Farrell’s Forum: Opening tie selection is questionable

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Super League XVII kicked off last Friday evening with Widnes Vikings succumbing to Wakefield Trinity Wildcats by 32-14, at the Stobart Stadium.

But I have to question the RFL and Sky’s wisdom in scheduling this match above all others to be the first one of the season shown live on television.

I appreciate that Sky have a contractual agreement to show each club in the Stobart Super League a given number of times per season.

I also appreciate that the RFL have, in the past, been inclined to show promoted or newly formed clubs on the opening day of the season, and to be fair, this has, on occasion, served them well.

However, in my opinion the opening game of the new season is a showpiece, it should be a case of “look at what our sport has to offer.”

Open the season with a bang, hit the ground running and get two of the top teams in the division facing each other in a statement of intent – even if the fixture list has to be manipulated somewhat to accommodate this.

As a newly-licensed Super League franchise, Widnes had little time to prepare for their baptism into the game’s top tier – despite learning of their successful license bid at the end of March last year they only received their additional Super League funding in December and their squad remains incomplete.

Wakefield too have a side bearing few resemblances to the one that ended last season and despite their victory they will need time to gel.

In short, the match itself was never going to be a great spectacle, even before the cold snap hit.

The RFL and Sky must do all they can to promote the game, in order to increase viewing figures, participation and attendances, and by scheduling this game to open the season on television I feel they failed in their duty to do so.

I do not mean to sound disrespectful to the likes of Widnes and Wakefield, indeed I was born in Widnes and supported them as a boy, however, given the chance, the keen, neutral observer of rugby league would likely not have selected these two sides as the ones they would have wanted to open the season on their television screens.

While on the subject of Widnes I’d like to comment briefly on the Super League franchise system itself. While initially I was extremely sceptical of it, I do now feel that for the game of rugby league the franchise system is a good fit.

It promotes a level of level stability at clubs and gives young, British coaches, such as Widnes’ Dennis Betts time to build squads and develop players, it also gives directors time to build teams, brands and sustainable business plans without the burden of looming relegation.

Rarely these days are Super League coaches released from their clubs before the expiration of their contracts, and surely this can only be a good thing for our game.

Scarborough RUFC had a special Super League guest last Sunday when none other than Super League champions Leeds Rhinos’ Danny McGuire turned up.

McGuire, probably the best British support player of his generation, was at Silver Royd to enquire about the use of the facility for an element of his testimonial year, next season.

As of yet the details of McGuire’s plan are a little sketchy but it’s thought that the Rhinos may use Silver Royd as a training base at some stage and McGuire, who was shown around Silver Royd by Scarborough RUFC Chief Executive Graeme Young, was said to be suitably impressed by what the club had to offer.

Speaking of Scarborough RUFC, it is at this juncture I’d like to introduce a new, weekly addition to Farrell’s Forum in the shape of Scarborough RUFC’s, former Great Britain Rugby League Pioneers’, Tom Ratcliffe.

Each week he’ll give his brief synopsis of a Stobart Super League match, in Rafcliffe’s Review.

l Ratcliffe’s Review:

I was at the Bradford versus Catalan game on Sunday and although Bradford were poor Catalan looked very sharp and are my tip to finish in the top four this season.

However this will depend on keeping key players like Scott Dureau and Thomas Bosc fit.

Dureau looks like he is set for an impressive second season in Super League, after making the dream team last year, and if this form continues I wouldn’t bet against him being in the dream team again at the end of the season or possibly in the running for Man of Steel.

I mentioned last week of giving details of Scarborough Pirates’ preparations for the forthcoming season, however, after speaking briefly with their club manager, Dave Marsden, it would appear the club’s league future is in something of a limbo.

The club were due to be involved in negotiations about procuring a place in an appropriate league earlier this week, however at the time of writing the outcome of those negotiations is unknown, therefore, I will keep you up to date, and in more depth in due course.

In the meantime anyone wishing to attend Pirates training is welcome to do so, training is Tuesdays and Thursdays at Gristhorpe Cricket Club at 6:45pm, for further details contact Dave Marsden on 0776607435.

And finally, after reaching Hull, York and Wakefield, it’s now official, Farrell’s Forum has gone global!

After last week’s column I received an email from Nik Dixon, a former Scarborough resident, now living in Brisbane, Australia.

Nik wrote to inform me that he was present at the Artie Beetson memorial at Suncorp Stadium, after I’d written about his tragic passing.

Nik’s son, Kai, a former Scarborough RUFC minis player, currently plays for Wynnum Manly Seagulls juniors and will be training with the Brisbane Broncos development squad this weekend.

So good luck to Kai and thanks to Nik for his correspondence.

l If you’d like to contact Farrell’s Forum about anything rugby league related, contact me at farrellsforum@hotmail.com.