Five things we learned from Championships Grand Finals day

Neil Barraclough

1. Sky should show more Championship rugby

The Championships have been forced to endure a TV blackout, through no fault of their own in 2014, and someone now must be pressing Sky to show more, or at least come to some sort of compromise with Premier Sports. Premier had been a fantastic partner and advocate of the Championships, before their noses were pushed out by the new, apparently lucrative, Sky deal, pushed through ahead of the re-structure.

Sky now have the rights, but my understanding is that next season, they’re only planning on showing the Summer Bash, and then games after the mid-season split. That means 22 of the first 23 weeks, we won’t have any Championship on TV – and after the entertainment of yesterday, that is nonsense.


2. Kingstone Press are a terrific rugby league sponsor

It was February last year when I was contacted by an unnamed cider brand looking at sponsoring rugby league. It turned out to be Kingstone Press, and they went ahead with the sponsorship. Since then, they’ve done a great job in supporting the Championships, as well as achieving their own objectives, and are quickly becoming the benchmark that all prospective sponsors will surely aspire to.

Sarah, Gordon, Glen, the rest of the team and their agencies have all been tremendously passionate about their sponsorship, and their support shouldn’t go unnoticed; long may it continue.


3. Margaret Gibbon is a Proper Fan

Hunslet actually won two competitions on Sunday, as their very own Margaret Gibbon was crowned Kingstone Press Proper Fan of the Season. Her prize? A trip to Australia to watch the Four Nations. Not bad!

Sadly, as one of the judges, I wasn’t able to win it myself; not that I would ever come close, given some of the incredible things that people do for their clubs in rugby league. It was so difficult to narrow down the 10 finalists to one winner, such is the passion and dedication shown. Rugby league may get criticism for not having many fans, but blimey, we’ve got some belters.


4. Headingley is a great rugby league venue

It’s a shame that Sunday will be the last Championships Grand Finals day, because it was one of the best. Headingley is an ideal venue for a day of rugby league, with fans able to mill around the outside of the ground, taking in activities, stands and entertainment, as well as dipping in and out of the stands to watch the rugby. True, the weather was kind, but Headingley was able to provide a platform to host a long day in ways that many other grounds wouldn’t be able to.


5. Find an Oldham fan, put an arm round them

Poor old Oldham. As if losing six Grand Finals in eight years wasn’t bad enough, they lost yesterday’s in the most cruellest of fashions – in golden point extra time. It was hard not to feel sorry for their players, who all crumbled to the ground as Thomas Coyle’s drop goal sailed through the uprights to seal a Hunslet victory.

One man who will be feeling it more than most is Roughyeds stalwart Kevin Morrow, one of the shortlisted finalists for the Proper Fan of the Season, but I’m sure he’ll still have a smile on his face today, such is the character that he is.