Crabtree calls for international overhaul

Former Huddersfield Giants and England forward Eorl Crabtree believes the international fixture list needs to be shaken up if England are to progress in the right direction.

The 34-year old announced his retirement from the game last week after spending the past 16 years in Super League with the Giants.

Crabtree also played 14 Tests for his country between 2004 and 2010.

England‘s drought at international level has continued with last weekend’s loss to Australia seeing them miss out on the Four Nations final.

Crabtree says things need to change for the national team.

“They can’t just play one game and then go into a game against Australia,” he told Love Rugby League.

“They need those bigger, competitive games where they really have to work and think about things because it’s like a friendly every time.

“I thought they actually competed against Australia at the beginning but it’s the unforced errors which were the disappointing thing.

“I think if the game over here strengthens and gets tougher and they’re more competitive I don’t think those mistakes will happen as much.

“Unfortunately a couple of the mistakes were from lads that were playing in Australia as well.”

Crabtree admits the domestic season needs to compromise if the international side is to make any headway.

“We need to take away a few of the Super League games to be able to put a few more in and it’s a bit of a sacrifice,” he said.

“I don’t it will hamper the domestic game because you give the lads a bye week for an international weekend and then it allows everybody else to rest up.

“I think it could actually work and be beneficial for both parties.”

Whilst new coach Wayne Bennett may not have guided England to the Four Nations final, Crabtree admits he is the one person who can change their fortunes.

“Wayne Bennett has got a big job to do but if anyone can it is him,” he said.

“We’d love to see some improvement sooner rather than later.

“He has got the tools, he has got the experience and I hope he has got the persona because he is an intimidating figure for a lot of people.”

Crabtree spent his whole career at Huddersfield, debuting for the club back in 2001. The prop from Meltham retired recently with a year on his contract.

Crabtree was offered a place in the Giants’ marketing team, which he said was hard to resist.

“I was quite happy and willing to go on but I was also looking to the future as well,” he admitted.

“The club offered me an opportunity to move into the marketing and commercial side of the game which is something I wanted to do in the long-term.

“I would’ve loved to have served that last year but this was an opportunity I found hard to turn down so the decision was quite an easy one in the end.”

Crabtree believes there should be more players that consider going into the commercial side of the game once they hang up their boots.

“I don’t think there are enough ex-Super League players that are in these roles in the first place which disappoints me to a certain degree,” he said.

“I just want to keep working as hard as I can off the field now to raise the profile as much as I did on the field.

“Now it’s my opportunity to try and do that for Huddersfield Giants and try and get people through the gates.”

When asked to pick out a defining moment of his career, Crabtree found it hard to single out one particular moment but described a few, including his first appearance for the Giants.

“My debut at London was fantastic and that’s what I always dreamed about as a kid,” he said.

“That’s what I always wanted to do it wasn’t really about winning trophies as such.

“It was about playing Rugby League for Huddersfield Giants and playing at a top level which I did from 18 so I was very fortunate.”

Huddersfield’s victory over Leeds Rhinos in the semi-final of the 2006 Challenge Cup was also another defining moment.

“The semi-final win against Leeds Rhinos was probably one of the standout games,” he said.

“We were massive underdogs. We should never have won that game.”

Last season saw Huddersfield finish bottom of the Super League table, which coincided with what Crabtree admitted was a really difficult time in his career.

“I had a groin operation only three games into the season which affected everything that I did,” he said.

“Unfortunately I broke my ribs in the last few games and even though I managed to play 20 odd games it wasn’t the season that the club and I would have wanted.”

A Danny Brough drop goal secured Huddersfield’s Super League status without having to negotiate the Million Pound Game, which was a frightening prospect for Crabtree.

“To be put in that position almost entering the Million Pound Game was a very scary thought and not something that I’d ever want to revisit,” he said.

“It’s a kick up the backside for everyone at the club and hopefully we can put things right next season.”

When asked to pick the best player he has come up against, he refused to pick one individual and instead highlighted numerous players.

“I have been very fortunate to play against the likes of Darren Lockyer, Billy Slater and Greg Inglis,” he said.

“The Bradford team which included [Lesley] Vainikolo was ridiculous and the scariest I have played against, bearing in mind I was only 20 years old.”

Whilst Crabtree has a real appreciation for the flair players of rugby league, he acknowledges the hard work done by the forwards.

“As a prop you realize what the middle guys do,” he said. “

“The ones that just do the hard graft and don’t get the limelight.

“I think those guys are the unsung heroes and the best players.”

Huddersfield will be hoping to be Super League contender next season and put the disappointment of 2016 behind them.

Crabtree believes a few more signings are needed for 2017.

“At the moment it’s probably going to be better than it was last year, with the injuries we had,” he said.

“I still expect them to spend wisely and get a couple more players to strengthen the team because it could be another tough year if we don’t do that.

“When you play in a team for Stoney [coach Rick Stone] he wants you to play in a certain way and the only way to do that is to get them in early door and practice it.

“He will be quite structured in the way he does things but I’d expect to see some good rugby as well.”

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