Forty-20managing editor PHIL CAPLAN takes a gander at the 2012 Super League fixtures
Here comes summer. In February.
It would test the ingenuity of the most creative mind at Saatchi & Saatchi to sell a supposed summer sport at the beginning of February.
Yet barely had England’s over-extended Four Nations players exited the airport departure lounge than a 2012 Super League schedule attempting to do just that was under discussion – though not much, so underwhelming was the sponsorless fixtures announcement.
Steve McNamara’s chosen few left for sunny climes and the prospect of another desperately short off-season insisting their workload was not onerous, but canvassing opinion from players on this issue is like asking a lawyer with a full caseload if he or she can fit in another murder trial.
‘Whatever-it-is’ Super League XVII will not quite have the earliest start; a ridiculous snowy night in Wrexham in January 2010 just beats it. But a stand-alone mid-June international weekend for one of probably two Exiles clashes means the 2011 kick-off is beaten by one week.
The season just gone went out like a lion, whereas the forthcoming one comes in like a lamb. No signature game opener; a Charity Shield repeat of the Grand Final, say, for league points, or maybe Wigan versus Warrington in the clash of the still seething. Instead, it’s welcome back Widnes against Wakefield; ideal Saturday night fare, if hardly a Friday night headline-grabber.
But, arguably, the most disappointing aspect of the dribbled grid is Manchester Magic at the Etihad (definition: uniting of organisations), now scheduled for May 26-27. If the extra round has to be incorporated then taking it to within travelling distance of most fans makes it no different to any other away game. Its raison d’ être - to make a weekend of it - is lost.
If it had to be an ‘M’ to follow Millennium,
Murrayfield and Millennium, why not Midlands? If the RFL are promoting that region as being the most fertile for new clubs in
Championship One come
2013 then it would make sense to build added impetus now by staging elite contests there
Damp squib start: Why not kick off with a 2011 Grand Final rematch?
rlphotos.com and linking in. After all, Wakefield are supposed to be Northampton’s new best pals.
Yes there will be mint stadiums to saviour at St Helens, opened by Salford, and for the City Reds themselves who host Castleford on Sky in round one. The London renaissance is as exciting as it is encouraging. The Broncos’ management, having asked for a big name reopening, were given Saints, the same opponents who launched and almost immediately undermined the Harlequins brand on the same ground in 2006. So good to see the lesson learned there.
Also persevered with are the eight-team play-offs, roundly lambasted until they came alive in the semis (that’s what winning from fifth does). Clubcall is retained too, presumably under the ‘any publicity is good publicity’ mantra. St Helens, whose Achilles seems to be Old Trafford rather than how to get there, were the only club to vote against, with Warrington abstaining.
SUPER LEAGUE XVII ROUND ONE: FridayFebruary3- Leeds v Hull KR, Widnes v Wakefield; Feb4- London Broncos v St Helens, Salford v Castleford; Feb5- Hull v Warrington, Wigan v Huddersfield, Bradford v Catalan.
EARLIEST BIG FIXTURES: Feb10- St Helens v Salford; 11- Wigan v Leeds; March3- Leeds v Warrington; 23- Wigan v Warrington; 24- St Helens v Leeds; 30- Warrington v St Helens; April5- Warrington v Widnes; London v Catalans; 6- Bradford v Leeds, Hull KR v Hull, St Helens v Wigan, Wakefield v Castleford, Huddersfield v Salford; 14- Challenge Cup fourth round
MAGIC WEEKEND LINE-UP: Bradford v Leeds, Castleford v Wakefield, Catalan v London Broncos, Huddersfield v Salford, Hull v Hull KR, St Helens v Wigan, Warrington v Widnes (KOs TBC)
Back to One
Australia, Queensland & Brisbane
1. Four Nationswinning rugby league legend Darren Lockyer got his highly distinctive gravel voice as a result of an elbow to the windpipe
2. Bury-based Mercury Prize winning rock band Elbow took their name from a line in Dennis Potter’s BBC TV drama, TheSingingDetective
4 Forty-20 December 2011
3. In 2009, singing Toyota Cup prop forward Lota Fiaalii became the first rugby league player ever to be accepted into the Australian Institute of Music
5. In 1988, Bennett, right, became the first ever coach of Brisbane Broncos. He spent 21 seasons at the club, winning a record six Grand Finals
4. Current Newcastle Knights coach Wayne Bennett wrote a bestselling book, Don'tDiewiththeMusicinYou, in 2003
6. The Queensland State Government is to place a life-size statue of Brisbane’s long-serving captain Darren Lockyer outside the Broncos’ Suncorp Stadium