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April 2024 n Volume 14 Issue 4

n Key performance indicator s continue to signify that Betfred Super League is upwardly mobile. According to Rhodri Jones, MD of Rugby League Commercial, speaking in Perpignan ahead of the Catalans encounter with St Helens which saw the Dragons go top: “Easter weekend is a landmark one in the spor t and, off the back of it, an oppor tunity to recap. “From a Sky perspective, Saints v Wigan on Good Friday was the highest peak of the season, significantly up from last year’s equivalent, and the Leeds v Saints clash from the week before the highest average this year. “The cumulative audience for the fir st six weeks is up between 15 and 20 per cent at well over three million which is encouraging. “As is the BBC performing comparatively better than Channel 4 did over the period.” Regarding streaming platform Super League+, Jones said: “We’ve made a really promising star t. There were two priorities, its operation and to complement Sky’s ser vice, internationally as well. We are happy with the direction of travel – it is profitmaking for the spor t.” On crowds, Jones confirmed: “Average attendances are up four per cent on the same stage last year at just over a 9,500 average and over 330,000 in total, which doesn’t include the World Club Challenge. There have been more sell-outs so far this year too.” In France, the Dragons’ clash with Saints was a real thriller and their fir st home match shown on British terrestrial television – on BBC3 in fact – while Toulouse’s home games are to be covered by regional station ViàOccitanie and there is a €20m expansion plan for the home of Olympique. All of which is most welcome amid chilling suggestions that the Catalans might be asked to pay their opponents’ travel costs soon – see page 16 for more on that.

Back to the future: Leeds and Warrington players prepare to emerge out of Headingley’s famous tunnel SWpix.com

A promising start n tonyhannan@for ty-20.com philcaplan@for ty-20.com n n It is cer tainly boom time in Australia at the moment, with TV ratings winning all the battles with other spor ts and 202,491 fans through the gates for NRL round four – an all-time round record. The season average per game was 21,430 after five rounds. Post-Vegas, Sydney Roosters CEO Joe Kelly is to strengthen the

NRL’s association with the game in the United States by joining Bernie Gurr as an independent director on the new USARL board. “The US market should not be underestimated and hopefully through my roles at both Sydney Roosters and the USARL, I can suppor t engagement between the two governing bodies to grow the game in the US,” said Kelly. n Back in the UK, Masters RL celebrated its biggest ever launch weekend, with four festivals taking place across the countr y to mark the beginning of the 2024 season. Ar lecdon Rams hosted the Cumbria event that saw teams from Ar lecdon, Mar ypor t, Carlisle and Barrow take par t, along with a guest team of Nor th East Thunder Masters and Catterick Crusaders.

In Lancashire, Wigan St Jude’s oversaw the festivities, including an inaugural women’s tournament of five teams: Ashton Bears, Spring View, Por tico Vine and new clubs Golborne and Heysham. Eleven clubs took par t in Yorkshire, with over 120 player s from 12 teams represented. In the south of England, the Royal Navy hosted in 37 player s in Por tsmouth. Having just as much fun were youngsters from East Hull, Skir laugh, Lock Lane, Orrell St James and Cottingham Tiger s and over 1,200 French boys and gir ls at the giant Picamal-Dejean RL tournament in Perpignan over the Easter holidays, organised by the XIII Catalan club. Also in Perpignan, Carcassonne and Lézignan will contest the final of this year’s Lord Derby Cup at the Gilber t Brutus on April 27.

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What’s up at Hull? 15 Trevor Gibbons in black and white

Hair today... 5 Trevor Baxter’s monthly profile Five Drives & A Kick 7 Wakefield’s big night, Canada’s Iroquois, RIP Ian Heads and more The Reality Is... 13 Our columnist Brian Noble MBE looks at the month’s big issues Dragons in flight 17 Bruno Onteniente sounds off Match of the Month 18 Saints edge Good Friday cracker Warrington wonders 20 John Davidson with Leon Hayes teamsheet

Stand Up for League 23 The Ian Boldswor th column Cas doing it tough 24 The views of Craig Lingard Louie the Lip 26 It’s Louie McCar trhy-Scar sbrook Wigan’s centenary 30 Mike Latham goes back to 1924 Priim and Proper 32 Danika on the women’s scene Championship change 34 The restr ucture explained...

League 1 Scene 36 Who will be the 12th club? Café des Treizistes 30 Mike Rylance on 90 year s of RL Wheelchair on a roll 32 Tom Halliwell hails new season My Life in League 40 RL broadcaster Dave Woods Footy20 42 George Clarke’s Aussie scene Home nations shock 44 IRL crackdown explained Any Other Business 50 Mar tin Kelner hides in his room

Challenging scenario 28 Phil Caplan ponders RL’s oldest trophy

April 20243Forty2043

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