Launch: The season of the unknown

Considering nobody has a clue what’s in store at the end of this season, there was an air of excitement at the rugby league season launch on Thursday.

Held at the John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield, the whole game got together to look ahead to 2018 – including Super League, Championship, League One, Women’s Super League, Community RL, Masters RL, Wheelchair RL and others.

Despite interim chief executive Ralph Rimmer’s comments about the structure being unknown for 2019, the majority of clubs and players were excited for the season ahead, re-affirming Rimmer’s belief that clubs will just do as best as they can on the field.

Crucially, key sponsor Betfred, via their head of media Mark Pearson, spoke extremely positively and encouragingly about rugby league as a sport, and it is clear that they are going to become critical to the game’s future and its growth.

A hat tip too must go to the RFL’s media team, who organised a packed event very well, especially given it was the first time the whole game had been put up for the press on the same day.

Perhaps most exciting was the opportunity to speak to players and staff involved in the fledgling Women’s Super League, which if handled right could provide a great avenue for growth not just for the players themselves, but for the game as a whole.

Toronto coach Paul Rowley was certainly the busiest of the Championship representatives, fielding questions on the three players they sacked last week and whether he has anyone else lined up for their season opener against Leigh, while he also had things to say about the controversial comments from Rimmer earlier in the week that the Wolfpack aren’t guaranteed a Super League place if they do win the Championship.

Neil Kelly, the Dewsbury coach, was in fine form, enjoying his first one of these events for several years having returned to the game midway through last season.

Super League legend Leon Pryce is clearly relishing the new chapter in his career, as coach at Workington, and everyone in League One seems to be keen to push for promotion, and believe they have a genuine chance, in 2018.

Keep an eye out on the site over the next few weeks for all the headlines, quotes and soundbites from the event from all corners of the game.

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