5 Things We Learned #98

Dragons taking a stand

Fair play to Catalans for taking a stand against the RFL in attempting to renegotiate the frankly farcical £500k deposit to enter the Challenge Cup this year. The RFL demanded the club, along with Toronto and Toulouse who have subsequently been forced to pull out, to pay the money after being down almost £800k on projected figures after the Dragons reached – and won – the competition. The Dragons have refused to the pay the fee but still hope to take part in 2019.

If this doesn’t sum up the ludicrous way the British game is run then I don’t know what does. What use has the RFL inviting expansion clubs into the competition if they don’t have contingency plans for if they just so happen to win it. Catalans, in particular, have done a superb job in promoting the game and bringing people into the sport – they’ve got a game happening at the Nou Camp for goodness sake! I really hope the Rugby Football League for once see sense and drop the fee altogether, because it would be a loss to the sport if Catalans are absent.

New year, new Super League

We’ve sort of known about them for a while, but on New Year’s Day Super League released full details of the new rule changes for 2019. Golden point, a shot-clock and reduced interchanges are the main changes and should make for more entertaining and faster-paced games in 2019.

I’ve long been an advocate of the shot-clock, so I’m pleased it’s finally been brought in. I, like most fans, am tired of players taking liberties when it comes to a stoppage in play, such as feigning injuries or throwing the ball away so that will hopefully be discouraged. I’m also thrilled about golden point. Some of the best NRL games have come as a result of extra time and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a last-gasp drop goal or try? Either way it’s great to see Super League looking to make the game even quicker and I’m sure the new rules will make for even better viewing in 2019.

Big blow for Cas

The season hasn’t even started yet and Castleford already have an injury crisis on their hands! There were doubts about whether Luke Gale would make the start of the season as he recovered from knee surgery but it now seems as if he’ll miss the entire campaign, after picking up an achilles injury in training this week.

The club haven’t yet confirmed how long he’ll be out for but it’s certainly not good news. His injury sees even more pressure heaped on young Jake Trueman, who will be relied on to dictate the Tigers’ attack. Daryl Powell will most likely play the 2018 Young Player of the Year alongside Ben Roberts, who is much more of a running half, meaning the organising will be down to Trueman. Powell’s also got Jamie Ellis and Cory Aston waiting in the wings, with the latter due a chance to show what he can do on the back of a man-of-the-match performance against Featherstone last week.

Ward gets his man

The long winded halfback search at London Broncos finally seems to be over. The club confirmed on Friday that they had completed a deal for Warrington youngster Morgan Smith – one of the players I highlighted as a potential target for them in last week’s column.

I think it’s a great move for both parties. The Broncos finally have some stability in their halves, while Smith gets a shot at regular Super League action and will undoubtedly be chomping at the bit to show what he’s capable of. A technically skilled player who reads the game well, the only doubt will be his ability to command a match but that will come with experience. Either way I think it’s a really smart move.

Bradford make statement of intent

I was surprised to see Bradford beat Halifax over the weekend, with the Bulls sending themselves into the Yorkshire Cup semi-finals with a 26-16 win. While both had weakened squads, Fax were certainly the favourites but Bradford were dominant and showed very promising signs heading into the new season.

There’s a very good mix of youth and experience, with George Flanagan and Jordan Lilley standing out. Young fullback Alix Stephenson also looks a prospect and will be pushing for a starting spot after Gregg McNally’s departure on compassionate grounds last week.

I also want to give a big shout out to Fax prop Harry Kidd, who made his club debut on Sunday after missing last season with a knee injury. Kidd was one of the biggest League 1 prospects when he joined from Gloucestershire All Golds last year and is set for a strong breakout season in 2019.