The good, the bad & the ugly: Toronto crowds, Easter period, worrying injury list

Deputy editor Drew Darbyshire has slammed the Easter schedule.

The good

Toronto Wolfpack should adopt Manchester United’s title of ‘hated, adored but never ignored’. Some people hate the Canadian club, but a lot of people love them! Are they the ultimate marmite rugby league club at the moment?

Whatever your thoughts are on Toronto, it would be ignorant not to admire the club’s marketing efforts. They are going about things the right way and are really selling the sport in North America. They drew in a crowd of 8,363 at Lamport Stadium for their home clash against Bradford Bulls on Saturday, which is a fine effort. To put that into contest, the other six Championship games only drew in a combined attendance of 9,424 for round 13 of the season.

Some readers might instantly be raging while they are reading this, suggesting the Wolfpack or giving out free tickets or its only because they have a beer garden. Either way, some Championship and League One clubs could learn from them. The Wolfpack are turning rugby matches into events and that’s the way sport in general is heading. A stand alone match is not enough anymore.

The bad

Let’s hope we’ve just seen the last-ever Easter period in rugby league. The Good Friday games are always a belter, but the product deteriorates at such a rapid pace after that because there is no recovery in place for the players. Wigan and St Helens players, for example, gave it 110% in the Good Friday derby, and then had just two days off before going again. Is there such a thing as player welfare, or is that just a buzz word?

Rugby league is one of the leading sports when it comes to concussion protocols and head injuries, but why are we so blind when it comes to Easter? We aren’t so desperate for an extra couple of quid just to have an extra home game over Easter, are we? The on-field product suffers so much because of the hectic programme.

I was covering the Wigan-London game on Thursday night, and it was the fourth game that the sides had played in just 13 days. The game was very poor as well, and Easter no doubt played a part in this. There wasn’t much build up to any of Super League’s other games as well because Easter is the ‘showcase’ weekend in rugby league, along with Magic. The Easter Monday game needs to go, but let’s have two games each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with them all televised to maximise our viewership.

The ugly

This week’s ‘ugly’ section ties in with the ‘bad’ part! There are a total of 86 first-team players who are currently injured in Super League, which works out at an average of seven players per club. Obviously there are some teams who can probably consider themselves lucky like Salford, who only have two notable absentees in Junior Sa’u and Ed Chamberlain, while the likes of Hull FC and Wakefield are well into double figures.

Over 40 of those injuries were sustained over the three games at Easter. The crippling injury list in the top-flight is just another reason as to why the double-header weekend has got to be scrapped from our game. Given the sport’s fast and strong intensity these days, it’s just not safe to play so many big games in such a short space of time.

The latest injury blow came to Tinirau Arona, who suffered an ACL and MCL injury in Wakefield’s 26-25 win over Huddersfield on Friday. The Cook Islands international has been one of the most underrated forwards in Super League for some time and it’s a shame we’ll not get to see him in action again in 2019. Super League needs its best players on show, not on the treatment table. The Easter period is a blessing for fans, but an absolute nightmare for players. It’s given us plenty of great memories over the years but it’s time to put the players first now and get rid of it.

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