Whats your State of Mind?

As the State of Mind charity prepares to take over the Super League for an entire round, Andrew Riley went along to the AJ Bell stadium in Salford to see what the charity does and how you can be part of a world record attempt this coming Wednesday…

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2018 Super League season predictions and Joel Tomkins interview

Here we go…2018 season is nearly upon us, and this year I will be posting very few match reports. Because I spent the back end of last season concentrating on my university studies and getting a job, I failed to get enough bylines for RFL accreditation in 2018, not to worry though, the clubs themselves have been more than understanding and are happy enough to grant access to players and coaches for interviews.

I’d like to wish every player, coach and fan of rugby league all the very best for 2018. With a replacement for Nigel Wood yet to be decided, it’s bound to be another year of ups and downs for the usual clubs, but hopefully Red Hall can sort out a peaceful and smooth succession…

Given that the clubs and the RFL have yet to decide how the league will be structured next year, it looks like the club v RFL war will carry on until one side either loses or gets bored.

Looking ahead, here are my predictions for 2018, as well as the top four in the Championship.

Super League

  1. Wigan
  2. Warrington
  3. Leeds Rhinos
  4. Hull FC
  5. Castleford Tigers
  6. St. Helens
  7. Hull KR
  8. Wakefield Trinity
  9. Catalan Dragons
  10. Huddersfield Giants
  11. Salford Red Devils
  12. Widnes

Championship

  1. Leigh Centurions
  2. Toronto Wolfpack
  3. Featherstone Rovers
  4. London Broncos

SL Grand Final Winners

  1. St. Helens

Challenge Cup Winners

  1. Leeds Rhinos

 


Joel Tomkins

Joel Tomkins

When you hear the surname Tomkins, most rugby league fans first thoughts are to the Wigan full back, Sam, but his elder brother Joel has his own ambitions, not only for his on-field exploits, but his life post game as well.

“This year, we’re aiming to do the treble” he tells me at the Warriors media launch in the stunning surroundings of the Haigh Hall country house, on the outskirts of the town.

“We are more than capable of winning the Grand Final, Challenge Cup and the league leaders shield”

After a spell in the “other” code of the game, he is aware that at the end of his current 2-year deal, he will have to prove himself in order to keep playing:

“I’m the wrong side of 30 now, and after injury stopped me making as many appearances last season as I would have liked, and I appreciate being in this position, as I might not have too many years left playing this game”

The groin injury that side-lined him for some of last year appears to be gone, and Joel says this pre-season has been one that he has enjoyed immensely.

Having won every major domestic honour in the game, he says that it’s the winning of more trophies that keeps him hungry as a player:

“When you win a Grand final or a Challenge Cup, you get a taste for it, and you want it again.

“I know I’m in a privileged position, coming in and training with an immense bunch of athletes who all want to win things.

“We get paid to train and do something we enjoy, and OK, there are times when its tough, giving up weekends and time with the family, but I can’t complain, its an honour to come in and play for this club.”

Looking further ahead, Joel has his wife, Nicola, as well has there two children, Anna and Seth, and I asked if they enjoy watching him play the sport he loves, and if he’d be happy with Seth following in his footsteps;

“I wouldn’t push him into playing the game, but I suppose that’s because I’ve been playing the game for 20 plus years, I’ll be happy if he plays tennis or golf.

Having a family changes your perspective and priorities on the game. Up to being 25, rugby was all I thought about, but getting married and having kids changes all of that.”

Looking further ahead, I asked if he fancied following in the footsteps of a fair few others and into the Wigan version of the Liverpool FC “bootroom” and onto the coaching staff after he hangs up his boots:

“No, I don’t see it for me. You have to really want to be a coach, watching hour after hour of game time during the week, as well as picking all the side and getting players ready isn’t for me.

I want to stay in the game, but on the management side. I’d rather follow the likes of Kris (Radlinski) and Kevin (Sinfield) into the business side of the game, that’s where I see my future.”

Surrounded by his team mates, he cuts a more introspective figure than some of his more outgoing team mates, and that’s borne out by his plans for the future.

He may not be the first Tomkins that comes to mind, but he certainly wants to be the one that leaves the lasting legacy on and off the field at Wigan Warriors.

 

How do you promote a sport full of power and passion?

By not bothering to show any of the sport itself according to the new RFL Super League 2018 launch video.

Recently, the RFL marketing department have managed to get a couple of things spot on. The new OuRLeague app is fantastic. Superb content, really engaging and easy to use. During the World Cup it became the go to app for info on England and what the players were up to.

Then we get the 2018 launch video…

We know that professional rugby league players are supremely fit. We also know that the Brownlee brothers are superb athletes as well.

What we dont see is any reason for watching the sport when the season starts in just over a week.

Where are the big hits, the jinking runs through defences, the offloads and the magic? Apparently, the public dont need to see the skill of the players, but images of them running up and down in the snow tell you all you need to know about the lack of imagination shown by the RFL marketing department.

The RFL have some superb staff, but marketing needs a shake up.

Why advertise along the M62?

You’re playing into the hands of those who look down their noses at the sport and call it parochial!

Advertise along the M6 and the M1. It’s a summer sport, entice people heading to Bridlington, Scarborough, Blackpool and the Lake district to take in a game, not those who already know where games are played.

What does this video tell anyone who accidentally happens upon it about the game these athletes play?

Nothing…

I appreciate that there is an air of change at Red Hall and Media City with Nigel Wood leaving, but if we allow the game to continue to stagnate at every level, which is what we are in danger of doing if we don’t look for a candidate for his position from outside of the sport, we are in danger of the sport as a whole dying.

Thats not just my view, but one given to me by one of the most respected writers on the sport. As it was a private conversation, I’m not going to name him here, but it shows just how far those who write about the sport feel the game and it’s leadership have sunk.

Indeed, he felt that by the time of the 2025 World Cup, the UK version of the game may well be entirely amateur.

Can Joshua defend his title? Andrew Riley looks at his opposition

Given the retirement earlier this week of former champion  Wladimir Klitschko, Britains Anthony Joshua has to look elsewhere for a challenge in November. Andrew runs his eye over the two main contenders.

First in line is Cuban fighter Luis Ortiz, who has an impressive record of 23 knockouts from 27 wins, although time may not be on his side, being 38.

The WBA says Joshua and Ortiz have 30 days from 3 August to agree the fight.

He is a former WBA interim heavyweight champion, having held the title from 2015 to 2016. He had won the title in 2014, but this was nullified via no contest when he was stripped of the title due to failing a drug test.

He made his professional debut aged 30, beating Lamar Davis in under 80 seconds of the first round.

Ortiz also signed with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom sports in 2016, believing it was the fastest way to stardom, although this was later shown to be on a fight by fight basis.

It had been reported Ortiz was negotiating to fight current WBC belt holder Deontay Wilder, but with the Joshua fight likely to be a much bigger payday, and for two of the belts, this is unlikely to take place now.

Ortiz spokesperson, Jay Jimenez told Boxingscene: “We are next. We have no problem fighting on that date of November 11th in Las Vegas. Our mandatory takes precedent over Pulev’s and they know that.”

A statement on wbaboxing.com read: “According to the resolution sent on January 11th, 2017, to both parties, it was reported that the winner of the Joshua-Klitschko fight, held on April 29th, 2017, had to face Ortiz after 120 days.

Joshua has also been told he must face IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev before 2 December or risk being stripped of his belt.

However, promoter Eddie Hearn says he has documentation to show that Ortiz is next in line, then Pulev before a possible unification bout with Deontay Wilder. Wilder, who holds the WBC version of the heavyweight title posted the following on Twitter:

However, Hearn told Sky sports news:

“The IBF resolution following the Klitschko fight is a public document for everyone to see: ‘after the rematch there will be no request for a unification considered by the IBF’.

 “Obviously we now have to fight Pulev and Ortiz and it’s going to be a tough balancing act. The Pulev mandatory was called some time ago and we already have signed correspondence that if it’s not Klitschko then Pulev must be next.

“I would say right now the plan is Pulev, Ortiz then if Wilder still has a belt then AJ can relieve him of that next summer.”

“AJ is 100 per cent up for fighting Pulev, 100 per cent up for fighting Ortiz and 100 per cent up for fighting Wilder and he wants to do it in a way to try and capture all belts,” said Hearn.

“It’s going to be difficult but let me tell you this young man fears no one.”

And after all that, on the distant horizon, lurks the ever present former champion Tyson Fury…Who again announced his retirement from the sport.