RFL gambling big on Bennett

Wayne Bennett’s appointment as England coach is beginning to look like a decision which was made as a calculated (or not so calculated) gamble.

The RFL are paying him a large salary, and are also acceding to his large and complex demands for resources to back the national side.

He has an enormous backroom staff, with Paul Sculthorpe Jamie Peacock, Paul Anderson, Denis Betts and Paul Wellens are involved somewhere along the line.

There is also a whole heap of assistants to assistants, plus the usual load of medical and conditioning staff.

When at England games during the recent Four Nations, the English squad seemed to have huge amounts of people carrying massive amounts of equipment around.

Certainly, the sheer number of people involved was in direct contrast to Scotland’s plucky band of volunteers, or the more relaxed Kangaroos and Kiwis.

A cyrotherapy chamber was also rented for use, another strain on the budget.

In normal times, it might have been reassuring to see the England squad adopting such supposedly ‘professional’ techniques in terms of resources.

But these aren’t normal times. Wales Rugby League recently confirmed another £70,000 was being cut from its budget towards developing youth players.

That in a country where South Wales Ironmen now have over 50 players registered, and look ready to take the game in the Principality to the next level on the back of John Kear and his national team’s sterling work.

Scotland continues to struggle for RFL funding, even though they were expected to field a full professional team in the recent Four Nations.

Ireland have created a domestic league which has begin to produce professional players, and could use some more encouragement, at least.

But, instead, we have the RFL spending money on a training camp in a country where rugby league is technically illegal (Dubai), and which seems designed to annoy as many Super League coaches as possible.

There have also been redundancies made at thr RFL, with development and community staff believed to be leaving the organisation.

It doesn’t look like an governing body with a proper grip on what its priorities should be.

England look nowhere near winning the World Cup next year. Australia are so much stronger it’s futile to pretend anything else right now.

So the money being spent on Bennett looks like a gamble to get England to win the World Cup, then the future will take care of itself.

Which, when written down like that, looks like a very risky strategy indeed.

It would be nice to be wrong about this, but, in a game with ever-shrinking revenues, it does look like resources are being allocated in hope rather than expectation, or with a proper strategic plan in mind.

Rugby league won’t die in the UK if England don’t win the next World Cup. It will probably continue to grow in Europe too.

What that growth needs is nurturing and funding, and spending big money on a part-time coach with a huge backroom team means that less time and effort can be spent on that nurturing process.

Let’s hope the Bennett gamble comes off, because if it doesn’t, someone is going to be left with egg on their face, and a big tab to pick up.






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