SUPER LEAGUE News & Rumours – May 8, 2020: “The More Things Change”

Super League eyes July Return. Relegation Likely Scrapped. Back to the RFL? PLUS: Sonny B vs. Tyson and an Anti Vaxxer Threatens Rugby Restart.

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NEWS AND RUMOURS – MAY 8, 2020

An idea of a return date is starting to form with Super League following the lead of Premiere League football who have eyed June for a return to action. Super League hopes to follow in July should things go without a hitch for the PL:

“Like seemingly all sports across England, rugby league is keeping a close eye on Premier League football to see what happens next. “The English football top flight are hoping for a return in June and that’s alerted Super League, who feel they could follow suit in early July. It’s a tentative approach from Super League, who had hoped to be playing by May when lockdown first began and then shifted that focus to June. The unpredictable nature of the coronavirus pandemic and the unforeseen ramifications that have followed have meant the goal of a start date has been shifted to July, but even then nothing is set in stone.” – Hull Daily Mail

“There is a growing sense the season can resume in early July, with the hope being some of the wage cuts can be eased if not fully lifted. A players’ union letter sent to all members recently sparked a backlash from some owners, with the union talking of balloting players if full salaries were not reinstated. That suggestion was criticised by Hull KR owner Neil Hudgell, who said owners ‘wouldn’t have a gun held to their head’ when it came to salaries, with clubs struggling for finances to stay alive.” – Hull Daily Mail

Robert Elstone also gave his thoughts on a July return:

“My conversations with ex-colleagues around the Premier League table is that there is real optimism about early June but that will be in a regime of mass testing. Does that mean we can get going four weeks later with perhaps a more limited but safe and applicable testing regime? I really hope so.” – loverugbyleague.com

Much was made this week of Sonny Bill Williams and Mike Tyson being pitted against each other in a boxing match for charity, a rumour Tyson himself shot down in a since-deleted tweet:

“Sonny Bill Williams has been given Toronto Wolfpack’s blessing to face boxing icon Mike Tyson in a fight. – Fox Sports

St. Helens chairman Eamonn McManus is leading the call for Super League and the RFL to reunite just two years after separating. The sentiment has support among at least three other clubs who cite the pandemic as the reason for an immediate realignment:

“But with the Covid-19 crisis wreaking havoc through rugby league, Saints, Wakefield and Hull KR – a quarter of the top-flight – believe it is time for change again…  “Nobody foresaw what has happened in the last few months and therefore the duplication in central resources is no longer sustainable or justified.” – The St. Helens Reporter

“It looked to have been a successful move, until the coronavirus pandemic hit and now, with the game facing financial uncertainty and a rocky road ahead for the next few years, the stance for many has changed. Having two leaders in Elstone and RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer overseeing separate administrative, media, commercial and many other aspects of the game makes little sense to some owners with the game short of money and asking for financial help. – Hull Daily Mail

The National Rugby League’s planned return to competition on May 28 is being upstaged by at least one player who refuses to get a seasonal flu vaccine. Gold Coast Titans forward Bryce Cartwright has refused to get the annual flu shot and said it would be coercion if he was forced into getting the vaccine. – Sky Sports

Robert Elstone offered up some clarity on the big government financial aid package handed out last week to Super League:

“The cash injection was confirmed last week and will primarily be used to help clubs survive as they inevitably lose income as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. There has been speculation about how the money will be spent and how it will be split, however it has been confirmed that it will not be used on players and staff who have taken pay cuts to help ease their respective clubs’ financial strain. Speaking on the Golden Point Daily vodcast, Elstone stressed that the money will be used to subsidise clubs’ estimated losses and that any talk of a strike from players, who may not return to their full wages as soon as the season resumes, should be well-thought out first.” – seriousaboutrl.com

“The pandemic also continues to come at a huge financial cost… Fitzpatrick says Wolves are facing losses of at least £1million – and the figure could rise. The sport was given a £16million loan by Government on Friday but detail on repayments is still needed.” – Warrington Guardian

Wakefield star Jacob Miller thinks Wolfpack are great for Super League:

“Miller said: “They are a fresh team and are something different. They open up a new avenue with the media and sponsorship so I’m really looking forward to seeing what they bring this year.” – loverugbyleague.com

“This time three years ago, Toronto Wolfpack made history as they welcomed the world of rugby league to their back yard for the very first time. The Canadian side hosted Oxford in a League 1 fixture at the Lamport Stadium in front of 6,281 fans. Despite Toronto winning that game 62-12, former Oxford captain Callum Windley looks back fondly at the trip to Canada.”

More from Windley:

“I said to a couple of them, these hardcore ones who had these fancy hats on, I said ‘What’s the deal with you. You’ve been calling me all these names under the sun all game and now you’re acting like my best mate.’ They said ‘That’s what we do in Canada, we support our team to the final whistle. Afterwards we just like to socialise with the opposition’. I really like it to be honest. During the game they’re against you but after they’re with you. They’re good people.” – loverugbyleague.com

The issue of relegation remains a hot topic but it now looks likely that relegation will be scrapped for the 2020 season, which could be a sample of what’s to come. Still, nothing final has been officially ruled on for this season or beyond:

Super League chief executive Robert Elstone says relegation from Super League this year wouldn‘t be fair. The CEO has admitted that concerns of club owners regarding the proposition of relegation are right, saying it ‘wouldn’t feel right’ for one of the current 12 clubs to drop out of the elite competition. There have been calls across the game for relegation to be scrapped with the season set to come back in a different format to the one set out at the beginning of the year because of the coronavirus pandemic. – Hull Daily Mail

Hull KR owner Neil Hudgell told The Yorkshire Post:

“Robert can articulate any view he wants and his views do represent the views – I think – of the vast majority of Super League clubs, if not them all. “But it is arbitrary because it is the RFL who have obviously to factor in all the competing deeds and demands. I think the powerbroker in the game at the minute, in practical terms, is the RFL. They sit on this Government money (£16m loan) that they are going to distribute whatever way they say fit within the framework of how it’s been allocated to them. – Yorkshire Post

Daniel Hunt gives his top 10 signings of the Super League season:

“Matty Ashton is a perfect example of a rising star and, after playing just one year for Swinton, his abilities were widely recognised. A number of clubs desired to have Ashton in their prospective squad, and it was Warrington who eventually claimed the youngster… Steve Price allowed Ashton to make his mark immediately, which he did so with outstanding performances against two of Super League’s titans, Wigan Warriors and St Helens.” – totalrl.com