Off the Record: Rugby League Rumours and Gossip #195

Ray Mour

Will the Women’s Super League be on TV? Which heritage stars are Jamaica looking at? What are the latest visas issues at Toronto? Find out in the gossip column. 

Women’s Super League TV boost?

The Women’s Super League is set to be boosted by live games on Sky Sports, most likely after the split.

The new format of the competition sees the top four battle it out home and away, after the 10 clubs have played each other once in the early part of the season. The aim is to get the elite players and clubs playing each other more often, leading in to the England international series at the end of the year. The Grand Final, won by Leeds, was shown on Sky last year.

Visa headache for Toronto

A headache that doesn’t look like going away for Toronto relates to visas.

Though they have received criticism for not bringing through Canadian players, the reality is that getting a work permit or visa for them to play in the UK is difficult – simply because there is not the “professional” background for them to meet any criteria. In other sports, players are required to have played a percentage of games either at international level or in a professional league, something that Canadian players simply cannot achieve at present. Toronto have also had to begin registering players to a UK company, as there were problems brewing relating to overseas’ players work permits because they were employed by a Canadian company but living in the UK, which fell foul to Home Office restrictions.

Politics at the top

Pressure is building between the top dogs at the RFL and Super League, who appear at loggerheads over Toronto and now at Israel Folau.

Super League’s stance over Toronto is at odds to the promises made to them by the RFL upon entry three years ago, while the RFL’s stance on Folau differs to when they said they would refuse to register Ben Barba last year. Clearly the power struggle at the top cannot go on for much longer, and it is believed opposition is starting to grow towards Super League chief Robert Elstone from certain clubs.

Jamaica building for World Cup

Jamaica are keen to tempt Kallum Watkins and Reece Lyne to play for them in the 2021 World Cup.

Watkins has fallen out of favour with England despite his move to the NRL with Gold Coast Titans, while Lyne remains on the fringes of the currently coach-less England squad. A number of players have expressed interest in playing for Jamaica, who will face New Zealand, Lebanon and Ireland in the group stages.

Cancel that press conference

It’s been a week of cancelled press conferences in rugby league.

A joint one between Wigan and Warrington to promote their Super League opener was cancelled, citing “the current climate between the two organisations”. Whether it is genuine beef or whether it was a clever marketing ploy remains unknown, though respective chiefs Kris Radlinski and Karl Fitzpatrick enjoyed a bit of friendly banter on LinkedIn in the aftermath. It is believed Wigan are grossly unhappy over the comments made about them being interested in Anthony Gelling, although take-up on the press conference was believed to be minimal anyway. Huddersfield cancelled their press conference previewing their game against Catalans following the news of Israel Folau signing for the Dragons.

Folau to play for Tonga

Catalans’ controversial signing Israel Folau is keen on representing Tonga on the international stage.

The 30-year-old, who was born in Australia to Tongan parents, planned to play for the Mate Ma’a in last year’s autumn internationals but it didn’t go ahead after the Tongan National Rugby League’s international membership was suspended. Folau is expected to play centre for the Dragons in Super League and wants to pin his international allegiance to Tonga.

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