To be honest the appointment isn’t exactly an inspiring one. Smith was the boss at Huddersfield Giants when they suffered the drop into the Northern Ford Premiership, although to his credit he got them back up again. Still, that was with a full-time squad in a league of part-timers.
His spell at Leeds Rhinos was certainly triumphant when he led the Rhinos to a Super League win in 2004, followed by claiming the World Club Challenge. But, apart from that, achievement has been thin in the ground at Headingley Carnegie Stadium in recent years; Smith has not been a total success.
All that said, the question has to be asked: was there anyone better out there? I can’t think of anyone. Many names were thrown around, such as Shaun McRae, Paul Cullen and Karl Harrison – but are these really coaches of the stature and ability to ensure Great Britain’s success?
McRae didn’t achieve much at Hull, and it took the arrival of John Kear and then Peter Sharp to turn the club into serious title-contenders. Cullen has never seemed to get his Warrington sides to match their potential. Karl Harrison is struggling to keep his Salford side afloat this time around.
Great Britain really needs the likes of a Daniel Anderson or a Wayne Bennett to take the helm. But that’s hardly likely to happen. A coach at a successful club side will not give that up to take on a job where the odds are so painfully stacked against.
So we’re left with Tony Smith. We’ve all had our turn at pointing out the downside to his appointment now, so when the time rolls around let’s just give him our support. Only that way does he stand any chance of doing the job we all want him to do.
Up for the Cup
The Carnegie Challenge Cup draw did a great job of keeping engage Super League clubs apart from one another, so this is a weekend when we’ll all be looking out for the shock results to entertain us. It’s unlikely that a National League club could topple super League opposition, but it’s not impossible.
The greatest likelihood falls to Widnes Vikings, who welcome Wigan Warriors to the Halton Stadium. With several former Warriors in their ranks the Vikings will be up for this one, and will want to send a message to their National League rivals. Wigan will probably prove too strong – but expect a close game.
Favourites for the NL1 title Castleford Tigers are another possibility when they take on a Bradford Bulls side that were rocked by Catalans Dragons at the weekend. Whatever happens in these two games, hopefully we’ll see how the strength of the National Leagues on display.
Co-Op National League
Speaking of the National Leagues, it’s good to see that a sponsor has finally emerged for the competitions, from the United Co-Op.
Sponsorship by the United Co-Op is good news for everyone: it means that much-needed revenue goes to the leagues, and an association with a community-orientated society projects an image in keeping with rugby league generally.
Hopefully the relationship will prove a success, particularly now that the National Leagues will get the exposure they have so unfairly lacked on Sky Sports.
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