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Friday, 24 October 2014

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Jury’s out on summer game

WITH the debate raging over whether amateur rugby league clubs should return to a winter season, PADDY McATEER gauges the opinions of the South Cumbrian outfits on the success of the switch.

THE jury is still out on whether the switch from winter to summer rugby has been a success.

The North West Counties secretary Ron Girvin is looking to delay the start of the winter season until mid-September to give clubs the opportunity to come back.

The once-thriving Counties set-up, with more than 100 clubs and several leagues, was left decimated by the switch this year, leaving them with only 10 clubs wishing to remain – Dalton being one of them. But now, one of the top Lancashire clubs, Leigh East, are on the brink of a return.

Chairman Phil Johnson, in an open letter rallying clubs to return to the winter campaign, said: “We are rallying round for clubs to return to the North West Counties. A loss of revenue, fall in attendances and family commitments are three reasons.”

When local clubs were asked their thoughts on the switch and how it has affected them, attitudes were split.

Askam coach Mike Wilson said: “It suits us. Although the warm weather has not been with us, the training side of things is much better – we can practise the skills of the game out on the pitch, rather than inside in winter.

“The lads can develop more in the warmer climate, rather than being out in the freezing cold. We have problems with holidays, but we also have problems in winter, only not as bad.”

Barrow Island stalwart John Jefferson says his club are also happy with the change. He said: “We are okay with it. We have several local rugby union lads with us for the summer, all having been brought up in our youth set-up.

“We are in the top league (North West Men’s Premier Division), so we don’t have clubs calling off games like in the other leagues.

“There are eight blank weekends as well, so if you need to call off a game, because of holidays or stag weekends for example, then you just rearrange it with the other club in question.”

While Barrow Island have not been hit by teams not turning up to Furness, Hindpool Tigers have. The Brisbane Road club have seen a string of games called off by sides not fulfilling their commitments, and skipper Phil Cubiss regrets having made the move.

“I’m not in favour of summer rugby, but it was put to the lads and they decided,” he said. “In hindsight, we should have stayed winter.

“There are mixed feelings – it is much better for training nights, but there are always games being called off for whatever reason.

“Blackbrook A are a prime example. They have pulled out of many fixtures, but when we went down to their place we got beat 40-0 because their first team had no fixture so they called on some of their players.

“The next two weeks they failed to play. I was under no illusions they would not come to our ground and that’s annoying because we paid for a bus to go down there.”

Those thoughts are echoed by Ulverston captain Marc Dixon, whose side play alongside Hindpool in North West Men’s Division Three.

Though he prefers the summer game, issues with teams not fulfilling their fixtures have dogged their season.

He said: “Personally, I am not a big fan of winter rugby – the grounds are firmer in summer, you don’t get bogged down in mud, you can play a much faster game and it is more exciting.

“The only problem is too many games are being called off. I wish we had gone into a higher division, rather than Division Three – some clubs are not committed enough.

“But we have at least 25 to 30 training on a regular basis and have a few under-16s knocking on the door.

“It is nice to train from 5.30pm until around 8pm, you do enjoy it more.”

There is no disappointment at National Conference side Millom.

Coach Anthony Murray is happy with the way things have gone since their league made the move.

“I am very happy with the switch,” he said. “You have to move forward.

“We are playing a decent standard of rugby and moving to summer means you use outdoor facilities. It is better for the junior section as well. It’s a bedding-in process. Let’s have a look down the road in two years’ time.”

Elsewhere there are mixed feelings at both Walney and Roose, who play in North West Men’s Division One.

Roose Pioneers coach Jim Perry said: “Personally, I like winter rugby, but don’t mind summer rugby if the club decide to stick with it.

“Holidays are obviously a problem, but you always get that.

“I think once this season is out of the way, lads can plan holidays much easier. October time is not too late in the year. I enjoy it either way.”

Walney Central boss Jan Elliott added: “Both winter and summer have pros and cons. I am happy so far. We have a big squad, so it is easier. Conditions are better, training and playing-wise, and pitches are firmer.

“We play fast, open rugby, so it suits us and you prepare better. We were expecting bigger gates, but that has not happened. It is the first season for all clubs and possibly games have been called off due to lack of players.

“The reason is that it would have been 12 months of continuous rugby with no break, that will change at the end of this season there will be a good winter break.”

It remains to be seen if any of the South Cumbrian clubs will migrate back to the winter game, but almost everyone agrees there is still improvement to be made for summer rugby to succeed in the long-term.

Have your say

i personally think it needs more time and to make a decision to go back to winter after the first season would be premature. The NWML got it wrong with some clubs and division placements but that was to be expected, Ulverston and Hindpool will hopefully be promoted regardless of final league placements and will fit in better in the league above with more teams prepared to travel etc. They should also bring back Gala days

Posted by gt on 20 August 2012 at 15:20

i personally think it needs more time and to make a decision to go back to winter after the first season would be premature. The NWML got it wrong with some clubs and division placements but that was to be expected, Ulverston and Hindpool will hopefully be promoted regardless of final league placements and will fit in better in the league above with more teams prepared to travel etc. They should also bring back Gala days

Posted by gt on 20 August 2012 at 14:54

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