John Duffy and the Four Seasons debate

The last couple of days have continued to be busy in the day job and work has taken me to the prestigious Bolton School. Bolton School is probably one of the top schools in the country to be honest and Seb Coe was there doing a seminar last week. They seem to get the most important people in sports to the school. Some really big stars have been to the school (and then I’ve been doing work there. What a contrast!). It’s the top end. What has surprised me, is just how well Rugby League has been accepted.

Shane Eccles, my predecessor in the role, went there at first and during Shane’s last few weeks I went along and really hit it off with the sports teachers and Mr Fearnside. He’s been really good to me and let me come in.

He’s actually one of the selectors for Lancashire Rugby Union Schoolboys so he’s pretty high up in the other code. It was a surprise to be welcomed with open arms to a school that is so rugby union orientated. They have let me coach league and it seems to have refreshed everyone and I think they have actually learned quite a lot off me.

It definitely opens other avenues for people and there are some lads you look at and think, he’d do well in league! Some of the engines and the footwork they have, well it’s frightening really, when you think of the talent that they have at the school.

I know they have a lot of lads playing for England, there are also a couple of lads that have signed to play league as well, one of whom is at Salford.

I’ve found that the teachers are learning quite a bit too and they have under-18s and sixth form there too. I invited them down to watch Leigh and they loved it, they had a great day.

Mr Fearnside has actually entered all his school years into the rugby league competitions that I’m running. Last year they played in an emerging schools competition and they did really well in league.

Although it is a rugby union stronghold, the lads love their league as well. It opens up avenues if they want to go down to an amateur club and continue with league.

I’ve also done a couple of sessions with Bolton Mets in the last few weeks. They were losing players and an article in the local paper appeared saying they were about to fold. They have a great bunch of lads and I’m going do a couple more sessions with them and try and get them back into the league next season. They decided to pull out of their league but quite a few came to the training sessions and I got some good feedback. I want to keep going back and increase the number of players there so they can re-enter the league.

More locally I’m also back helping my first club, Ashton Bears. This is a club that at Open Age level has never applied for additional funding from anywhere before and they would like to get clubmark status. I’m helping there through the RFL. I don’t know how they have survived over the years to be honest because every penny they have had in, they have self raised, which is a massive achievement. We’ve just got two junior teams going there at under 8s and under 10s. So far they’ve played in two festivals that were really successful. We are going to continue them through the year and then enter them into the local league hopefully.

The four seasons debate is high on the agenda of the RFL and amateur clubs at the moment and I went to a conference on this topic a few months ago. The RFL were saying that they had spoken to amateur clubs who had different views over switching the season.

In my opinion I just don’t know how anyone can play in winter now, I don’t know how I did it when I think back. For the development of the game and juniors especially and to further better ourselves as a nation we’ve got to go to March – November. You think, how many games and training sessions have been cancelled over the last two months. It’s ridiculous how many people have missed out on their rugby. The other problem for the amateurs is that they are losing revenue as well, revenue behind the bar and if teams aren’t training they are missing subs as well. Imagine playing in summer how much more revenue could be brought into a club. You could put barbecues on each week, you’ve got more money coming in. To me it would be mad stay in winter.

I believe there is going to be a final decision on it in a few weeks and I’ll no doubt write more about it!

This pre-season has been a good one at Leigh and for me personally I’m coming into a season fully refreshed for the first time in three years. While I love playing for Scotland, after a season I was just heading straight off into Scotland camp, which meant that those injuries that niggle you through the year, that every player continues playing with, they build up and build up. I thought that this year I would refresh myself so to speak, taking some time off and just chill out before getting stuck into the pre-season.

It’s been great and I’ve really benefitted from it. I feel a lot fitter and fresher than last year. If you’d looked at me in pre-season games last year, after twenty minutes I’d have been blowing, but when I’m coming off the pitch in recent games, I’m still feeling fresh. It’s done me a lot of good.

Ian Millward did his homework on the club before he arrived and it was noticeable to him that no-one could produce an effort on an effort. Our training last pre-season was running orientated and getting the ball in our hands and playing the game. I think he really got some good stuff out of it last season. Everyone picked up on that area of the game. This year he’s changed it and it’s been a lot more wrestle based, power and strength in the gym. It’s been pretty demanding and a lot different and the lads have really enjoyed it, doing the defensive stuff with Paul Rowley and Ian. We’ve seen some really good examples of what we are trying to practice in training, in our pre-season games. It stands us in good stead for the start of the year.

I’ll be back soon with more for Loverugbyleague.com.

Yours in Sport,
John Duffy

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