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4 Forty-20 February 2012
More fun and games at the Lords where the newly decorated England captain and Mayor of Calverley Jamie Peacock pushed himself to the limit. JP MBE was guest speaker before the audience of, er, Lords, MPs, national media execs and the RFL hierarchy.
After training with the Rhinos on the Tuesday ahead of their opening night victory over Hull KR, Peacock got suited and booted, jumped on a train and arrived at the Cholmondley Room just in time for his smoked salmon starter. After wolfing down the roast pork main and cheesecake dessert he had the assembled VIPs eating out of his hand. Asked what he’d change in the game, he said: “I’d make it illegal for anyone to tackle me”, before reiterating his vision for two ten-team divisions to ease the physical burden on players.
JP then set off back at 6.00am the following morning for training in Leeds before heading to Old Trafford for the aformentioned season launch that afternoon. Honourable, indeed.
Sky Sports pundit Mike ‘Stevo’ Stephenson was the recipient of the Group’s Outstanding Achievement award. Commons Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, the MP for Chorley, made the presentation. For once, Stevo was almost lost for words.
So to the glittering President’s Ball and a big hurrah to all in their finery who raised almost £20,000 for the RFL Benevolent Fund. No matter that the food in Eddie Waring and Forty-20’s favourite haunt, the Queen’s Hotel, was mediocre. Nor that Refs Controller Stuart Cummings danced in his red braces. All of it was immaterial when set against Brigit Purdham’s moving speech endorsing the fund’s work. It held a roomful of hard-bitten characters spellbound.
Guevara: League in The Big Issue
“As should be obvious by now, the Stobart approach to sponsorship is frugal...”
We grumble about the lack of national media coverage as much as the next anorak, but the lead up to Super League XVII wasn’t too bad in our humble opinion. The Stobart sponsorship certainly got folk talking - with lorry spotting set to overtake complaining about refs as a hobby of ours over the coming months. We weren’t, however, expecting to see Kevin Sinfield talking about his revolutionary socialist heroes in the BigIssue. Which set us thinking. Does Che Guevara have a poster of comrade Sinny on his wall?
Talksport’s afternoon show was worth a listen in the iPitch run-up. Widnes Chairman Steve O’Connor was on, whom Andy Jacobs asked: “Isn’t mud a big part of rugby league?” Steve’s reply was an early contender for quote of the year. “A
lot of eyes will be watching what we do,” he said. “It looks like grass, feels like grass. If it had been around first, grass wouldn’t have been invented.”
If you want to get ahead, get in Forty-20. No sooner did Rotterdam Spartans appear in these pages last month than they were contacted by three clubs keen on playing Dutch friendlies this year. Woolston Rovers, the Rochdale Town team and Shaw Cross Sharks are now off to Holland.
Researching on the internet, as you do, one of the Forty-20elves if QIcan have them, so can we happened on an obscure reference to the former Hull KR, Halifax, Hull, Huddersfield and York 1992 Great Britain tourist Graeme Hallas.
Apparently, Graeme Hallas was also an all-girl English punk band who were: “...known for playing rugby and their strong beliefs in feminism. All the girls in the band have been mistaken for men, because of their short hair and boyish looks. The album HisOwn HandsandToolstalks about how it’s no longer just men who make amazing things, but women too.”
What? Like Margin Meters?
A big thank you to everyone who came to Scratching Shed’s ‘In League with Literature’ event at Wigan’s new central library. The place - complete with very fine glass frontage - had only been open for three weeks, so it was an honour to be invited there.
We’ve got plans to reinvent the concept as a Forty-20Roadshowin the near future, bringing such RL luminaries as Ray French MBE, Dave Hadfield, Professor Tony Collins and our less than glittering selves to a town or city near you. Interested clubs, festivals, Broadway agents etc should email editorial@forty-com
Back to One International and Super League referee
1. Leading international and Super League referee Steve Ganson took charge of his first professional game in 1995 Barrow versus Carlisle Border Raiders
3. The Australian Eddie Charlton (1929-2004) is the only player to have been world championship runnerup in both snooker and billiards without ever winning either title
2. At the birth of Super League, Barrow and Carlisle were set to be reborn as
‘Cumbria’, with Whitehaven and Workington. It didn’t happen.
In 1998, the two clubs did merge under coach Paul Charlton, as Barrow Border Raiders
5. Sir David was also behind rugby league’s Floodlit Trophy, which ran from 1965 to 1980. Castleford beat St Helens 4-0 at Knowsley Road to become its first winners
4. Snooker had a huge surge in popularity from 1969 when BBC2 controller David Attenborough commissioned Pot Black, a programme designed to show the potential of colour television
6. Along with the Premier
League’s Chris Foy, Steve Ganson is one of just two professional referees to hail from St Helens Personality of the month
Basil’s brash confidence ANDY WILSON welcomes new Castleford Tigers boss Ian Millward back to Super League
Know what I mean? It took Ian Millward one match in the snow at Salford, a couple of press conferences and a few other interviews to remind us that it will be good to have him back on the Super League scene, after an absence of almost six years.
He certainly couldn’t have wished for a better start, that 24-10 away win over the City Reds marking his latest club Castleford out as round one pace-setters, along with Wakefield, Huddersfield, St Helens, Leeds and Catalan Dragons.
He’d never admit it himself, but even Basil’s brash self-confidence must have been shattered when he was shown the door by Wigan in April 2006. He’d lost his dream job at St Helens less than a year earlier, in circumstances over which he remains bitter, and his experience at the DW Stadium was as humiliating as it gets, most notably with that 75-0 Challenge Cup demolition at Knowsley Road.
There was a fair amount of schadenfreude knocking around at the time, with a general feeling that Millward had paid the price for his own hubris. (Pseuds corner, anyone?) But the real story was always a bit more complicated than that.
Ever since he first came from Wollongong to England, to join struggling Leigh way back in 1998, he’s always taken chances, pushed his luck, basically just had fun. He must be the personification of that great Australian word larrikin. It takes a bit of mischief to suggest on the BBC, as Basil did during a Challenge Cup tie between Wigan and Widnes in an early summarising gig, that the waste paper blowing around an empty stadium came because Dave Whelan had opened his chequebook.
He probably did get a bit carried away by his own press during the golden days at Saints - although that is something else that he might not acknowledge. Anyway, us media folk must take some responsibility - we mostly loved his quotes, even if they did force regular late night rewrites under the stand at Knowsley Road.
I remember writing one piece ahead of a big cup game at Huddersfield describing him as rugby league’s Mourinho, at around the time Jose was wearing fancy overcoats and polarising opinion at Chelsea. Millward loved his profile, but there was also an element, admittedly small, of him doing his best to raise the profile of British rugby league - taking a shot at Yorkshire to raise publicity ahead of the War of the Roses, for example, rather than resorting to boring and bland politeness.
That altruistic argument is undermined by the more extreme examples of his over-riding priorities - himself and St Helens, most obviously when he fielded that notoriously weak team at Odsal on Easter Monday. The hours, days and weeks after that saw Millward at his least endearing, resorting to bluster about doctors’ notes and the like to defend the indefensible.
Saints went along with him, of course, all the way to Sean Long’s Lance Todd Trophy-winning performance in the “good versus evil” Cardiff Challenge Cup Final of 2004, when they triumphed over a Wigan team coached by the heroic Mike Gregory. But if, as I suspect, that was when the seeds of his downfall at Knowsley Road were sown, the sinning Saint was ultimately to receive his comeuppance.
His personal rehabilitation after that Wigan humiliation began in Townsville, where his old Illawarra mate Graham Murray gave him a backroom job with the Cowboys. From there he moved on to Canberra, seeking to rediscover in the NRL the edge in knowledge that had allowed him to run rings around the coaching competition when he first arrived at St Helens.
Because that’s the main point about Basil, surely, that’s easy to lose in all the bluster. The bloke must be a pretty sharp coach. Poor old Frank Endacott was the main victim of Millward’s mind back in 2000, as his Wigan team were demolished in a play-off at the JJB by some brilliantly inventive rugby, and beaten again in the Old Trafford Grand Final that followed.
Saints had been the reigning champions, but a pretty unhappy bunch, when Millward succeeded Ellery Hanley at the start of that 2000 season. Within weeks, they were smiling and freestyling.
Now it is Castleford who have taken a punt on Millward retaining some of that magic. Last year’s Northern Rail Cup success with Leigh suggests he has.
It’s a first job in Yorkshire for the motormouth and he will undoubtedly rub a few Tykes up the wrong way. But he’s moved to Ledsham, the quiet village where Murray settled so happily with his family during his time with Leeds, to show his commitment to doing this job properly.
He insists, predictably and unconvincingly, that this isn’t about proving a point. He returned to Leigh 18 months or so ago partly as a favour to Arthur Thomas, but mostly for personal reasons rather than professional. However now that he’s back in the big time he’ll be desperate to succeed and complete the restoration of his reputation.
That is unlikely to involve overtaking Saints or Wigan any time soon. But in that first party-pooping game at the brand new City of Salford Stadium, there was a first hint of why Millward was keen on Cas, despite the long-running uncertainty over their own new stadium and therefore finances.
With Richie Owen at full-back, Rangi Chase in the halves, and Adam Milner and Daryl Clark as two terrific young hookers, he has inherited from Terry Matterson a spine along the lines of Wellens, Long and Cunningham at St Helens.
It promises to be another intriguing year down Wheldon Road. With Millward about, it is unlikely to be dull.
“We need a healthy competition, closer games and less blow-outs. I know it didn’t do us any good last year with the number of games that we had blown out, and I don’t think it does rugby league any good...” - Warringtoncoach TonySmith
“I’m sure the RFL won’t turn [Odsal] into the Wembley of the North overnight, but potentially it becomes more feasible in the future when the economy takes a turn for the better...” - BradfordBulls chairman PeterHood
“Jamie Peacock and Jon Wilkin should be honest with the players they are trying to recruit and accept they have no money, no back-up and no structure to look after them and they will be walking them over a cliff...” - GMBregional director TimRoache
February 2012 Forty-20 5