Monday, April 16, 2007

Happy Easter Bunnies?

Not the Super League coaches, that's for sure.

Not surprisingly, they have been united in decrying the Easter fixture format, which can see sides playing four games inside fourteen days depending where the pre and post bank holiday double header fixtures fall.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that if you make anyone - even a seasoned professional athlete - play one of the world's most punishing collision sports on a Friday it's a big ask for him to get up and do it all again the following Monday. Fatigue is certain to take its toll both mentally and physically, and the quality of the product you're offering to customers will decline as a result. So why do we do it?

Kerching - that's why. The Easter Monday/Tuesday round of fixtures this year created a single round record attendance for the history of Super League. The Hull derby played a major part in the final figure, but there were other good crowds at St Helens and Leeds in there too. Bank holiday live sport is very popular. In the most part there's no worrying about school or work getting in the way, the telly's usually rubbish and roads to the coast or countryside tend to be jammed as far as the eye can see. Chuck in a healthy dollop of that old rugby league staple condiment "tradition" and it's no surprise that club chairmen want to milk it for all it's worth.

Well here's an idea for all those coaches who object to the double header over Easter and the impacts it has on their squads for the next two or three weeks after. Next year, field virtual Academy sides for the second round of fixtures over the bank holiday. All get together, and agree to do the same thing in the interests of protecting your players. Let's see how chairmen and broadcasters like the idea of not being able to put their prize livestock on show twice in such a short space of time. As things stand, it may take something as radical as that to force those in charge of the game to take a closer look at what they are expecting from the most important assets the game of rugby league has - the outstanding athletes that play it.

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