CRAIG FARRELL’S COLUMN - Scarborough teachers take to the field

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Before I delve into the rugby league mainstream this week, please allow me to indulge in a little rugby league related, shameless, self-promotion, and secondly to alert you to an obscure rugby league story which you may have missed over the last few days should you not be unemployed, retired, or a student, with a particular penchant for consonants, vowels, and numbers.

Unfortunately Saturday saw Scarborough Pirates’ opening fixture of the new season called off due to a large section of the Hillsborough pitch being under water and therefore, unplayable.

However, to my aging legs and ailing body this was something of a blessing in disguise, as on Sunday, together with Scalby School teacher, Richard Davis, and George Pindar teacher, James Pape, I was to play for Great Britain Teachers Rugby League, and the thought of two 80 minute stints in two days didn’t fill me, or my creaking body with much cheer.

I wrote briefly last year about the fledgling Teachers RL side, set up by teacher and rugby league enthusiast, Tony Fretwell. Since that time the project has gathered momentum, securing sponsorship from the NASUWT (one of the largest teachers’ unions), competed in the Steeden Cup against the likes of GB Police and GB Students, and even spawned a Great Britain Teachers Woman’s team.

However, Sunday was a real landmark for the Teachers RL side as they faced their first professional opposition, in the form of Rochdale Hornets U23s, a side littered with several players who had made first team appearances.

As one would expect, Rochdale were victorious but the score line of 56-10 belied the competitive nature of the game, with only a barrage of late second-half tries, against a tired and weary defence, adding a lob-sided appearance to the final score.

As a Scarborough teacher and rugby league player, the highlight of the day was the opportunity to represent my profession and town, along with respected colleagues from other schools in the area, at a game which we all love.

Ultimately the result on the day bore little relevance to the growing stature of the Teachers RL movement, headed by Tony Fretwell, which promises to grow and develop into something very exciting.

Next, following in the professional-sportsman-turned-intellectual footsteps of former Burnley FC captain and PFA Chairman, Clarke Carlisle, into the Leeds studios of the television quiz show Countdown, has recently been my old teammate, Batley Bulldogs record try-scorer, Craig Lingard.

‘Linners’ made his Countdown debut last Thursday and blew away the opposition to win three games before being defeated earlier this week, a record not to be sniffed at you might think.

That is until you realise that one six letter word he used on last Friday’s episode was ‘farted’. To use such a word on national TV he surely couldn’t have been dafter? (Think about it)

To finish this week, a whistle-stop tour of all the big rugby league news, starting with tomorrow night’s, top of the table clash, between Huddersfield Giants and Wigan Warriors at the Galpharm.

This fixture promises to be a cracker, with both coming of the back of good wins last weekend in the Carnegie Challenge Cup, Huddersfield putting half a century of points past London Broncos, whilst Wigan, playing below their best, strode to victory over Saints 18-4.

Both sides love to play to their football wide, hitting strike players in the channels, but in order to do that the forwards must get their team going forward and set the platform to play from.

This game is likely to be won up front but expect plenty of fast, free-flowing rugby and some individual brilliance thrown into the mix too.

The Carnegie Challenge Cup semi-final draw has thrown up to clashes of the roses with the Giants being drawn against Warrington and Wigan paired with Leeds Rhinos in a repeat of last year’s final.

Both games could go either way and regardless of which two sides progress the final already looks set to be a mouth-watering prospect of exciting rugby.

Finally, speaking of exciting rugby league, does it get any more exciting than State of Origin?

The mid-season show piece of the Australian season, widely regarded as the greatest rugby league spectacle in the world returns on Wednesday (Sky Sports 1, 11am), with the Blues of New South Wales and Maroons of Queensland returning to do battle in the first of their annual three-game series.

As the Aussies say, ‘it’s state against state, mate against mate’. Chances are it’ll be a humdinger!

Thanks for reading