Crusaders, crowds, WCC and new signings

We are now seeing the results of the RFL wanting things to ‘get by’ in the present rather than flourish in the future. The Crusaders were surely thrown into the Super League fire to early in their short existence and as a result, dilemma after dilemma on and off the field has haunted the Welsh club throughout the whole of 2009.

The current problem they face is a £60,000 fine for the visagate fiasco that led to the deportation of six of their top players. The RFL cannot even confirm where the Crusaders will be playing at next year. The Crusaders may have been a good club in the Championship and an opportunity for Rugby League to progress in Wales but these reasons have proved not a solid enough basis on which to award them a licence. We need to spread our great game but he Crusaders needed more time to develop a strong fan base and develop as a club and expansion supporters will be hoping that the Welsh club come out of this stronger.

Despite the improved product of Super League helping increase attendances over recent years, Harlequins keep struggling to pull in the numbers in the capital. It’s always been a struggle for the hard-working team in London, but their crowds of just under 3,500 last season were disappointing. The RFL has now stepped in and warned the London club
that their franchise chances for 2012 rest on an improvement in their attendances.

Yet there is no real reason for their struggle with crowds, they play an attractive, skilful style of football, they are always in the fight for a play off place and participation of our great game is bigger than ever in the south. Too much work is going into the playing of the game rather than the watching of it. Thousands of kids play League in London yet most of them have no idea when, where or if the Quins are playing! If attendances don’t improve the Harlequins may be plying their trade in the Championship come 2012.

The World Club Challenge tickets are on sale. As always the same old questions are being asked – ‘do the Aussies actually take this seriously?’ ‘When will it be played in Australia?’ and my favourite ‘what is the point?’. The WCC is a fantastic concept that the Aussies do take seriously as we saw with Manly last year. They talked the talk in
the build up and they walked out at a freezing Elland Road and turned over a very good Rhinos side with a fantastic display. Leeds will again contest this year’s final against Melbourne – the two sides battled out a blood and guts game two years ago with the Rhinos winning 11-4. Both teams will be very much the same and Melbourne will be on a
revenge mission. It should make for a titanic battle.

I believe the game should be taken abroad – the WCC has enough credibility and history for people to get excited about it. This fixture has produced some epic clashes over the years from the atmosphere at Central Park when Wigan beat Manly in 87 to the all out war that Leeds and Canterbury fought in 2005. Maurice Lyndsey amongst others feel that a game in Dubai would be a chance to spread the game but why not try a venue slightly closer to home? Why not stage the fixture in Dublin or Paris? The right stadium and the promotion would get a big crowd and promote League in the French capital, who knows it may lead to a much rumoured Paris Super League franchise in future years.

There have been a few surprise signings for the 2010 so far, none more so than Paul Deacon’s switch to Wigan. In the long term this is a good investment for the Warriors with promising young halfbacks in Sam Tomkins and Joe Mellor coming through, Deacons experience and guidance will be priceless. But will moving Thomas Leuluai from 7 to 9 impact on the progress of promising hooker Michael McIllorum?

Some Bradford fans’ reaction to their signing of Matt Orford has surprised me. Many see it as a bad move
because he is too old. He may be past 30 but he is in no way past it, after tearing Leeds apart in the WCC last year, he was one of the best halfbacks in the NRL once again and will be in without a doubt one the best players
in Super League 15.

Warrington have made some great signings but can they build upon their Challenge Cup win in Super League? Only time will tell but in Richie Myler, Ryan Atkins and David Solomona they have purchased three top quality players. Myler will
develop into a better player now he is playing behind a bigger pack and playing in a play off team and on the back of that players like Atkins and Bridge can only flourish from Myler’s distribution. Don’t be surprised if Warrington mix it with the big boys in 2010.

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