The good, the bad & the ugly: St Helens celebrate Shield, McManus remarks & ongoing spat

Drew Darbyshire

Photo courtesy of Richard Long

We discuss the highs and lows over the last seven days in rugby league.

The good

St Helens finally got their hands on the League Leaders’ Shield on Friday night after they edged past Castleford 4-0 at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

Justin Holbrook’s side actually clinched the Shield for the second year in a row at the start of August – but could only lift it on Friday as that was their first home game since it was confirmed.

The players and the club celebrated the success a lot more this year than what they did last year, which was a positive and rightly so.

We have the same conversations every year about the Shield needing to be celebrated more but it’s hard when the Grand Final and Challenge Cup takes centre stage at Old Trafford and Wembley.

However, the League Leaders is the hardest trophy out of them all to win. Saints will be disappointed they didn’t win at Wembley – but they’ve been a bloody good team to watch under Holbrook and have every right to celebrate the fact they are top of the table by 16 points.

The bad

From a positive note on St Helens to a negative one… Saints chairman Eamonn McManus caused an almighty stir with his comments towards Challenge Cup final referee Robert Hicks in Friday’s matchday programme.

McManus slammed some of the decisions that Hicks made in their 18-4 defeat to Warrington at Wembley the week before.

The Saints boss also claimed that Hicks and Warrington chief executive Karl Fitzpatrick meeting a Wolves supporter who sent Hicks death threats via social media the week before Wembley was a “publicity stunt”.

I don’t have an issue with a referee’s performance getting criticised – just like when we comment on how a player performs. However, claiming a referee is swayed by a club brings the game into disrepute.

It might not be – but it comes across as sour grapes from St Helens. It takes the shine on what was a hard fought battle between two sporting rivals. The final now faces the risk of being g remembered more for McManus’ comments rather than Warrington’s defensive steel and the heroic display of Daryl Clark.

The ugly

In all of our “good, bad and ugly” features we have done so far – we have never focused all three topics of discussion on one team until now!

The ugly part of all of this is the ongoing spat between McManus, Hicks and the Rugby Football League.

Following McManus’ remarks on Friday night, the RFL made a statement the following day criticising his inaccurate article in the programme.

And then on Sunday, McManus released a second column on the club’s official website to “strongly reiterate” his comments that he made in his original post on Friday.

This is the kind of stuff that makes “the greatest game” look a joke at times. Would this happen in any other sport? We should be still talking about that Bryson Goodwin tackle to deny Tommy Makinson a try, or them bulldozing carries from Joe Philbin, or Jack Hughes starring in an unfamiliar role at stand-off while playing the game with a cricketer’s box on – not chatting about a genuine refereeing mistake.

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