Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Australia Beat England at Rugby League. Nation in shock.

What is it about sport that allows you to deny the pulsating reality of history, ability, player numbers and terrifying big blokes who should not be that nimble on their feet? It is of course the essence of sport otherwise most contests would be over before they started. But bloody hell come on - let us win at least one in a blue moon.

Sorry this post does not impart any great wisdom which is of course unusual for me. Cough. But hey ho, there is always next year. Cheer yourself up by perusing my many other words of wisdom here on my suite101.com article spectacular. The sure cure for those rugby league blues.

My predictions for the future: Wales RL to win the European Cup, the Four Nations and the Rugby League World Cup...all before England beat Australia in a meaningful game.

Bore Da!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Wales Wins Rugby League European Cup: Future Bright for Sport in Wales

A young inexperienced and significantly Welsh side beat Scotland, not so Scottish unfortunately, 28-16 in the final of the European Cup in Bridgend on Sunday 8th November 2009. This is a red letter day for the sport for many different reasons. Injuries had reduced the team to a mixture of young Welsh born players and more experienced grandparent rule guys committed to the Welsh cause.

The new management team of Iestyn Harris and Clive Griffiths have instilled a determination and commitment to attacking rugby league, designed to work to the strengths of Welsh rugby playing culture. The players have taken to this and have shown some steel in coming from behind for the second game in a row.

The rugby league authorities have put in place a more structured and long term international programme which if stuck by will see many dividends for the code. This year has been a ranking tournament. Unfortunately it has also seen Serbia relegated to the European Shield by a thrown together 'Italian' side. The Italians have no domestic tournament whilst the Serbs have worked to develop open age and student teams that play a proper season. They deserve better then this.

The Welsh of course have the advantage of a Super League team, Crusaders Rugby League, who have pulled young Welsh men into the orbit of rugby league. This makes them surely second favourites to France who will join the European Cup next year having played in the Four Nations this year. 2010 will be a qualifying tournament, the winners of which will enter the 2011 Four Nations, which will be played in the UK.

The history of rugby league in Wales is long and littered with mistakes and short sightedness. Hopefully we are seeing lessons from the past well learned and a genuine future established.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Welsh Pride and Rugby Leagues Future

Well I was there among the hardy faithful of just under 3,500 on Saturday evening in the lovely environs of the Brewery Field. A heavy defeat to England should be a cause of despondency but two players with two contrasting attitudes ensured that this wasn't the case.

One is a rugby mercenary for whom the shirt means nothing except what it adds to his market value. Nothing wrong with earning a living for a dangerous and hard job. Rugby league was founded on that basic piece of social justice. But to wear the Welsh shirt one minute and the English one the next? That is the action of a prostitute. Step forward Gareth Carvell.

The other player is Rhys Griffiths. Alongside many new caps Rhys signals the end of the Englishmen in Welsh shirts. Although temporarily helping to put out a competitive Welsh side, this tendency has held Welsh rugby league back.

Rhys buried his Grandmother on Saturday and honoured her memory with distinction, pride and courage in playing for Wales. These boys will not be hawking their loyalties to the highest bidder and that might just mean Wales meeting England, Australia and New Zealand in the near future.

To do that of course requires victory in next years European Cup. Seeding for which is determined by this years offering. Victory away to Serbia is followed by a home match against Ireland this Sunday 1st Novermber in Pontypridd. Then finals day is at the Brewery Field, Sunday 8th November.

H'way the lads!

Friday, 2 October 2009

England Rugby League Coach Betrays International Competition

So after arguing, in a casual not related to anything honest way, that players should be allowed to flit from international team to international team, Tony Smith steals some Irish players. The Rugby League International Federation, a body not even able to maintain its own website, agreed to this. In other words whoever happened to be in the office said "Yeah mate why not?"

We of course are still waiting for someone to explain why the Great Britain side was split up if players are going to just be allowed to switch to England whenever they fancy it. Short sighted barely covers it.

Luckily Welsh rugby league is busy trying to establish at least a modicum of credibility. Hopefully the lads can put up a decent fight against the Northern Hemisphere Select XIII on October 17th at the Brewery Field, Bridgend. Genuine English fans should be cheering the boys in scarlet on.

Onwards and upwards, or at least sidewards.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Nothing Toulouse? Oh Good Grief!

The history of growth and expansionism in rugby league is not exactly one that can be drawn in a straight line. For a variety of reasons, some more controversial then others, it has never quite reached the tipping point for a major sport. For some of us tired of the corporate cynicism that has taken over many other sports this is a boon. However the good fight is still being fought.

Recently the sport in France has got its act together, at least relatively. However whatever progress has been made must be part of an ongoing push, properly resourced and properly planned. The possibility of Toulouse Olympique becoming part of European Super League is strong but should not be taken for granted. We shall see.

See ya!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

A Question of Justice?

Many non-rugby followers are perplexed by the existence of two distinct rugby's and at best hear something vague about professionalism and amateurism. The actual reason it turns was as much as about control and class as a philosophical difference. Late Victorian England was as much a place of conflict and discord as of table legs being covered up.

Still reading the history and how the opportunity to seriously rival football was lost due in the main to pigheadedness is painful. Then again the deep fissures the split reflected, indeed the story is much more then a tale of sporting events, may have made it inevitable. Here you can read my account of the creation of the Northern Rugby Football Union.

Onwards and upwards.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Great Britain Memories

It seems promises to resurrect the Great Britain side in a touring capacity more in line with the rugby union side was hot air. The Australian professional players err want a rest in 2012. Aww bless 'em. Although its a long sighted decision to allow proper home nation development, the inability to see the potential of a rare British Lions tour with the ashes at stake is frustrating.

This is of course the fate of all rugby league enthusiasts, to suffer one step forward two steps back. Oh well. At least you can enjoy a little bit of nolstagia with the various videos floating around. One of my favourite is the League of Their Own, a behind the scenes documentary, in which shockingly we lose to the Aussies. Those pesky scamps.

Be careful out there, y'all.

Monday, 21 September 2009

A Long and Worthwhile History

Its play-off rugby league once again, slowly grinding its way to the final show down at Old Trafford. The main purpose of this is, of course, to provoke Alex Ferguson into mumbling about his pristine pitch being ruined by the exertions of sporting figures who don't fall over in a slight cross wind. Pfft.

Many whipper snappers have their own grumblings about the champions being determined by the method of a Grand Final. Here I educate you, whippersnappers all, as to its long history. Be grateful.


Sunday, 20 September 2009

The Legacy of Vichy

The issue of how much of the past should impact on the present is an long running one. The debate seems to interminably swing between two none too subtle poles of thought. Events that pale into insignificance compared to genuine horrors are most likely to be dismissed. But yet.

Sport is based and deepened by its history, its events, its characters. My rule of thumb is that if you take the great things as somehow still part of what attaches you too a sport then you take the bad things, the less savoury and the downright criminal. The banning of Rugby League by the Vichy regime during WWII, instigated by the French Rugby Union, definitely falls into the latter category.

However the sport survived and flourishes and here I explain why.

Au revior, mon braves.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

The Greatest Game

My love of rugby league, neglected and derided though it often is, started at the Welsh home of the fifteen man version, the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff. Leeds versus Bradford turned an affection into fanaticism. Luckily someone went and set up the Celtic Crusaders (very kind of them) for me too support. Lovely.

However this blog ironically is set up to save people from it. Or to be more exact to save the few readers of my main blog, http://jeffreybaxter.blogspot.com/, from having to read about it. You more discerning readers will of course snort with derision at such tomfoolery and check here for words of wisdom almost every day, at least.

My main blog concerns a fluttering, barely breathing writing career currently being pursued most vigorously on suite101.com. Luckily I find myself writing about the jeu a treize more then any other subject so far. And rightly so. I like this effort especially: League of Their Own. Let me know if you are feeling it.