EAGLES’ captain Jack Howieson is part of a great tradition – he ‘came North’ to play rugby league.
Jack was spotted while playing as a student at Sheffield Hallam University but he learned the game back home in Hemel Hempstead – that’s somewhere off the M1 south of Watford Gap services.
Now Jack’s old junior club Hemel Stags is stepping up into the semi-professional leagues from the 2013 season.
It’s part of the RFL’s masterplan to ‘expand the geographical footprint’ of the game –the grey men in suits just love jargon like that.
Have they got shares in a SatNav maker?
Four new teams will join a 10-team Championship One – the game’s third tier.
Hemel will join Northampton and the two other unnamed new clubs are likely to provide an equal challenge to that CSE you got in geography.
The end of this season will see four of the current professional clubs promoted to an expanded 14-team Championship, that’s the division the Eagles play in. It’s going to be a dog-fight to get one of those promotion places.
Fans of teams like Doncaster have nightmares about being left behind in Championship One with the prospect of dining regularly on motorway cuisine.
Clubs in Championship One in 2013 will get £70,000 from the RFL plus a travel subsidy – and I assume a UK road atlas.
The new Championship One will be a high-cost league in a low-income game. Maybe the new clubs should sign older players – they could use their bus passes to save on travel costs. The RFL has been taking economics lessons from the Bank of Athens again.
RFL bosses love to parrot on about the need to expand the game (sorry enlarge the geographical footprint). We all want clubs with ambition like Hemel to succeed but the RFL’s record on expansion is about as sound as Glasgow Rangers finances. Even if they ran a brewery you wouldn’t want them to organise your party.
The Crusades club was fast-tracked to bring Super League to South Wales then appeared Dr Who like in Wrexham (on the doorstep of three major SL clubs) before disappearing in confusion. That disaster made the game a laughing stock.
Equally Championship clubs (and their bank managers) had a rough year in 2012. Barrow Raiders were demoted after going into administration and Leigh Centurions just managed to survive. Toulouse Olympique went back to the French leagues.
The RFL is in danger of falling over it’s own geographical footprint. Is this the time to create a division where membership makes setting off on a Greek holiday a wise move?
Clubs like Sheffield and Doncaster have kept the game alive in non-traditional areas but they get little recognition. Their footprint is there for all to see but they’re sidestepped - they’re not far enough away from RFL headquarters near Leeds.