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A match between Leigh Centurions and Halifax RLFC was dramatically postponed this afternoon after Halifax coach Anthony Farrell refused to play the game after referee Karl Kirkpatrick deemed the Hilton Park pitch playable. The contest should have been the Testimonial game for Centurion?s hooker Paul Rowley who has been a great servant to both clubs.
On the Hilton Stand side of the ground there was a 30 metre by 10 metre patch of the ground that was found to be frozen and the ground staff of the club began to water that part of the ground to make it playable. The rest of the ground was bathed in sunshine and blue sky on a winter?s day. After Kirkpatrick had decided the game playable and the uncertainty gone, the gates were opened for the crowd half an hour to kick off.
As kick off time approached the Leigh Centurion players were still warming up as Halifax coach Anthony Farrell and his coaching staff left the field, got onto the team bus outside ground were his squad was waiting for him. As the crowd were informed of the postponement the coach slowly drove away back to Halifax.
Boos heard from the crowd after it was announced that the referee had said that the game was playable and that Halifax didn?t want to play it.
The game will now be replayed this coming Wednesday evening with a 7.45pm kick off.
Leigh Centurions general manager Mike Callaghan found the incident unusual and the first time something like this had happened to him in his long involvement with the game.
?It?s very unusual I?ve got to admit,? Callaghan said.
?It?s the first time in fourteen years being associated with rugby league that the referee calls the game on, not a problem. The coach of the away team decides that there isn?t a game, gets on the coach and promptly goes back to Halifax which is a bit perplexing to be honest with you.
?Basically it?s been cold, everywhere has been slightly cold. We?ve got one small section of the pitch which had a little bit of frost in. I?ve got to say our players were fine with playing on it not a problem at all. The grounds men were working on it, the referee was fine with it, so as far as we?re concerned the game was on. The sun was out and the little bit of frost that was in it but I think there coach was forestalling that he didn?t want to play the game. It was getting later on in the day and by the time we would have finished it would have been around five to quarter past five and it would have begun to freeze again, I?m not happy about it?
Callaghan was also disappointed that the postponement had spoiled Paul Rowley?s big day and the game being changed to Wednesday evening.
?I am gutted for Paul because it?s his benefit game after being a good servant with Halifax and the Leigh Centurions and it?s something you don?t like to see. To be perfectly honest if Halifax had come here wanting to play a game, the game would have been on. No question about it.
? There was no reason for it to be called off you play on a lot harder pitches in summer and I don?t take any excuse from any coach, we prepare the pitch as best we can and it was playable. The referee as I say was out there running up and down, walking up and down, [and] digging his heel in.?
While the drama was unfolding Callaghan was trying to contact Emma Rosenthorne of the Rugby Football League.
?I?m waiting for Emma from the RFL to contact me back because we?re not happy with the situation.? Callaghan said.
?A game that could have been played postponed purposely because a head coach decides that he didn?t want to risk his players on a minor segment of pitch that had a bit of frost in it. I?ve just e-mailed Emma with the circumstances today because I am perplexed, the first time in fourteen years I?ve actually had this situation. I?ve been looking through all my various RFL notices, information rules and procedures and I can?t really find one to get an answer. I?ll have to wait for advice from Emma.?
For referee Karl Kirkpatrick it was the first time he has been involved in as situation of this kind and he will be reporting the matter to the RFL.
?I?ve never been involved in anything like this before and unlikely to be again.? Kirkpatrick said.
?I inspected the pitch and deemed it to be playable however Halifax disagreed with my decision and refused to play.?
?I will be putting a report into the Rugby Football League.?
Halifax coach Anthony Farrell was unavailable for comment as he, the rest of the coaching staff climbed onto the coach with the players for the trip back home.