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4 Forty-20 March 2012
The Chronicle minutes or so of rugby league talk and semi-competitive shenanigans featuring this very magazine’s editorial team and guests. In episode one, everyone appears to have wildly over-loaded on Haribo.
Like Forty-20itself, it comes out on the 13th day of every month, so number two should be available now. Or maybe you could listen to it while you are having a number two, we don’t mind. It’s in the iTunes store, Soundcloud, Jellycast or just follow us on Twitter, where we’ll bombard you with links and reminders to the point of irritation.
Speaking of comedians, round eight of the Stobart Super League will have a Sport Relief theme.
Each club will do something different, but there’ll be red balls, red socks, plus red knees and elbows for London Broncos, who are away at Widnes. The refs will wear red too.
Is it our imagination or are Sky really pushing the boat out when it comes to branding themselves as the channel for rugby league this year?
Along with a cast list to put GonewiththeWindto shame, there are a host of new shows too. There’s even an online chat-fest with rugby league journalists in it, BackChat, hosted by Rod Studd. We like this because they had a copy of Forty-20 on the table when we watched it.
The new series of SuperLeague SuperMenis great as well. Danny McGuire was a top guest to kick it all off and any programme that involves Sam Tomkins and Brian Carney will do for us. Great to see some of the game’s major past players getting a look in too. We’re even learning to love Phil Clarke’s Margin Meter. Well, everybody needs a laugh now and then, don’t they?
Supermen: Carney and Tomkins
“Build it and sell good beer and they will come... and drink it...”
At the press conference for the World Club Challenge, the visitors must have felt at home. Sunny day, sand on the Headingley pitch, it was like being back on Manly beach.
Another Aussie was there too, among the piled-high tins of Heinz Big Soup. Our own Steve Mascord, of course, complete with every known technological advancement and gadget known to humankind. Whether it’s websites, podcasts, videocasts or anything else online, Steve, weighed down with laptops, is your go-to guy.
Anyway, conference begins and said intrepid hack looks around in a fluster. “Anyone got a pen?”
In the aftermath of Leeds’ World Club win, Talk Sport’s Richard Keys and Andy Gray – so that’s where they went – had a special guest: Eddie Stobart, no... Hemmings.
Keys, the hairy one, said: “Quite rightly, we’ve been criticised by our North West listeners for neglecting Super League. We put that right by talking to the voice.” Gray then made the Leeds WCC triumph runner-up in his ‘Delivery of the Week’ spot, just behind Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.
Mayor of Calverley update. When Jamie Peacock paid a visit to Buck House for his MBE last month, he was asked by the Queen – a regular presenter of the Challenge Cup in the 1960s (well, twice) - how long he had been playing. “Fifteen or 16 years,” replied JP. “Can’t you tell by the grey hair”, a remark HRH affected not to hear. Having avoided a trip to the Tower, the England skipper was then asked if he enjoyed playing. “It’s a great team sport,” she concurred.
Get her on Boots‘n’All.
Still in Leeds, the Mayor of that city, Councillor Reverend Alan Taylor, outed himself as a Hunslet fan at an official Civic Hall reception for the WCC protagonists in the run-up to the big match. Most of the speeches centred on the weather, but when Kylie Leuluai, who played for both clubs, was interviewed on stage by Gary Hetherington, a huge yawn emanated from the Sea Eagles ranks. Weightwatcher George Rose was identified as the likely culprit.
As if St Helens fans could feel any worse after their gut-wrenching loss to Catalan - courtesy of ‘that try’ impish builders are rumoured to have buried two Wigan shirts under the pitch during construction.
What chance Royce Simmons repeating Barry Fry’s act of urinating on each of the corner flags to ward off unruly spirits, having been advised to do so by an exorcist?
Back to One
1. Bradford forward Tom Burgess is the only one of four rugby league playing brothers to ply his trade in Super League
2. The real name of Manchesterborn author Anthony Burgess, late-writer of dystopian satire AClockwork
Orange, was John Wilson
3. Scotsman John Wilson was appointed rugby league’s first full-time secretary in 1920. He served 26 years, one year longer than predecessor Joseph Platt
4. Oldham’s Joseph Platt took up his part-time position in 1895, upon the formation of the Northern Union
5. The Northern Union - which in 1922 was renamed the Rugby Football League - was born in the George Hotel, Huddersfield
6. Along with older siblings Sam and Luke, Tom Burgess’s twin, George, is currently on the books of Australian NRL club South Sydney Rabbitohs. The brothers are pictured above in 2008 Personality of the month
It’s not how you start... ANDY WILSON salutes Pat Richards, Wigan’s third-highest points scorer of all time
Marvellous thing, the internet. My memories of just how grim the early months in Wigan had been for Pat Richards back in 2006 were a little vague and in the immediate aftermath of yet another prolific afternoon’s work at Odsal last month, when he happened to have become the third-leading pointscorer in the history of one of rugby league’s great clubs, the big Aussie winger was understandably reluctant to dredge it all up.
But type in ‘Pat Richards Wigan 2006 rubbish’ - sorry Pat - and it all comes flooding back. “Why not try him at full-back?” asked one poster to the WiganWarriorsFans.com messageboard on April 18, following a home defeat by Harlequins on Easter Monday. “Why not send him back?” came the reply - probably fairest not to name the poster in question. “Big signing, big money, big waste - not impressed.”
Richards had been Ian Millward’s major off-season recruit, and arrived as an NRL champion who had been the recipient of one of the great Grand Final passes from Benji Marshall in Wests Tigers’ victory over North Queensland - I've just watched that on the internet, too.
Plenty of other Super League clubs were interested, as his Irish heritage gained him a precious exemption from the overseas quota. But Richards was lured by Wigan’s name and reputation. He could not have arrived at a worse time. And as the expensive new boy asked to play out of position at centre on several occasions, including his debut on the Catalans’ opening night in Perpignan, he took more than his share of stick.
That makes the success he has gone on to achieve - a Grand Final win, a Challenge Cup win, the 2010 Man of Steel plus that place in the Wigan record books - all the more admirable, and presumably satisfying, although he’s much too classy to indulge in cheap shots at those numerous dark-day critics.
Richards was in at the start of the Wigan revival, as Brian Noble switched him back to the left wing for his first game in charge at Huddersfield, and he scored two tries in a 54-12 win. “His confidence was shot, he was on the crest of a slump.” Noble recalled. “But we soon put Humpty Dumpty back together again.”
Richards ended that season with 13 tries from 24 appearances, and only 11 goals - Michael Dobson took the goalkicking responsibilities from Danny Tickle following his arrival from the Catalans, making the speed with which he has gone to third on Wigan’s all-time list impressive. The idea that he could ever climb so high would have seemed fanciful even after the late-season surge under Noble with which the Warriors escaped relegation. But Richards hit his long stride the following year, with 326 points from 130 goals and
16 tries, plus a pair of drop-goals during a stirring play-off run in away wins at Bradford and Hull which took Wigan to within 80 minutes of the Grand Final - all while sporting a splendid moustache that he had pledged to grow with Bryan Fletcher and several other team-mates after a heavy August defeat at Warrington.
2008 brought another near miss in the play-offs, and another 375 points for Richards, and ended with an enjoyable role in Ireland’s World Cup adventure. “Pat was instrumental in us being based in Parramatta, which is the area of Sydney where he’s from,” recalls Andy Kelly, then the Ireland coach. “He was an absolute pleasure to work with, and very committed to the Irish cause.”
Richards confirmed for this piece that he is relishing the prospect of again representing the ancestry of his parents, who emigrated to Sydney from Dublin just before he was born, in next year’s World Cup, which will mean games against England and Australia, the latter probably at Thomond Park in Limerick.
This isn’t really the place to continue a season-by-season statistical breakdown of the Richards record. Obviously, 2010 was his year of years, with 462 points from 167 goals and 32 tries earning him that Man of Steel accolade - but the Grand Final winner’s ring probably meaning more. From the outside, he seemed an unlikely fit with Noble’s successor Michael Maguire - so fiercely intense, while Richards fits into that David Gower category somewhere between laid-back and horizontal (and was also a fine schoolboy cricketer, incidentally, revealing in a rare rugby league splash in the Wisden Cricket Monthly last year that he had been a teammate of the current Australia captain Michael Clarke, and once smashed a double century).
Anyway, that outsider’s view is highly misleading, according to his fourth Wigan coach, Shaun Wane. “He is one of the real senior leaders of our squad, with people like Sean O’Loughlin and Tommy Leuluai,” says Wane. “If there are some sore bodies at training, he’s the one who can change everybody’s attitude. Our physio also says that after he did his achilles in the Grand Final in 2010, he was the most professional we’ve had in the way he handled his rehab. I can’t say enough about the bloke, going right back to that first year when he was dropped to my U20s. That must have been so hard after coming here with a big reputation. But he didn’t spit the dummy, as you can imagine others doing, he managed it really professionally and was great with all the young kids.”
Richards concedes he is unlikely to rise any higher up a list headed by Jim Sullivan with a staggering 4,883 from 2,317 goals and 83 three-point tries - although they did come from 774 appearances spread over 26 years between 1921-46. Andy Farrell is next with 3,115 from 370 appearances, from 111 tries, 1,326 goals and 19 one-pointers.
“Yeah,” the bronze medallist reflected that Sunday teatime at Odsal. “To be third on the list at a club with all the history of Wigan I’m in pretty good company.”
“We’re still not a big team on the basics, but it showed we can do stuff that other teams can’t do...” - CatalanDragons coachTrent Robinsonreflects ononeofthemost amazingSuper Leaguetriesever.
“With who they’ve signed, Keighley have been the Manchester City of the Championship. They’ve got Michael Korkidas, Semi Tadulala, Sam Obst, Paul March and Richie Barnett to go alongside some good players already there...” - Batleycoach JohnKear,withhis tongueperhapsin hischeek
“This was a tremendous honour for Kevin and the Leeds Rhinos...” - Okay,soweagree withLeedsCEO GaryHetherington thatspeakingatthe UK’sleadingpublic school,Eton,the seatoftheBritish Establishment,wasa greatrugbyleague story.Butsurelythe honourwasall theirs?
March 2012 Forty-20 5