Richard Mathers ■ View from the Back
Good luck and good health Forty-20columnist RICHARD MATHERS shares his thoughts ahead of Wakefield’s off-season trip to Portugal
I’m really looking forward to what should be a year of celebration for rugby league, culminating with the World Cup here at the end of it. So many domestic players will be aspiring to be part of the Home Nation’s squads, while there will be similar expectation among those with South Seas connections.
That will enrich and enliven all the leagues. The hype should raise the overall standard and interest in the weekly rounds. Eligibility has certainly been discussed in the Wildcats’ dressing room, although the laws have been tightened. I had contact from the Scots and Irish about my ancestry, but there is nothing recent enough and I am one hundred per cent English. It’s been 13 long years since there was a World Cup in the UK and whether as a participant in some way or fan, I can’t wait.
The biggest masochist never enjoys preseason, but this one has gone pretty well for me. Unlike last year I’ve felt settled from day one with no post-season surgery or rehab to be done. Its been full on with testing and physical measuring, along with the conditioning and fitness schedules. I’m not in bad nick for a 22 year old (ahem).
As you get older, the key becomes better recovery and I’ve embraced the sport’s science side of the game. When you’re younger you can romp through some of the work without even breaking sweat, but now it’s about doing the right things
Catalan blow: Scrum-half Scott Dureau underwent surgery on a tumour behind an eye rlphotos.com
“Medical monitoring is light years better than when I set out... we are privileged to be well looked after...”
before, during and after. My formative years were spent alongside Kevin Sinfield - the most deserving winner of the Golden Boot and even as a youngster he was the most assiduous and particular professional player in how he went about his work and lifestyle. His success is no accident and some of that has rubbed off on me. Not only that, but as a senior member of the squad, there are dynamic whippersnappers rightly looking to show us up and take out spots. That is terrific motivation and how it should be.
One thing I will say, especially in light of the terrible news about Ben Jones-Bishop and Scott Dureau, is that medical monitoring is, thankfully, light years away from when I first set out. We get everything we need for, say, a tight back, but there is also a concern over personal health and at Super League level we are privileged in the way we are looked after.
The Wakefield squad is in a good place heading out for our pre-season camp in Portugal. We’re settled and achieved a goal last year of changing perceptions about individuals in the team and, by making the play-offs, the club as a whole. This time last year everything was raw and we didn’t quite know what to expect, it was all about trying to find combinations and a method to suit all. All bar three of the squad were new and the same was true of the staff.
That’s different now. We have created some sort of a benchmark to build on and, as Richard has stressed, we need to guard against complacency. We had a club Super League record of seven straight wins late on and the aim is to be more consistent from the off. We gained respect by competing in virtually every game, but now they’ll know how to counter the threat. With the top eight a minimum requirement, the challenge has
It’s not all doom and gloom at Castleford Tigers. A few moments in the company of commercial chief Nick Fozzard makes that quite clear.
Fozzard targets income, sponsors and support with the same vigour he used against opponents in two decades as one of the British game’s top prop forwards. And if enthusiasm is anything to go by, the club is on to a winner.
It’s certainly a challenge. Tigers finished second-bottom in Super League last year and are no closer to a new stadium than when they submitted their last licence application two years ago. The club’s long-term future is now openly being questioned, not least in the town of Castleford itself, but Fozzard - almost a year into his new role after hanging up his boots in early 2012 - is a beacon of positivity as he reflects on the club’s progress this winter.
A public meeting to launch Tigers’ membership scheme drew a packed house and Fozzard insists things are on the up, whatever may be the perception outside the club. Sponsors are coming in, memberships are at 3,500 and coach Ian Millward is putting together a competitive squad.
“It’s going well,” Fozzard stresses. “We’ve already got a sleeve sponsor lined up for 2014
PETER SMITH of the YorkshireEveningPost, takes Castleford’s temperature Can you feel the Foz?
Man of commerce: Nick Fozzard rlphotos.com and we are getting to the stage where people are really believing in the club and the people who are running it. A big part of what we are doing is building trust in the club again, because a lot of people have been let down in the past.”
Fozzard is keen not to criticise the way things used to be done, but makes no secret of the fact change was needed. “That’s what our membership scheme is all about. We get extra income from it, but are also giving something back in return. We want to include members and sponsors in the club. We are giving them a voice and we’re listening to what they say.
“At the end of the day, our fans are our customers and our customer care in the past hasn’t been good enough. The feedback we are getting from a lot of businesses and fans has been really good and they are really noticing the effort we are putting in.”
Underpinning everything Fozzard is doing, he stresses, is the belief that Tigers can be a focal point of their local community and a genuine force in Super League. He reckons
26 Forty-20 January 2013