipline. Chris Houston’s unusual dismissal on Thursday is the one that stands out, after he was red carded for sarcastically applauding James Child’s decision to sin bin him.

It’s a really 50/50 call. On one hand it’s harsh to send a player off for what is effectively just dissent, but on the other hand players can’t be seen to get away with disrespecting officials. If nothing else, Child’s decision will hopefully send a message out that players need to think about how they treat referees. The rude ‘football-like’ conduct towards officials is steadily creeping in to our game, so it needs to be stamped out somehow.

On the field is what matters

If there was ever a time for two teams to produce a classic it was this week, and didn’t Leeds and St Helens deliver! With all the off-field drama previously mentioned, it fell to the reigning champions and current league leaders to rescue us all from a turbulent week, with both sides producing performances full of skill, passion and excitement.

Danny Richardson showed nerves of steel to kick the winning drop goal, reiterating why he should be on the plane to Denver, but it was Leeds who impressed more with a gutsy effort despite being without 11 senior players. They played with a fearless attitude that really tested Saints, with their offload count eventually amounting to 29, and were very unlucky not to come away with the win. Such a style works in Super League, so it’s a wonder why they haven’t used it before as that unpredictability makes them really dangerous.

Harsh calls cost Catalans

If I was Steve McNamara, I’d feel very hard done by after Catalans lost 26-25 to Huddersfield on Friday. There were three calls in particular that were very controversial and could have very easily changed the result.

The one that’s made the most noise was the late disallowed try call, although it did seem like there was a knock on in the build-up. Elsewhere, Darnell McIntosh looked to have spilled the ball for his try, while Greg Bird’s knock on in the last minute in front of the sticks was undoubtedly a penalty and would have meant a match-winning two points. It’s a huge knock for the Dragons, as their form in recent weeks has soared after a poor start to the season. They face a quick turnaround against Leeds on Wednesday, so a win is needed to boost their confidence again.

Warrington on the hunt again

Just when things were on the up for Warrington, they were dealt a huge blow on Monday after Tyrone Roberts announced he will be leaving at the end of the season. It’s far from ideal, especially in the long term, and means Steve Price will probably be on the lookout for a new halfback for 2019.

One name that has been mentioned constantly is Kyle Eastmond. The former St Helens man is currently a free agent after being released by rugby union side Wasps, so a return to league could be imminent. I’d love to see him back in league, as he showed real x factor at Saints and his pace and agility are wasted in the 15-man code. It would be harsh on Dec Patton for Price to bring in a new half, but if someone of Eastmond’s quality is available, then Warrington would be stupid to pass up on him.

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