Eye On Rugby League by Tony Williams
I was pleased to see that Great Britain's Gillette Tri-Nations preparations have been given a boost with the news that the national side will take on current champions New Zealand in a mid-season test match at Knowsley Road.
When the Lions faced the Kiwis in the opening game of the tournament last season it was clear that they had not ironed out their mistakes or had time to gel, and at the time many people felt that some sort of warm up fixture was the answer.
The New Zealand team will probably be made up of Kiwis in the engage Super league, which will ensure strong but not overwhelming opponents. In my opinion this is a much better fixture than the original ‘Other Nationalities' fixture. The Kiwis will be representing their country and that should make for a competitive side, while a side of ‘Other Nationalities' would not be representing anyone.
The only problem with this fixture is its timing. While I agree that there should be some sort of mid-season international the game in June will probably come too early to be of adequate preparation for the Tri-Nations tournament. It is quite likely that after this fixture there will continue to be the minimal amount of preparation going into the tournament.
There will also be the problem of clubs not wanting their players taking part in a mid-season fixture. There is always the chance of players being pulled out of their respective squads through injury, and thus undermining both the credibility and usefulness of the event.
In my opinion there should be a Tri-Nations warm up game nearer to the time, at the end of the club season. Of course, at the moment the fixture lists would not allow for that, but reducing the length of the Super League season by scrapping those six extra games would allow a space for a game against France for example.
But, to be quite honest I don't see that happening any time soon. For now, I'm just happy to know that this mid-season test is a step in the right direction.
A Good Coach Is Hard To Find
The respective results of Wigan Warriors and Bradford Bulls in this weekend's engage Super League fixtures showed the effect that a head coach can have on his side. The coach in question, Brian Noble, had left the Bulls to join Wigan, and it showed.
We all know that Wigan have had to endure a shockingly bad start to the season, but Noble seemed to have made the difference, even in the few days he had been at the club. In the game against Huddersfield Giants Wigan looked sharp in attack and their defence was solid throughout.
Contrast that with how Bradford shaped against Warrington Wolves after Noble's departure and under the new stewardship of Steve McNamara. The Bulls could not compete with Warrington, shipping three tries in the last ten minutes and losing 27-4.
McNamara recently turned down the Hull FC job on the grounds that he was too inexperienced, which makes you wonder if he is ready to take charge at Odsal. No doubt he will become a good coach given time, but by his own admission he is not yet prepared to become a head coach.
For me this shows the difference that a top coach can make to any team. And as for Wigan, under the astute leadership of the current Great Britain coach they will stand a good chance of beating the drop and advancing up the Super League table.
Fifty Not Out
This week's column is a special milestone for me, as it is the fiftieth ‘Eye On Rugby League' article I have written.
I'd like to thank Gary Austin firstly, for giving me my start and allowing me the space to write on his messageboard. I'd also like to thank the team at ‘Gerrin To ‘Em' for letting me write for the fanzine and James Gordon for letting me contribute to his excellent Last Tackle website.
If you've enjoyed reading ‘Eye On Rugby League' as much as I've enjoyed writing it it's all been worthwhile. Thanks for reading.
Keep Your Eye On Rugby League