Sorry, romantics – but winter rugby is dreadful

Have you thawed out yet? Anyone attending a rugby league game last weekend deserved a medal – and a roaring log fire in the aftermath.

A biting blizzard at Warrington, games off all over the place, and ice-cold conditions at Craven Park. It’s enough to make you shiver just thinking about it.

Surely there isn’t a single person left who still thinks winter rugby is a good idea.

From juniors to open age, most of the amateur game has now switched to summer. Would anyone seriously go back?

Winter rugby is miserable, morale-sapping, skill-stifling stuff. No, thank you. I’ll be over here, with what sun we do get and feet I can still feel.

The problem, however, comes with the realisation that by the end of March, we’ll have already played a third of the regular Super League season.

Summer sport? Well, kind of. If you ignore a third of it.

With Easter weekend approaching, the usual debates about playing two games in four days are also starting to bounce around.

The demands of Easter aren’t the problem. It’s the demands of a 10-month season that are the issue.

The RFL and Super League clubs desperately need to find a way to cut the fixtures while maintaining a financially viable competition.

Four leagues of 10, and a Magic Weekend/Day that hosts the Challenge Cup quarter finals rather than a contrived extra round of league fixtures, looks more and more like the only sensible way forward.

There are plenty of teams who deserve credit after last week’s performances.

Warrington produced at least three tries that defied all logic – given the conditions – as they narrowed the gap on Huddersfield at the top of the table.

Chris Riley and Brett Hodgson both went over after some slick handling, while Stefan Ratchford’s first try, which was the result of Ryan Atkins’ 60-metre break, was another that caught the eye.

London’s point against Hull was also encouraging, even if their crowds (1,865 this week) remain abysmal.

The Airlie Birds will have been disappointed, but elsewhere it was an especially sweet weekend for a former Hull man.

Brad Hepi coached Gloucestershire All Golds to their first semi-professional win – an 18-16 triumph at Gateshead – and will now be looking to back it up against Oxford when the Kingstone Press Championship One kicks off on Friday. Congratulations to all at the All Golds.

It was interesting to see Eamonn McManus voicing his frustration at the lack of a headline sponsor for Super League.

“It’s not acceptable and someone needs to be held accountable,” he said.

Back in January, RFL boss Nigel Wood told a media gathering: “If the deals aren’t right, we won’t accept them – that’s the bottom line.

“The days of releasing our inventory at prices we’re not prepared to accept are not going to be continued.

“I’m absolutely clear that the commercial revenues in the sport in 2013 will be the most significant the sport has ever achieved.”

Since then, Kingstone Press have come to the table. Foxy Bingo, Heinz and a few others appear to have ‘partnership’ packages with Super League.

But with still no title sponsor for the flagship competition and as yet no sponsor announced for the World Cup, it would be interesting to know if Wood remains quite so confident.

We can only hope he’s got some good news about the World Cup up his sleeve.

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