Editor’s column: All Nou Camp occasion was missing was a new trophy

Photo courtesy of Stewart Frodsham

The sight of the famous Challenge Cup trophy with its Super League equivalent pitch side at the Nou Camp was a victory in itself for rugby league.

A record regular season crowd for Super League – 31,555 – and a win for Catalans in front of a partisan crowd added to the occasion between the holders of the two biggest trophies in the northern hemisphere.

With talk now about taking further games on the road – how about bringing back a Charity Shield type trophy to give to the winner of the regular season match between the Super League and Challenge Cup winners in the following season?

Sure, Catalans aren’t going to win one of the two trophies every year which perhaps rules out the Nou Camp being used regularly, but if say Warrington and St Helens were to win the two trophies this season, take one of their meetings next season on the road.

It would still count as a regular Super League match, but a trophy would be given at the end of it as the Charity Shield or “Super Cup” style winners, which would also help with the marketing efforts surrounding the game.

When asked about the Charity Shield idea, Catalans coach Steve McNamara said: “It was strange as it happened by accident. When we were speaking about playing at the Nou Camp and who we might play, we had various options. I’m sure every club would have liked to have come.

“With our strong relationship with Wigan, we chose them for this game and it just so happened that they won the Grand Final.

“It’s a great concept to come out to the two main trophies in the domestic game sat side by side.

“It’s a great talking point for the neutral. We’re not guaranteed we’ll have a trophy every year of course, but it really has been a success.”

Rugby league needs to do more talking up about itself, rather than always asking questions and overthinking about everything it does.

The reason the League Leaders’ Shield, for instance, is so undermined is because the trophy is pathetic and everyone talks it down.

If people talked it up for the achievement it was, and it became something to be proud of, then all of a sudden there would be three major trophies to play for.

Add the charity shield, and there’s another.

The Charity Shield previously run for 10 years from 1985 until the start of Super League.

Games were played on the Isle of Man, Dublin, Swansea and Gateshead, though perhaps most notable in 1989/90 when Widnes beat Wigan at Anfield.

Wigan were of course regular players in the event, winning it in 1985/86, 1987/88, 1991/92 and 1995/96, as well as losing it in the aforementioned match against Widnes, in 1988/89 and 1990/91 also against Widnes, and then 1992/93 against St Helens.

Halifax beat Castleford in 1986/87, while it wasn’t played for in 1993/94 and 1994/95.

The match had barely finished on Saturday and people were asking what next for rugby league in Spain.

A Super League record crowd and the fact rugby league was played at the Nou Camp should be more than enough, for now.

Rather than looking for criticisms, take events at face value and embrace them. Too often are we guilty of trying to force things.

Attention must turn now to ensuring Anfield isn’t the damp squib that some people seem desperate to turn it into.

Wigan haven’t had the best six months for a variety of reasons, but at least they aren’t Leeds, who are in all sorts of trouble at the bottom end of the table.

Talk of a relegation scrap is a bit premature in my opinion, though a defeat against London Broncos at Magic Weekend will certainly change that.

That fixture now becomes probably the stand out game in Liverpool, and who would have thought that when the fixtures were drawn.

In some ways, Leeds should perhaps be relieved that they are pitted against the Broncos, and not say a St Helens, Wigan or Castleford.

Their woes were perhaps best summed up by two incidents in their defeat to Castleford on Thursday night.

First, captain Kallum Watkins was sinbinned for a fierce tackle on Greg Eden that was deemed illegal by referee Ben Thaler. It was a borderline challenge, probably one that would have been applauded 10 years ago, but nowadays is a penalty even if a yellow card may have been harsh.

The jury is out on Watkins as a captain, especially as he tries to find form following a long injury lay-off, though you can’t question his heart – this tackle maybe being a consequence of trying too hard.

The other incident was the one where a mouthy Trent Merrin conceded a penalty for dissent, just as Richie Myler kicked the Rhinos forward on the last tackle.

The score was poised at 18-8 at this point, and you felt that Leeds did have a foothold in the game.

Instead of turning Castleford around in their own 20 metres, they conceded a penalty close to half way, and from it, the Tigers stretched their lead to 24-8 effectively ending the game as a contest.

In these difficult times, Leeds can ill-afford their most experienced and best – if we’re judging by salary of course – players to be committing such avoidable sins.

Kevin Sinfield appeared to put faith in Richard Agar, implying that the need for stability would see Agar remain at the helm until the end of the season, but the next few weeks are pivotal.

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