It's Thursday morning, and I'm sat in the office sifting through the various websites of the national press (and other news-orientated websites) and once again becoming despondent at the lack of Rugby League coverage on their front pages. Actual minority sports are receiving more attention in their close season than Rugby League; seriously, American Football and Ice Hockey? I'm not saying these sports do not have their merits, but I fail to see that just because a sport is predominantly played in the north of England, irrespective of its comparatively large attendances in contrast to other events, that it is not thoroughly reported. I live in the midlands, and you'd think the sport never existed – you cannot buy a Rugby league newspaper ANYWHERE unless it has been pre-ordered. So, feeling the devil in me ignite and fancying a little bit of a play, I decided to e-mail the Editors of every major online news publication. The letter was simple:
I was just looking through your front page, and I wondered if you realised that the 2007 Rugby League season starts this weekend, as you seem to have sparse coverage of this event."
You may wonder why I chose the online medium, and the answers are not just due to it being the easiest of alternatives. Online publications are fast becoming essential reading for most (often including people who would not usually buy newspapers), they can make real-time, responsive changes and are less constrained than their print alternatives. I didn't really expect responses or justification, and to be honest, I didn't get any that were worthy of merit. (Perhaps I should have set the title to 'Another League player joins Union Club,' to get them salivating?) After e-mailing The BBC, The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, The Star, The Daily Mail, The Sun, The Mirror I received four replies. The general response was that these publications feature 'all sports,' which does not really justify the lack of Rugby league, as I'm sure Rugby League is one of those sports, yet it was lacking any real mention unless you took the time to root through the site and really search for the content.
Annoyingly, the most thorough message that I received in reply contained a statement that I feel I should share with you:
'Unfortunately, it's that time of year when people seem to be more interested in the Six Nations – just ask Andy Farrell!'
Make of it what you will. Contrary to what that newspaper thinks, I personally believe that Andy Farrell is a Rugby League man, and I'm sure he cares in equal amounts about his job, and the sport/profession he chose to pursue his entire life up until a year ago. I'm sure he too would like to be able to easily obtain the latest League gossip, as I'm surewill the 10,000+ fans I hope will pack into the Galpharm this Sunday. Added to this the scores of people who elect to watch the match on TV says a lot for the passion of Rugby Union; a game that's only really supported well at the national level, with very few club attendances to boast about. Despite this fact, Union at club level still gets more attention in the press.
Media take note: look at how many people attend the opening Super League matches next weekend. Take into account the percentage of Sky's sport-subscribed TV audience (who are actually viewing at the time of the match) and see how many of those are watching the game. You may close your eyes to our sport as it does not sit well with your background, but it's not just co-incidence that players walk from Rugby League straight into the Union national set-up. It's not coincidence that the standard of your Rugby on national level coincides with League coaches moving into Union. League clubs draw from a smaller pool of support in a centralised region, yet they still have better-supported clubs. League clubs sell-out Wembley and Old Trafford in Challenge Cup finals and national fixtures, and this has been ignored for too long! Rugby League loving people, it's time to be un-British and COMPLAIN about this! Our sport needs more attention, and not just for the monetary improvements, just think about all those kids who are growing up and not knowing anything about our amazing sport; the kids who get turned off by the stop, start, nature of Union and the many flaws in the game that brought about the inception of Rugby League, and they aren't made aware of an alternative! Let's finally tap the nation for its athletes, and create an excitement, a buzz, a country of people who love sport and play it with passion. A country that finally accepts Rugby League as a top sport ' after all, we've been playing it professionally for over 100 years! Don't write to your local papers, pester the nationals. Soon they will have to listen!!
It's now Saturday Morning. Maybe today things have changed. Perhaps The Sun have done a four-page special about St.Helens vs. Huddersfield, and put together a pull-out booklet highlighting the new transfers of each club etc. but I very much doubt that. As of yet, I still haven't seen a newspaper, and so there is still time to be shocked' but looking over the national press' websites does not seem to suggest that's the case. Maybe they're just slow at updating '
Sunday 4th Feb
Huddersfield vs. St.Helens
I'm expecting St.Helens to continue their dominance, but they will miss the strength of Talau, who is a major source of destruction and would really challenge the more athletic Huddersfield centres. This season Huddersfield look more capable of points than ever and their team is talented, many of the players able to play in a variety of roles. You have to wonder about their weight, but I remember a very mobile Leeds team winning the league convincingly a couple of years back. New Aussies in key positions could be a burden to Huddersfield's team, but if Hudson is in, and still has the leadership he showed in the last Origin match (where Yorkshire pulled off a complete shock) then you know you're in for a cracking game. What can be said of Saints? Clinical and professional ' their playmakers are world-class and impossible to handle when on their game. I expect a big margin, but not a runaway by any stretch of the imagination.
As an aside – Has anyone received their Millennium Magic tickets? I ordered mine on the first morning they were released, yet haven't heard a word as of yet.