Castleford hosted Widnes on Sunday, almost seven years to the day since the same two sides met in National League One. Back then, both sides were seen as Super League clubs in all but name, the Tigers eventually going on to become the last team to be promoted, despite losing that day at The Jungle.
Since then, licensing has come and gone, and you could say these two stand at opposite ends of the scale – Widnes have of course benefited from licensing, earning their Super League place, and then showing encouraging progress over the past few years, while Castleford are still playing at the same old ground that licensing was meant to eradicate.
But who cares? Rugby league is a sport, and what happens on the pitch is all that should matter. Castleford are playing great rugby, with a good core of young, British players, playing for a British coach who has done a remarkable job in his 12 months in charge, and the club remains at the heart of its community, something that a lot of heartland clubs can no longer claim. It’s perhaps ironic that despite the removal of supposed security of licensing, Castleford are thriving, and with a new stadium perhaps finally on the horizon, on a path to somewhere even greater.
Keep the faith, Doctor
Following the weekend’s results, Castleford have now got more than double the points of Salford. I’m not sure that’s how Dr Koukash envisaged things going when he agreed to loan Marc Sneyd to the Tigers, as part of the deal that saw Rangi Chase go the other way.
After his significant investment and bold statements ever since the start of his tenure, Dr Koukash must be the most frustrated man in Super League at the moment, perhaps with the exception of Francis Cummins.
But he must keep the faith. The people of Salford are yet to really get behind the project – although the inaccessibility of the ground must be a factor in that too – but it really must be seen as a long-term plan to establish Salford as a top club.
It was always going to be difficult to bring together a new squad and be successful straight away, and time is needed to develop a culture and team spirit within the camp. Koukash has put his faith in Iestyn Harris – who has now won only one of his last 20 games as a head coach for Crusaders, Wales and Salford – and he now needs to give the coach and squad time to gel.
While results of late haven’t been good, the reality is the Red Devils are only five points away from the play-offs, and it certainly isn’t beyond their reach. Reaching the top eight this season will still be an achievement, even if it is a far cry away from where the Doctor would like to be.
We get a lot of comments on the site and Facebook about Salford and Dr Koukash. It’s been brought to my attention that he is now the recipient of some quite vile abuse on Twitter from supposed fans of rugby league.
Don’t get at Dr Koukash for showing ambition. For putting money where his mouth is. There is no perfect way to attain success. And whatever his motives, Dr Koukash deserves respect as a true personality of rugby league. As a sport, we lack characters. We lack the ability to shout about who we are and what we’ve got. The good Doctor has got that, so regardless of whether you think what he’s doing is right or not, let’s drop the personal abuse through Twitter.
When is a try not a try?
When it’s on TV. We all saw the tries ruled out by the video referee this weekend, but I also saw tries that were given that probably wouldn’t have stood had they been in televised matches. You may have seen my story with Francis Cummins last week, stating that the video referee needs to be introduced at all games. That must be a priority – if of course, the video refs can start getting it right too.
I fear the game is stumbling towards a refereeing crisis. Week after week we’re seeing basic errors and inconsistencies, and something needs to be done. Even with the aid of technology, we’re still seeing errors being made. It makes the game look unprofessional, and it’s turning off fans.
Do you think we’re heading for a refereeing crisis? What’s the solution?