1. Carney carnage
Castleford had itheir first game since the Justin Carney situation erupted, a meeting with Huddersfield at the John Smith’s Stadium. Despite getting a great 10-0 lead start, Cas fell to the Giants after the home team took maximum advantage when the Tigers were reduced to 12 men for 10 minutes. It was a brave performance from Cas, who were missing Michael Shenton and Jake Webster along with the suspended Carney, but a tough defeat in the end, which means they are probably be out of the running for Old Trafford.
The Carney drama has come at the worse time possible, if there is such a thing with these cases, in the business end of the season when team unity and team harmony is all-important. According to the grapevine, Carney’s future at the club is untenable and both the players and Daryl Powell want him out. It appears it is up to the board to decide on the winger’s future, but Powell may be even considering walking from the Tigers if they rule that the ‘Tank on the Flank’ will stay at the Jungle. Surely with the offence caused there is no way Carney can stay at Cas, and maybe not even in Super League. Would other players really want him in their team? Imagine the scenario if the Australian joins Catalans or Salford the next time one of those clubs comes to Wheldon Road next year? It could be carnage on the field and in the stands.
2. Twitter tumble
Sky tries its best to stay modern and relevant and their decision to get their TV commentators on Twitter before, during and after their Super League coverage probably seemed a good idea at the time. A lot of rugby league fans and players use Twitter and it is a great way to debate and engage the general issues in the game, as well as for a bit of banter. Sky wanted to engage and interact with Super League supporters by getting viewers to tweet in their questions to their panel, who would then respond via the social media platform. And didn’t they get some doozys sent in.
On Friday night #AskySkyRL some of the pearlers dished up Twitter were the likes of “who the most annoying pundit you’ve worked with on sky sports?”, “just wondering is there a we lick rhinos arse club? You’ve done nothing but beat down saints” and “Do Eddie and Stevo argue a lot while on the job, or save it until they’re in bed together?”. These were just some of the more printable and less offensive tweets that were fired in. Rugby league people generally have a great sense of humour and love to take the piss. This was certainly the case with this #AskSkyRL initiative. Fair play to Sky for having the cojones for giving it a go, but that is the nature of social media, it’s an unpredictable beast that often bites the hand that feeds it.
3. London calling
Wigan’s march into London saw the pie-eaters smash Catalans 42-16 and attract a crowd of 8,101. It was a solid attendance at the Den, in south London, and good on the Warriors for trying something new, but it was down significantly on a normal home crowd at the DW Stadium. Wigan had in 11,448 (Huddersfield), 13,194 (Widnes) and 15,009 (Leeds) fans for their last three home matches in comparison. It would be nice to know how many new fans came to Millwall’s ground for the Catalans clash and how many were regular Warriors fans who travelled down the M1 for it.
London needs top quality rugby league and hopefully it is getting it this year through the Challenge Cup final and the England vs New Zealand test series game at the Olympic Stadium. Trying to promote a one-off game without a big advertising spend is difficult and something Wigan would have had to contend with. If supporters of Millwall were one of their targets, considering the location of the game, then they couldn’t have done any better than getting former Millwall great Tim Cahill in on the promotion. The Australian forward is much loved at the Den, is a huge rugby league fan and has several cousins who are first-graders, like Castleford playmaker Ben Roberts and Canterbury Bulldogs utility Chase Stanley. Cahill would be a perfect fit to sell our code to the Millwall FC faithful. We need to think outside of the box when it comes to marketing and using the crossover appeal from celebrities who rave about rugby league, whether it be Wayne Rooney, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Rio Ferdinand or whoever, is one way to do it.
4. Chase conundrum
Two years ago Marwan Koukash unveiled his big, bold dream for Salford with the captures of Tim Smith, Gareth Hock, Adrian Morley, Rangi Chase, Tony Puletua, Francis Meli and Jake Mullaney. Koukash was brash and entertaining at a huge press event, stating: “I was called Marwan No-Cash and Marwan Cash-Cow. My name is Marwan Koukash and I mean business.” How things can change in the space of 24 months. Smith didn’t last long and returned to Wakefield. Hock joined Leigh, Mullaney Bradford, Puletua is suing Salford, Meli retired and now Chase is suspended.
Koukash’s bold plans and recruiting has gone up in smoke. The Chase case is the latest episode in a farce that has seen the sacking of three coaches and also the departures of Kevin Locke and Theo Fages. Chase looks to be the next to go. The livewire halfback was the biggest of Salford’s big-name signings and now he is on borrowed time at the AJ Bell Stadium. Where does the blood-letting end? Luckily for the Red Devils they romped to an easy 50-28 win over Halifax on Saturday. At the moment they are in in third position on the ladder and look safe from relegation. Stability and consolidation is what the Red Devils need now, not more publicity and controversy. The 2015 off-season looms as a massively important one for Salford and hopefully the lessons of 2013 are being learned.
5. Tip-top Toovey
Manly head coach Geoff Toovey is out of a job in the NRL after being stabbed in the back. Toovey has been given the shove at the Sea Eagles, after 30 odd years as a player, assistant coach and coach, because of politics and off-field issues involving the club’s new owners. It’s a sad end at Brookvale Oval for Toovey who is widely respected in the game. An Australian and NSW rep, a grand final winner and captain, the little halfback was a great player. As a coach, taking over from Des Halser, he led Manly to fourth spot and a preliminary final in 2012, fourth spot and a grand final appearance in 2013, and second spot (equal on points with minor premiers Souths) and a semi-final place last year. This year, despite a crippling injury toll and huge dramas surrounding the futures of Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran, not to mention a poor forward pack, he got his side to within a whisker of the semi-finals.
Toovey has been unfairly axed and may spend some time away from the game before returning to coaching. Already he has been linked to the vacant Australian national team job. If the 46-year old isn’t appointed by the Kangaroos, then Super League clubs should consider hiring him. You won’t too many more passionate, committed and determined coaches in our sport than the Manly legend. One of the toughest players ever, Toovey is a driven individual who gets the best out of his players as a coach. He lives and breathes rugby league. He’s also good for a blow-up or an interview, adding quite a bit of colour with his outbursts and media spats. There’s few dull moments when he’s in the coaching box. A stint out of the NRL may be helpful for Toovey and I think there’s a few English clubs that he would fit perfectly.