April 2021 n Volume 11 Issue 4
n As two of the very best of this generation – Cameron Smith and Sonny Bill Williams – walked away without fanfare before season start, the action returned. Next: the fans.
The RFL has joined other governing bodies in supporting the Government’s work to see how ‘covid certification’ could help get to full capacities safely and quickly.
“We want fans to come back safely and with confidence - and fans want to come back to rugby league,” their statement said. “Fans return in small numbers and with social distancing measures from 17 May. We want to see much bigger capacities allowed from 21 June.
“Covid certification could be an option. Any system must be national, straightforward and it must not be discriminatory. All sports are clear this must not extend to grassroots sport. The Government’s Events Research Programme, which includes the FA Cup semi-finals and final will test a range of things, including relaxing social distancing.
“We will build in the findings to the guidance so that clubs can act quickly and we can all enjoy a great summer of matches with as many fans as possible able to attend.”
That extends to the World Cup, which is looking increasingly likely to be staged at full capacity, especially with the ongoing extension of travel corridors where a gateway opened between Australia and New Zealand.
n The community game begins its phased return to full contact with four weeks training and a fortnight of friendlies from April 24, before resuming competition from May 8.
Social and non-contact variations such as Touch RL, Try Tag RL and X-League, have resumed too, with Masters RL returning when members are finally allowed to socialise more freely off the pitch.
Academy RL at U19s is also back, involving nine Super League and three Championship sides.
The fixtures begin on Friday 14
Here we go: Hull KR kick off against Catalan Dragons in round one at Emerland Headingley stadium SWPix.com
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May, when Bradford face Wigan, and run until September 25-26.
There will be no Academy Championship with priority given to maximising playing opportunities after the loss of the bulk of 2020.
Rugby league at professional and community game level received further loan funding from the winter phase of the Government’s Sport Survival Package, to cover essential costs, topping up the initial £12m in the second tranche to £16.4m.
n Not playing, however, will be Toulouse and London in the Betfred Championship after the Broncos refused to travel. Dispensation has been given to part-time teams from travelling to France until regulations change later in the season, due to quarantine regulations in force.
The Broncos, who are full-time, objected that was “not being a level playing field”, sparking a war of words with Toulouse who’d offered to cover costs of travel and testing and already flown here to play York.
The RFL awarded the game to Toulouse, 24-0, with the Broncos referred to Compliance for failure to fulfil a fixture. “In the case of the club forfeiting the match, the match shall not count towards the number of matches required to qualify for the play-offs,” they said. “Clubs are required to have played in 70 per cent of their scheduled fixtures to be eligible for the top six play-offs.”
n When fans return – and despite warnings from those in charge that the sport faces significant change – what change will they in fact find?
Very little. With Robert Elstone’s exit, Ken Davy takes over as Super League’s interim chair, saying: “I have a very clear objective, which is to create a lasting framework which enables us to unlock the massive potential that I believe exists within Super League and the whole of rugby league.
“However, this does not mean going back to how it was years before. Super League clubs are the jewel in the crown of the game and I believe it’s vitally important that the re-alignment recognises this.”
Super League is go 16 Phil Caplan sees it all kicking off
The court of Ken 5 Trevor Baxter’s monthly profile Five Drives & A Kick 7 IRL boss, Other Nationalities are back and vale Tommy Raudonikis The Reality Is... 13 Brian Noble MBE pays tribute to his old teammate Jeff Grayshon Louie the Lip 15 It’s Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook Match of the Month 18 A tale of two departing coaches The Wilkin Way 21 Jon Wilkin signs in to Forty20
Stand Up for League 22 Ian Boldsworth on returnees A most important job 24 Jonathan Doidge talks fullbacks Café des Treizistes 27 Mike Rylance and a familiar face Priim and Proper 28 Women’s Super League preview Championship Chat 30 Liam Claffey sees it underway League 1 returns 34 Dave Musson goes club-by club
RLWC Countdown 36 Rocking and reeling in France Footy20 38 George Clarke’s monthly view American adventure 40 Things start buzzing stateside Look who’s back... 42 Garen Casey gets into coaching Latham’s Loft 44 The story of Peter Prescott League on TV 48 RSW hits the BBC red button Any Other Business 50 Martin Kelner’s contacts book
Challenge Cup trail 31 Nigel Pearson visits Featherstone