The Queen’s Jubilee will be noteworthy for a double-header round of Championship fixtures, and some are understandably not happy about it.
While only one round was played over the Easter weekend, there will be two rounds played on Thursday and Sunday in the second tier this week.
Halifax and Dewsbury had the foresight to bring their game forward to Tuesday (Halifax won 66-0), while Featherstone and Bradford will have the extra day’s rest as they’ve been selected to play on TV on Monday night.
But it’s a situation that seems quite avoidable.
Prior to the cup final weekend, where every team except the four playing in the two finals had a weekend off, there have been 17 weekends since the start of the season.
A total of 12 rounds of the Championship have been played in that time, with the other five weekends allocated for cup – first Challenge Cup and then the 1895 Cup.
Only Barrow and Sheffield have had games scheduled in all 17 weekends – their round 4 league fixtures against Bradford and Batley were postponed, with Barrow playing the re-arranged game against Bradford on the weekend of April 10, when Sheffield faced Whitehaven in the 1895 Cup preliminary game.
Dewsbury, London, Newcastle and Widnes have had four completely blank weekends, while Batley, Halifax and York have all had three off. Halifax used a fourth free weekend to play their postponed game against Workington.
That doesn’t include the cup final weekend; nor does it include the upcoming international weekend (June 18/19) where all clubs are off too. There had been no Championship games scheduled for the international break due to expectations that more internationals would take place – meaning more second tier players would be required – but only France v Wales has been added to the England v Combined Nations game.
On the weekends of April 10 and May 8, 10 teams weren’t in action – surely sufficient time to have re-arranged one of these double header games for. On March 27, seven teams were free with five in the cup and two playing in a re-arranged game.
For some clubs to not have had a game on 25% of weekends since the start of the season can’t be conducive to growing interest in the season, managing budgets or selling tickets.
While some free weekends could be avoided by not being knocked out of the cup, not everyone can make it through.
Perhaps in future, rounds should be scheduled for the latter rounds of the cup, as is done in football – with any games postponed in those rounds played later in the season. Or perhaps clubs should have greater foresight in bringing games forward when they do get knocked out.
|Batley||3||Mar 27, Apr 10, May 8|
|Bradford||2||Mar 27, May 8|
|Dewsbury||4||Mar 13, Mar 27, Apr 10, May 8|
|Halifax||3||Mar 13, Apr 10, May 8|
|London||4||Mar 13, Mar 27, Apr 10, May 8|
|Newcastle||4||Mar 13, Mar 27, Apr 10, May 8|
|Widnes||4||Mar 13, Mar 27, Apr 10, May 8|
|Workington||2||Apr 10, May 8|
|York||3||Mar 27, Apr 10, May 8|
The games between Barrow v Bradford Batley v Sheffield and Halifax v Workington were postponed on Feb 20. All clubs were off on May 29 due to Challenge Cup final weekend (these aren’t included in free weekend calculations).
|Feb 27||14 in Challenge Cup|
|Mar 13||9 in Challenge Cup (5 no game)|
|Mar 27||5 in Challenge Cup, 2 in re-arranged league game (7 no game)|
|Apr 10||2 in 1895 Cup, 2 in re-arranged league game (10 no game)|
|May 8||4 in 1895 Cup (10 no game)|
Those figures would cause some head-scratching even without the double-header weekend, which raises questions over player welfare of part-time players.Player welfare worries
Barrow captain Jarrad Stack said: “I’m not a big fan of having two games in three days. I think the RFL needs to re-look at it.
“They talk about taking care of players with head knocks and injuries, and we’re playing one of the most brutal sports around, but we’re playing one of the best teams in the competition on the Thursday, then another tough test against Widnes on the Sunday.
“Everyone in the squad will probably get a chance within these two games. It’s a must.
“We’ll potentially pick up injuries there too, so players will just need to be ready when called upon, and give everything they’ve got.
“I’ve got confidence in every single player that we have signed on, but it’s time for each of them to step up within that week.”
Can’t wait for next week and playing 2 games in 4 days – said no part time players EVER!!! Playing a blinder are the rugby league yet again 👏🏼
— Anthony Thackeray (@thacks7) May 25, 2022
Barrow face 1895 Cup winners Leigh on Thursday, before welcoming Widnes to Craven Park on Sunday.
Barrow and Newcastle are the only clubs with two home games across the double-header weekend. Thunder play Featherstone on Thursday and Sheffield on Sunday.
London Broncos have two away games – at Workington on Thursday, live on Premier Sports, and then travel to York on Sunday; as do Bradford who face Widnes and Featherstone away.
Whitehaven host Batley and then go to Dewsbury, while Halifax are away at Leigh on Sunday.
Thursday June 2
- Workington v London (12.30)
- Barrow v Leigh
- Newcastle v Featherstone
- Sheffield v York
- Whitehaven v Batley
- Widnes v Bradford
Sunday June 5
- Barrow v Widnes
- Batley v Workington
- Dewsbury v Whitehaven
- Leigh v Halifax
- Newcastle v Sheffield
- York v London
- Featherstone v Bradford (Mon, 7.45)