They’ve been moaning about it for years, and now it seems that Super League coaches are stamping their feet over the Easter weekend double header.
After an exciting round of matches at the start of the weekend, which prompted RFL chief Nigel Wood to hail this season as the most competitive ever, there were several lopsided results on Monday.
In truth, not many would have predicted anything else for London and Widnes at Warrington and Huddersfield on any given weekend during the season, but there was a feeling before the games kicked-off that their respective coaches had virtually written off the games as lost causes, and instead opted to save players who may have been half fit after Friday for games that they believe they have a better chance of winning.
Hull KR suffered their Super League record defeat against Wigan, going down 84-6, with coach Craig Sandercock bemoaning the Easter weekend even before it kicked off.
Rovers coach Craig Sandercock said: “We ban the shoulder charge because we’re concerned about player welfare but we let our boys play the biggest derby of the season and then back it up two days later. I think it’s not a great idea.”
London coach Tony Rea said: “The theory is everyone gets a home game, but the second one has just traditionally not been a quality game, not because we’re resting players but you just get two tired teams.”
Widnes coach Denis Betts said: “Easter been a part of my life since I can remember but I think you’ve got to look at this and say ‘it doesn’t work’. You cannot play the game the way it’s played now and expect two games on a weekend.”
Ben Cross, who missed the whole weekend through injury, tweeted after the Vikings 62-6 hammering by Huddersfield: “Some awful scorelines that’s what happens when you play two games in four days, not a good advert for the game.”
Over the two rounds, only Wigan managed two wins, while Leeds and Bradford escaped unbeaten, having drawn on Thursday night. Only two clubs, London and Castleford, failed to pick up any points.
While the top clubs have the strength in depth to cope over the two rounds, those clubs at the bottom end of the table clearly do not, and perhaps it is time that the Easter weekend evolved in to something new.
Now of course, it’s a long-standing tradition in this country to play two games over Easter, and Great Britain legend Garry Schofield was quick to point out via Twitter that he once played three games in as many days for Hull during his career. There’s also the argument that it’s the same for everybody, and players and coaches know the situation every season.
But when coaches start to manipulate the integrity of games, effectively writing them off before they begin, where does that leave the paying public?
A solution offered by London’s Chris Bailey and Tony Rea is to simply play one round of games over the Easter weekend. All seven games could be shown live on TV, with games on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, with a big drive towards marketing the individual games as well as trying to reach out to a larger television audience. Easter could then become “rugby league weekend”.
Speaking of integrity, this change could result in the scrapping of the Magic Weekend, from the Super League calendar at least, and thus reducing the number of games in the regular season to 26.
That would then enable the Magic Weekend to become the home of the Challenge Cup quarter-finals, a suggestion made by our columnist Neil Barraclough last week.
It gives increased attention to the cup quarter-finals, ensures rugby league still has “another day in the sun”, prevents coaches from throwing (and moaning about) matches on the Easter weekend, and doesn’t increase the number of games for players.
It’s a win, win – no?