Nick Woodward’s previous discussion about Warrington having it tough with four games against Wigan, St Helens, Catalan Dragons and Widnes in the period before and after Easter may have some merit. There can be little doubt that following the announcement of the 2012 Super League fixtures that Warrington have a tough programme but these aren’t Under 12s players we are talking about, these are physically honed warriors, the modern day gladiators and when all is said and done it is their primary occupation.
Rugby League players prepare for the times of year when fixtures are heavier than normal.
At risk of being accused of being a flat capper, I only have to point Nick back in time to the early 70s (and even earlier) when similar team workloads were common place and many players worked in heavy conditions, in mills, pits, on building sites and with machinery. These people would graft and then train maybe three times a week as well for several hours, all this played against a backdrop of winter rugby (and beating Australia).
Of course workloads have been a common theme in rugby league for years with high profile players such as Jamie Peacock voicing their opinion that the modern player plays too many games. Let’s look back at the 1971-72 season just for a minute. Yes it started 41 years ago but what went on?
There was one division of 30 clubs (Leeds topped the table, Hunslet propped it). A total of 34 league games were played plus Lancashire and Yorkshire Cups, the Challenge Cup and the Players No.6 Trophy, not forgetting a top 16 play-off for the Championship. That’s a lot of games, and Jamie Peacock complains?
Just for the record Leeds won their third Championship, pipping St Helens 9-5 in the Final, St Helens beat Leeds 16-13 in the Challenge Cup Final, Halifax won the Players Trophy with a 22-11 success over Wakefield, while Wigan and Hull Kingston Rovers won the county cups.
If Nick thinks the four games in 18 days is tough on Warrington I just wonder what he would have made of Wigan’s early season schedule in that 1971-72 season?
The season started on Sunday 15th August and by 10pm the following Friday, Wigan had finished their third game of the season. Three more games followed between Wednesday 25th August and Monday 30th August and by the time the Warriors had beaten Barrow in the preliminary round of the BBC Floodlit Trophy on Monday 13th September, they had played ten games. Now my maths is not always the most reliable but that is ten games in THIRTY DAYS.
That’s what I call exhausting!
Spare a thought too for the lads who play semi-professional rugby league, I bet their workloads won’t be far away from Super League in terms of quantity plus, like those old players, many hold down jobs as well as playing rugby.
The other week Eddie Hemmings made a point about Kevin Sinfield playing his 41st or 42nd game of the season. That’s a brilliant effort; I truly commend Sinfield and won’t have a word said against him. A swift look at that 1971-72 season list for Wigan sees David Hill and Kevin O’Loughlin top the appearances with 45 each. Food for thought?
What do you think?