Forty-20 Column: The Morning After


The fact that you couldn’t make it up is what it’s all about.

What drama, suspense, conflicting emotions – our Aguero moment – just at a time when rugby league was fighting for a bulb amidst the glare of sporting floodlights aimed elsewhere.

Astonishing, breathtaking, heartbreaking, uplifting, desolating – all the emotions that elevate sport to its place of high passion, encapsulated in the bravest chip and chase.

Both sides at the John Smiths Stadium were exceptional, their scramble and collective commitment awe-inspiring, the best game of the season so far even without the jaw-dropping climax and its permutations.

And then there was the helicopter – inspired.

The rolling story of when does it take off, where does it head, seeing the lights of the DW Stadium before switching back, the dramatic wait at Huddersfield for the silverware to be paraded out, all PR genius and gold.

If only the trophy itself was similarly as impressive. Now that it has been invested with greater meaning and significance – and the no small matter of a cheque attached for £100,000 – surely it needs to be something more grandiose and commensurate, especially after the extra toil now needed to attain it.

And also so that we stop demeaning it by referring to it as the hubcap.

We needed more pictures from within the control room and the chopper as the drama unfolded, instant reaction in and from the Wigan boardroom as they waited, all beamed live or as near live to accentuate the moment and feed around the world.

Both the NRL and NFL are almost instantaneously playing out snippets on social networks as the action happens, the world won’t wait anymore for the studied and highly edited, we consume our news now – and then the disposable, sound-bite moment is gone.

Sport is the ultimate reality telly, we hit upon a wonderful publicity stunt but now that the window of opportunity barely opens, we have to force ourselves through the gap as soon as it is offered.

Rather than merely be subsumed the following day into fallacious arguments about it being Sam Burgess’s fault – and, by extension, that infiltrator rugby league’s – for England losing to Wales, favourable comparisons were made between Kevin Sinfield’s and Chris Robshaw’s respective decisions to go for goal – more ground for us to win.

In the aftermath of the wonderful contest, it indicated that the Giants can win the competition, if they can find another four seconds of concentration and discipline, if they look within rather than for outside factors to blame.

The pressure is off, they go to the Warriors – impregnable at home in 2015, but with an armoury to meet fire with fire, it is the ultimate test of their character.

With no weeks off under the 8s, it is survival of the fittest too which could be the Rhinos’ Achilles heel, the loss of defensive lynchpin Stevie Ward on top of the long term absentees will test their resources but not their resolve, it will be some farewell at Headingley on Friday night for their trio of retiring Trojans.

It’s also too easy to forget that it’s Saints’ trophy to lose, the three previous weeks to secure their semi-final spot came at a cost that Warrington exploited but they too will not be phased at a ground they won at a month ago.

Once the Grand Finalists are known, attention shifts to the ‘Million pound’ intrusion on private grief and the end of the phoney war surrounding it.

Bradford have been to both extremes in the Qualifiers, almost consistently inconsistent and pretty much surrendered home advantage without a fight by the team they picked this week against rampant, lottery-equivalent winning Halifax.

They gave Lee Gaskell a run, as Wakey did with Danny Kirmond which is more likely to have a bearing on this Saturday’s game than the weekend’s results.

The Wildcats have secured next season at Belle Vue, that will be hollow if Super League isn’t being played there.

The value of the Championship Shield is open to question, it would be easy to see it as the consolation prize but it could be a story for London if they pick up the silverware, something that hasn’t happened often in the capital.

The Broncos were forced to change their raison d’etre after being seemingly ill-equipped at the start for what Championship rugby entailed, their season was effectively derailed before it began by a friendly in Dewsbury, who they beat with a team full of young, local potential in the semi final.

Keighley have the chance to gain promotion when they face Swinton at Widnes to kick off Championship deciders day at Widnes on Sunday, an on-field promise that was made in memory of Danny Jones.

That’s a huge incentive to carry and, irrespective of the uncontrollable, it should add to what is shaping up to be a terrific encounter.

Wheelchair rugby league had its Ryan Hall moment in the European Championships at sell-out Meway Arena in Gillingham on Saturday night – the livestream a far better watch than anything rugby union threw up.

It fell to England skipper Jack Brown, whose golden point extra time, hat trick try saw his side overcome World Champions France in a truly riveting, inspirational contest that took no prisoners, even during the euphoric celebrations, players were throwing each other out of their chairs!

It looks as though a 2017 World Cup group will be played in PNG which not only confirms them as seeds but places Port Moresby, where new facilities have been built, and a nation truly in love with league at the centre of our global profile, which can only be good.

And the NRL Grand Final this Sunday will be a lip-licking, all-Queensland affair in what is likely to be a sold-out Sydney, again showing that the event and the sensational drawcard players in it, supersedes geography. 

Just imagine two French teams playing in Manchester for the Grand Final trophy in front of 70,000 sports fans………

The broadest smiles are in Leeds the morning after.