2019 and the start of (another) new era

I do love a great game of rugby.

Note, I didn’t clarify that statement with either a “league” or “union” caveat. I like watching both codes. I was brought up in Hull by a father who had played union as a Marine, but when he moved to Hull in the late ’60s, his mates took him to Craven Park and he began to watch league, and Hull KR in particular.

Growing up, he happily took me to Craven Park and also sat me down to watch union on TV whenever possible, hence my growing up with an appreciation for both codes.

It’s only been in the last 10 years that I’ve followed league in a semi-professional capacity as a journalist and have also covered a smaller amount of union in that time, the differences in the game have become more apparent off the field than on it.

League has always been the lesser of the two in the eyes of both the public and mainstream media. Just look at the amount of broadcast time given to the Autumn internationals on both terrestrial and satellite broadcasters.

From what I can gather, Sky has no interest in showing international league at all.

The BBC were practically given the rights to England v New Zealand and only showed England games from the 2017 World Cup, meaning that Wales and Scotland’s fans had to shell out an additional £9.99 for Premier Sports if they wanted to follow games live.

Broadcasters are falling over themselves to cover union. BT Sport has been showing three games on a Saturday covering the European cup alongside Channel 4, Channel 5 shows the Gallagher Premiership and the BBC will be showing the 6 nations alongside ITV until 2021.

All of Wales’ home matches will be shown live on the BBC, along with France and Scotland home matches. ITV will screen England, Ireland and Italy home games.

I think Sky have done a great job of standing still where broadcast of league is concerned. Yes, they trialled 3D league, but only gave it 6 or maybe 7 games. To be fair, Sky has all but binned 3D as a broadcast medium for live anything, so to even have had that small amount was something, but there is no longer a “Boots n All” show, and I’ve yet to see an advert for the new season on there.

The problem lies with the game still thinking its small, which, compared to union, it is.

I’m really hopeful that the new structure brought in by Robert Elstone and his team will mean that Super League undergoes a period of controlled growth, with clubs in the Championship and below having the chance to grow organically and that promotion and relegation in the old-fashioned new way of one up and one down.

I’m hopeful that Mr Elstone will at least put the new broadcast rights out to a much wider process than we are led to believe the previous one was.

League is in desperate need of a great season in 2019. We are (again) at the beginning of (another) brave new restructure.

What is needed is a competition where the playoff spots are changing all the way until the final day, as is the relegation spot. A competition where players become superstars outside of their home town, but who can (like Jonathon Davies 30 years ago) make headlines on the front pages for the right reasons in National papers.

Until league can compete with union on the screens of the UK, it will always be second best.

I don’t believe league will ever be as big as union currently is, there is too much of a gap to close in that respect, but I do believe that with the right management in place, and the right people making the off-field deals, we can at least compete when it comes to getting the product on screens in front of viewers and then we can start to get people into stadiums.

If people can’t see what’s on offer, how will they know where to watch?

This season, I should be providing coverage of Rochdale Hornets for Roch Valley Radio

I hope if you can’t be at the ground, you will join me online using the link above

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REVIEW: Strangeways, Here We Come

Here we have a movie that has been roundly panned by the (mainly) London bubble of reviewers. Indeed, the Guardian gave it just one *.

Lets have a proper look…

OK, I’ll freely admit, this movie isn’t going to bother any award ceremonies, but if it had been set in Hoxton, Brixton or any of the London “sink” estates, then the plaudits would be gushing, but outside of the London media darling bubble, the film is being enjoyed by pretty much everyone who goes to see it.

It’s a good laugh. What more do you want from 90 minutes of movie?

Its written to please an audience, not reviewers. I’ve lived in Salford, as well as on council estates across the North, and can testify that there isn’t a single character in this film that couldn’t be found on any estate, anywhere in the North of England.

Writer Chris Green knows his audience, and knows the area that the film is set. So complaining that they are caricatures in “implausible situations”  tells me that the writer has never set foot, never mind lived, on such an estate.

I enjoyed this, and so did the rest of the audience at Salford Arts theatre, where this film ended its run tonight with two showings.

As I say, it wont be winning any Oscars, but it is what it is, a bit of fun, set on an estate where people deal drugs, loan sharks are bas***ds who deserve a good kicking and people take drugs at weekend parties to escape the mundane boring life that Austerity Britain has become.

If you cant go into see this (or any piece of art) with an open mind, don’t bother, but I assure you that if you do, you will have a laugh.

It wont be a belly laugh for the full 90 minutes, but you will smirk, laugh out loud at times and leave with a smile plastered across your face.

If you want gritty, indy art house, look elsewhere. This film is aimed at the working class it portrays, maybe larger than life, but then, how else are they supposed to be played?

Ignore the mainstream media critics. What do they actually know about life on a council estate?

More than likely nothing, or if they did, they’ve long ago moved into middle class mediocrity and are denying their past…

Me?

3*/5

REVIEW: Film stars Don’t die in Liverpool

I can honestly say that until this film crossed my path, I’d never (probably like a lot of my generation) heard of Gloria Grahame, Oscar winner and star of both stage and screen, let alone seen her work, but despite its saccharine look back at her love affair with author and actor Peter Turner (on whose book this film is based), there is a real grittiness underlying the film that Annette Benning (Grahame) and Jamie Bell (Turner) try so hard to show, but despite the best efforts of a wonderful ensemble that includes Kenneth Cranham, Julie Walters and Stephen Graham, the film never really gets into the real lives of a couple who were separated by close to 30 years (The couple met when she was fifty-four and he was twenty-six).

Suffering from late stage cancer, Graham runs back into the arms of her younger lover, ostensibly saying she is ill, but eventually, having to admit the truth about her cancer.

Turner is torn between what to do for the best, for both Gloria and his family. His mother is due to fly to Australia to see her other son and Gloria is denying her illness, and is insistent that Peter shouldn’t tell her family back in the USA.

It would have been easy to gloss over the family and how they react to having Grahame under their roof, but in Julie Walters as the matriarch, and Cranham as the slightly downtrodden father, we see just how Grahame’s illness and her request to live with the family of Turner affects them, as well as him watching her die in their spare room.

The scenes where Bell is dealing with Grahame on screen alone are touching, but you feel there is always more to be found and yet never shown on screen.

The film jumps backwards and forwards  far too often for my liking, and this detracts from a story that deserves to be told, if not in a more linear sense, then certainly in a slightly more structured vein than that offered by Director Paul McGuigan.

The clumsy way the break up of our main protagonists is dealt with is particularly tough to watch, certainly seeing the same scene from two different sides is a bit messy, given that we see how it was designed by Grahame to sent Turner back to further his career at the expense of their relationship.

Flitting between Liverpool, New York and California cant have been an easy task for any director, but the film manages to do it clumsily in my opinion, and to the detriment of the story trying to be told under heavy handed direction.

Benning shines in her role as the faded star, while Bell really dotes on Grahame, doing everything he can to make her final days as comfortable as possible, even taking her to the stage of the Liverpool Playhouse to perform Romeo and Juliet alone together.

On the whole, its a very basic movie.

Thats not to say it’s not a good movie, it is, but given its source material, it could have been better. It’s what my wife describes as “one of those” particularly British movies she can enjoy on an afternoon off, she compared it to Brassed Off in that respect.

There was love in this movie, but not in the places you’d expect. I wanted to love this film, but can’t.

Its not a movie I’ll be rushing out to buy, but I’ll certainly be looking for a copy of Turner’s book on which it’s based, as I think I’ll learn more about the couple there than this film can ever hope to show.

3*