Editor’s column: It’s not the same without fans

James Gordon

James Donaldson (25) of Leeds Rhinos celebrates the win at Full Time following a 13-12 win over Huddersfield Giants.

We’re in a very privileged position as journalists that we can attend matches that are missing a key ingredient – fans.

No doubt the four Super League games on Thursday and Friday would have been even greater spectacles with the backdrop of a packed out stadium, absorbing the excitement and drama.

Instead, being live at the game is an unusual experience. Despite all the drama, all you can hear is the shouts from the pitch – though I should acknowledge that Huddersfield were cheered on all the way by a passionate lady in their director’s box in the narrow defeat to Leeds, with shouts of jubilation and frustration throughout making you yearn for a few thousand more around her.

At least hearing the shouts from the pitch does provide some insight like never before – I particularly enjoyed hearing Shaun Kenny-Dowall’s regular barks from right centre in Hull KR’s tremendous effort against St Helens, “F***ing hell Parcell!” a particular highlight.

In many ways, it’s a shame that when Matty Ashton slid over for Warrington’s winner over Castleford on Thursday that fans at home couldn’t hear the Wolves’ players reaction, but instead you had the artificial fake crowd noise, the novelty of which is now wearing off.

Credit must go to the way that clubs and Super League are managing the process. It’s a pretty seamless experience for press – temperature check on the way in to collect accreditation, and then a clear route to the makeshift press boxes, where tables have been added across the usual seating to accommodate the needs of Sky Sports.

There is no direct contact with players or coaches – with even those at the ground having to attend the virtual press conference via Zoom.

You can also hear virtually all of the Sky Sports commentary from your position, and it was interesting to see a couple of players note that over the weekend.

Speaking of fans, that’s one very good reason for keeping Toronto in Super League.

They’ve been on a PR offensive over recent weeks, with Brian McDermott appearing on Sky Sports over the weekend, as they try to convince the Super League clubs that they are worth another go in 2021.

Whatever your opinion of the Wolfpack, what you can’t take away is the thousands of people that have attended matches, engaged with both the club and rugby league.

For all the talk of finances and logistics that can be determined in the boardroom, there are two key things that rugby league needs – more fans and more players. If those both grow, the rest will follow.

This Twitter thread is worth a look.

It’s surprising to see Simon Woolford leaving Huddersfield at the end of the season. The Giants have been very unfortunate to lose by one-point on three occasions since the restart.

The nature of a salary cap sport means it can take coaches time to get the squad where they want it, and it seemed that Woolford was just about getting there after two years at the helm.

It will be interesting to see where the Giants go next.