FTWLTW: Weakened teams, England’s starting centres and Hock’s goal kick

Neil Barraclough

One – Huddersfield did the right thing for their title chances, but the wrong thing for the sport

When Paul Anderson chooses to name a team including eight players with a total of just four Super League appearances between them, and rests all but four of the team that beat Wakefield the week before, he is clearly protecting the Giants’ stars ahead of the play-offs.

But it’s also a decision that disrespects the rest of the league, because while Huddersfield might just think they are throwing away two points, they are gifting two points elsewhere.

Imagine if the Bulls had been fighting for a play-off place and had sneaked in – at the expense of someone else – after effectively being given the points by a club that decided this week didn’t matter.

And that’s before you start on Bradford fans who bought season tickets expecting to watch 13 proper matches and instead found themselves paying to watch the Giants’ reserves.

Is it time to look again at a rule about playing your best available team?


Two – England’s centres are settled

Kallum Watkins’ display on Leeds’ right side on Thursday was surely enough to secure his position in England’s World Cup team alongside Jack Reed.

Earlier this season a former national coach was privately praising the Rhinos’ centre, claiming that almost every time he gets the ball he beats the first defender.

Critics will point out that it was his missed tackle that allowed Blake Green to set up Pat Richards for Wigan’s only try, but Watkins offers so much more in attack – with his own brilliant try demonstrating exactly the kind of game-breaking skill England will need if they are to fulfill their promise.

Leroy Cudjoe has been great for Huddersfield but doesn’t appear to pose the same menace. Little wonder Watkins is now being billed as the NRL’s most wanted target behind Sam Tomkins.


Three – Double trouble with Friday night frights

In rugby league terms, Friday night is the perfect time to bury bad news.

Both London (6pm) and Sheffield (10pm) released statements this week as doubts continue to circle around both clubs.

Minutes after a story appeared on the BBC claiming the Broncos will make a number of off-field redundancies this week, Broncos chief exec Gus Mackay said: “We are involved in ongoing discussions in relation to the 2014 season, following a detailed exploration of the options over recent months. Negotiations are at a sensitive stage but discussions are progressing as we go into the necessary details.”

Two hundred miles up the M1, Mark Aston was admitting he is “massively concerned about our ability to continue to play within the city of Sheffield.”

Any chance of a week without a club in crisis?


Four – Farewell to a genuine Odsal hero

Jamie Langley was one of three Bulls players given an emotional send off after Saturday’s trouncing of Huddersfield.

Langley, Michael Platt and Keith Lulia are all set to leave Bradford – but it is Langley whose departure will be felt most keenly by the Odsal faithful.

He was part of the glory years, joining as a 16-year-old before winning the 2005 Grand Final and World Club Challenges in 2004 and 2006.

Langley is now believed to be negotiating with other clubs but insists he will continue in the top flight

“I’d like to go on for at least another three to four years at Super League level,” he said. Bradford fans will surely wish him all the best.


Five – Moment of the week?

Finally, a quick word for Gareth Hock’s newfound talent as a goal-kicker extraordinaire.

Hock landed a last-minute effort from wide on the left after Patrick Ah Van’s second Widnes try on Friday night.

It was a special way for him to sign off from his time with the Vikings and a first taste for Salford fans of the talent they’ve recruited next year.

However the Reds go, a combination of Hock, Rangi Chase, Tim Smith and Marwan Koukash means they’re going to be compulsive viewing.

Any thoughts on the weekend? Leave them in the comments box below.

Follow Neil Barraclough on Twitter @neilbarraclough