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4 Forty-20 April 2012
Neil Connoly has been on to tell us that St Helens takes its name from the Church of Holy Cross And St Helen on Corporation Street, not the church mentioned in our ‘Five Drives and a Kick’ flash mob feature last month. It’s the other way around, says Neil. “St Helens Parish Church takes its name from the town.”
Forty-20is introducing a new award in memory of the artist and rugby league fanatic, Bob Rushton, who died late last year.
The presentation of the 2012 Bob Rushton Award will be made by Bob’s family to someone who has done outstanding work combining rugby league with the visual arts. The winner could be a painter, cartoonist, sculptor, photographer or whatever. Nominees will be listed next month.
Can we put in a good word for 3D television? No? Well, we’re going to anyway.
3D films are largely a gimmick; you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. But 3D sport... well. We watched last month’s Warrington v St Helens clash with the old Roy Orbisons on and it doesn’t half take televised rugby league to a different level.
You get far greater appreciation of space and depth; there’s no doubt whatsoever about forward passes and knock-ons; and viewers have a much clearer understanding of player positioning in lines of defence, attack or the tackle. If you’ve not seen a game in 3D yet, give it a whirl.
Big, ahem, raps to those involved in setting a new wheelchair rugby league record as part of Sport Relief. The event, devised by London Broncos Development Manager Andy Fairhurst and Medway Dragons coach Mark Roughsedge, started at
Seeing treble: Jonny Lomax in 2D
“Forty-20is introducing a new award in memory of the artist Bob Rushton...”
8am and ran for 12 hours. It was the biggest taster session ever held, with over 250 new participants getting into the chairs and playing. In the morning, 14 new wheelchair match officials were qualified; all staying to referee on the world record game. The day is expected to bring in a final total in the region of £2,000.
Apart from speaking to injured Englishmen and risking the wrath of those who think the national side should be a little bit more than an Exiles second string, England coach Steve McNamara has revealed that the team will visit South Africa while on his three-week trip to Australia.
Shortly before meeting with Gareth Ellis, Sam Burgess, James Graham and Chris Heighington in Sydney; Gareth Widdop in
Melbourne; Jack Reed in Brisbane; and presumably anyone who once got a postcard from Cleethorpes, he outlined plans for a week’s high altitude training in October.
“We’ll leave no stone unturned ahead of the World Cup; it’s vital to start planning things now,” he said.
Northampton’s Championship One side-in-waiting has advertised for a head coach. Most interesting line in the extensive job description: “Experience of converting rugby union players into rugby league players.” Think we can see where they might be planning on getting their squad from.
The Pennine League, staunch supporters of the winter game, are looking for teams for their 2012-3 season as they plan “new expansion”. As if that wouldn’t upset the RFL enough, the wording of their plea includes reference to ‘traditional’ and ‘amateur’ - guaranteed to stoke the divisive fires.
Schadenfreude for the Rugby Football Union. Upon announcing Stuart Lancaster as the new England coach, the DailyMailran a two-page feature with accompanying pictures of him training the U11s at West Park, Bramhope, in Leeds. Most of the kids were wearing Rhinos shirts good judges and a better subliminal advert than any Stobart lorry.
Letter to TheTimes, another bastion of 13-a-side coverage, on 27 March. “Sir, John Price (Letter,Mar 26) wants rugby to return to the excitement of “skilful running and passing the ball in open play”. I would like to inform him that this is called rugby league.’
Signed, Bill Bradbury, Billing.
Back to One
1. Torquay born and Australiaraised Catalan Dragons hooker Ian Henderson brother of fellow Scotland internationals Andrew and Kevin - was last month selected in the England training squad
2. John Cleese’s 1975 and 1979 BBC TV sitcom FawltyTowerswas based at a hotel in Torquay (which did not offer views of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon)
5. In 2000, the year of London’s 20th anniversary, future Castleford Tigers coach Terry Matterson was named one of the club’s 20 all-time great players. In 2007, Matterson appointed Ian Henderson’s brother Andrew as Tigers captain.
4. Virgin Records were founded in 1972 by English entrepreneur Richard Branson who, in 1996, became a major shareholder in London Broncos
6. In 2008, Ian Henderson told Australian newspaper CentralCoastExpress Advocatethat the residents of Castleford have “rotten teeth, need a bath and drink themselves silly...”
3. ‘Babylon’s Burning’ was a 1979 top ten hit on the Virgin label for London-based reggae-influenced punk band, The Ruts Personality of the month
A black and white choice ANDY WILSON hails the return of Great Britain forward Gareth Ellis to Super League - and Hull
There was a fair amount of cynical chuntering about Gareth Ellis’s decision to choose Hull ahead of Leeds and all the other clubs who were keen to bring him back to England for next season. Down to the money, presumably, or perhaps the David Howes connection, Ellis’s agent having already placed Shaun McRae and Peter Gentle at the KC Stadium.
The real story, if you're sentimental enough to believe it - and I do - is a good deal more romantic. The formidable Wests Tigers and England forward quite fancies following in the footsteps of David Topliss, the late, great stand-off who scored two tries in Hull’s famous cup final replay win over Widnes in 1982. I’ll let Ken Ellis, Gareth’s dad - and a former professional player himself with Doncaster, York and the early Sheffield Eagles - explain.
“I knew David very well from being out with him in Australia on supporters tours, and he also had a bit to do with our Gareth. He always spoke about Hull and his memories there - even though he was from Wakefield and spent most of his career with them. I know Sammy Lloyd too and it’s the same with him even though he’s from Cas, the same with Kevin Harkin, Knocker Norton it’s all about Hull. I said to our Gareth, they must be doing something right over there - it’s obviously a club that people who have played there keep an affinity for.
“So when he was making his decision, and he rang me up - he still does, even though he’s 30, which is a nice thing for a dad - and said let’s be serious, what are we going to do, that’s the sort of thing we talked about.
“It might have been nice for him to play for Castleford, but it was just never on. He could have gone back to Leeds, where they’re a great set of lads. But he would have been going back. This is something different and new, and like he says wherever he’s gone so far - Wakefield, Leeds and the Tigers - it’s always worked out for him. I hope he can be a legend, like they call him out in Balmain, in Hull too.”
Apologies if you’re sick of all this soppiness, but it turns out Ellis's reasons for coming back to Yorkshire were anything but hard-headed,
either. “When he came back to get married [to Rachael] at Christmas, I think it hit both of them,” Ken continues. “He’s got three sisters, and seeing them with their kids, that made a difference. We’re glad he’s coming back, obviously. It’s a shame he’s got this foot injury now but it’s only a small bone, and hopefully he’s still got exciting times over there before he’s done at the Tigers.”
Most Forty-20 readers will be aware of the achievement most regularly trotted out to confirm how successfully Ellis has established himself in the NRL - player of the year in each of his three seasons with the Tigers. But Mark Flanagan, who was a Wests team-mate for two campaigns before returning home to join St Helens last autumn, provides a more graphic account of the qualities that have demanded respect in the world’s toughest rugby competition - and will now provide such a boost to Hull.
“I remember at the end of the 2010 season, we played the Roosters in a play-off match,” Flanagan recalled. “Gareth had a really bad back. I wasn’t due to play in the game, but everyone from our coach Tim Sheens down was expecting me to have to because Gareth wouldn’t be able to. In the changing rooms before kick-off, he could hardly walk. But he had painkilling injections, had a brace on his back, and he started the game like a house on fire - you wouldn’t believe there was anything wrong with him. That’s the sort of bloke he is, so tough. He’s a good bloke, as well, as everybody always says. When I first went out there he was a massive help - I’d sent him a short email asking for any advice, and he sent me back a massive long essay. Again, that’s typical of him - I couldn’t speak highly enough of him. I tried to get him to Saints, obviously, but Hull will be a good move for him.”
“It does make you proud when you hear things like that,” says Dad Ken. “As proud as all the things he’s achieved on the field, to be honest. You wouldn’t be as proud of a worldbeating player if he was a bit of a dick.”
It was these off-field qualities that had convinced David Solomona and the other senior figures at Wakefield Trinity that Ellis would go right to the top by the end of his first season in first grade.
“I was cleaning some stuff out recently and came across an old interview I did with a magazine, saying that even then he was one of the few English players I could see being a star in the NRL,” said Solomona. “Having been around for quite a while in the sport I could tell he was something special. He just had that little bit extra, in everything he did.”
Yet he had gone unspotted under Castleford’s noses for years, playing at Lock Lane, until John Harbin, the knockabout Aussie who had joined Wakefield as a development officer before embarking on an unusual coaching career that led to Oldham Athletic and Crystal Palace, identified something special in an 18year-old playing for Yorkshire’s amateurs against Lancashire.
Within a couple of seasons, a 21year-old Ellis was captaining Shane McNally’s Trinity from the unfamiliar position of stand-off to a famous play-off win over Hull at the KC Stadium. Now, numerous Test caps and major finals later, he is heading back to the scene of that triumph. No wonder the black and white zealots are excited he’ll be wearing their colours.
“Lewis Jones took longer to score his points than Kevin, who did not start kicking until 2003. To beat his record is incredible...” - LeedsbossBrian McDermottsaluteshis skipper,KevinSinfield, whomadehistory againstSalfordwith his2,921stpoint
“Bradford Bulls is one of a handful of Super League clubs with a positive balance sheet. And if you take the uniquely solvent Leeds club out of the equation, the average Super League club is technically insolvent to the tune of £2.7m...” - BradfordBulls ChairmanPeterHood pointsouttheharsh realitieswhileasking thewiderrugbyleague communityforsupport
“[Mateo] is a class player. It wouldn’t be right for me to chase him to play for us, but I’d love to hear from Feleti...” - Theintegrityof internationalRLtakes anothernosedive,as EnglandbossSteve McNamaraislinked withSydney-born TongaskipperFeleti Mateo,plusalistof some40otherNRL players
April 2012 Forty-20 5