So we finally have the England squad for the upcoming international against Samoa on May 6th.
I’m not going to question the merits of the squad, this has been done by many already on social media especially on the 2 Aussies being selected.
Mind you it’s not the merits of the players in the squad that’s causing the most controversy, it’s the fact that this game will be played alongside a full Super League weekend meaning players will miss a full round of League games at a crucial stage of the season.
Castleford seem to the hardest hit, losing Gale, Hardaker and Mcmeeken for their game against Huddersfield, who have Mcgilvary in the squad, mind you Wigan are losing Williams and O’loughlin and with Leulaui possibly out will have no halves for their game against a Salford side who don’t have any players in the squad.
Leeds also have cause for complaint, they lose Watkins and Hall for their game in France, surely Catalans away is the short straw if this concept is to be continued.
So is it right, yes maybe it could have been a free weekend as it is in the NRL ( Australia play the Anzac Test against New Zealand the same weekend) , problem here though is that it would then become an extra fixture for players who are playing enough already, and for all it does seem harsh on the clubs who’ve lost players the only way to grow our sport is internationally.
With a world cup only 6 months away it’s vital our players have an opportunity to play together mid season as the Aussies and Kiwis do, in fact the Aussies also have the benefit of Origin to get more representative experience.
If flying the players to the other side of the world is the only way to do it then so be it, as a Wigan fan it’s annoying to lose 2 key players but we have to think beyond that, the future of the game has to be put before club loyalty. It’s crucial that England get to the final of the World Cup and we have to give them every helping hand possible.
It’s going to be harsher on some, mind you I write this whilst we’re still unsure what the Samoans plan to do there could yet be more disruption, but I’m happy for the players selected. We’re seeing ironic tweets on one hand people saying their players should be in the squad but then bemoaning the fact they’ll lose players for a game. It seems Bennett agreed to picking a maximum of 3 players per squad, this seems fair enough for now but would be hard to justify if central contracts came in.
This is surely the next step to central contracts, which I feel is necessary to protect players from burn out, and could be critical in allowing players to stay in Super League as part of their wages could be met by the governing body, putting less pressure on a clubs salary cap, clubs could recruit knowing they could lose players for an amount of time.
Sports like Cricket and Union carry on regardless when England play so I have no real problem with this, I do though have a problem with the decision to stream the game live for a fee.
The game, which we are led to believe the BBC were willing to show free, is to be streamed at a fee for fans of £3.49. If you buy a ticket for magic weekend you can watch it free ( surely fans buying Summer Bash tickets should get the same concession).
How is this supposed to grow the game? I can’t imagine any non RL fan will pay to watch it so the game will be limited to RL fans who pay enough for a Sky subscription as it is.
Surely it would have been better to have the game live on national terrestrial television on a Saturday morning? The viewing figures for the 4 Nations were very encouraging, proving that there is an appetite for international RL, and we could have capitalised on this by making this game available to all. I accept it’s only the price of a pint but it’s not going to reach the new audience our great game craves and deserves.