WELSH Rugby League officials and players have responded to the comments made by BBC presenter John Inverdale on Radio Five Live's "Any Sporting Questions" programme broadcast on Monday night at Spotlands, the home of Rochdale Hornets RLFC and venue for this weekend's Arriva Trains Cup Final.Inverdale had happily taken a comment from the floor about Rugby League's inability to 'expand'. A Rochdale Hornets' club member then came back with the fact that National League Two has Gateshead and London Skolars in it, National League Three has teams like Birmingham and St Albans in it, the Summer Conference has teams from Tyneside to South Wales and new teams such as Bedford are coming through all the time.He then commented: "With respect, Bedford's just thirteen blokes running round a field, it's not proper Rugby League."He later followed up these comments by saying in writing, "Don't ever pretend that people outside its heartland have any real affinity for the game."Welsh Rugby League Chairman, Danny Sheehy dismissed Inverdale's statements as "ridiculous" commenting, "Is he seriously suggesting that a sport that has attracted clubs and teams in every age group and in every region of the UK has no-one who cares about it outside Yorkshire and Lancashire? How then does he believe that clubs like Bedford started in the first place? I suggest that it is as a result of someone, more likely a group of people, who enjoy the sport enough to give their valuable time to it."In Wales we are extremely pleased with the way the sport is developing. While not Super League yet, the standard we have achieved in such a short time is breathtaking. Matches are regularly played at top class grounds, Aberavon, Pontypridd and Maesteg to name a few."The clubs are attracting top class players and officials from all over South Wales to their ranks, including Internationals at both rugby codes.Crowds are comparable with and often exceed all but the highest standard of rugby union. Does this suggest that people outside its heartland haven't any real affinity for the game'? I think not."In Rugby League over the years we have become used to pro-Rugby Union commentators abusing their position to denigrate our sport. This is an unfortunate fact of life. I feel sorry for these people that they feel the need to be destructive rather turn their energy to something constructive and worthwhile."To end on a positive note, every time someone like Mr Inverdale makes such a comment, Rugby League gets valuable publicity outside the heartlands and always seems to emerge stronger. So, I would urge him to keep up the good work!"When hearing the statement from Inverdale, the Bridgend Blue Bulls player-coach and former Wales and Great Britain international, Kevin Ellis commented, "Has John ever played Rugby League in Wales or even at all? If he thinks that Conference Rugby League is just 13 men passing a ball around then I'd like to invite him down to Bridgend for a try-out and to put his body where his mouth is."We had 15,000 Welshmen at the recent Rugby League Challenge Cup Final in Cardiff. If that's not an affinity for the game outside the 'heartland', I don't know what is?"
IN memory of Scott McCrorie, one of their young players who tragically passed away at the age of 16 earlier this year, Aberavon Fighting Irish RLFC are staging a nine-a-side tournament at Open Age (Senior) and Under 17 level on SATURDAY AUGUST 28th 2004, which is the start of the Bank Holiday weekend. The action will kick off at 12noon.
THE BARLA Great Britain Lions will play the last match of their tour tomorrow at the former home of South Sydney, the Redfern Oval. There opponents will be a Combined Police/Corrective Services Side and the Lions will be hoping to register a third win on their six-game tour.
BRIDGEND BLUE BULLS 48 ABERAVON FIGHTING IRISH 8
WELL over 100 fans attended Wednesday night's "They Think It's All a Question of Sport" event at Odsal Stadium and raised over ?600 for Robbie Paul's Testimonial Fund.
FONE Zone Canberra Raiders captain Simon Woolford will undergo precautionary scans tomorrow after injuring his shoulder in the first half of the Raiders round 19 loss to Penrith.
DEFENDING premiers Penrith have been knocked about by injury and the judiciary in the lead-up to the finals, with Ben Ross, Joel Clinton and Joe Galuvao all facing time on the sidelines.
WITH seven rounds to go, Cowboys forward Paul Rauhihi still heads up the leader board in Leagueunlimited.com?s players of the year awards. Rauhihi didn?t pick up any points this round but remains firm on 21 points overall. Roosters half back Brett Finch was also out of the top three in his match, but is not far away on 19 points.
DESPITE a howling gale, the Newcastle Knights and Brisbane Broncos battled it out in an entertaining duel with the Broncos coming out 16-12 victors in front of a small but vocal crowd at EnergyAustralia Stadium this afternoon.
IN what was billed as a Grand Final for both teams, the New Zealand Warriors have defeated the South Sydney Rabbitohs by 34-20 in front of a small but vocal crowd of around 8,000. To their credit of Souths, they came back from a half time score of 22-4, but failed to maintain their last minute momentum. While most of the second half was locked at 22-20, Warriors scored two converted tries on the bell to push ahead.
STORM forward Danny Williams has today expressed his remorse over last night?s unsavory second half striking incident on Wests Tigers second-rower Mark O?Neill, during Melbourne?s 32-18 loss to the Tigers at Leichhardt Oval.
IN what can only be described as extreme conditions, the Bulldogs were able to overcome a second half fightback from the Sharks to defeat the Cronulla Sutherland side by 37-26.
THE North Queensland Cowboys have put together a solid performance to comprehensively defeat the Parramatta Eels 28-6 at Dairy Farmers Stadium tonight.
THE Wests Tigers have beaten the Melbourne Storm 32-18 in a passionate performance at Leichardt Oval.
THE Newcastle Knights have today agreed to terms with exciting rookie George Carmont for the 2005 season.