Thursday, 16 July 2015

Sunday's Coming - Coventry Bears

As Sol Mokdad can testify, there are an awful lot of Rugby League evangelists around the world expending time, energy - and their liberty - in endeavouring to convince people that there isn’t just one ‘code’ of Rugby (how I hate the word ‘code’: it suggests a variant of a single game) - and that League has been a discrete sport in its own right since 1895.

Which is why it makes our teeth itch when League clubs cosy-up to *nion to promote ‘Rugby’ as a single entity in the hope that that they’ll somehow be able to gain some sort of trickled-down crumbs of benefit from it. Of course - especially in the year of the kick & clap world cup - it suits *nion to have ‘Rugby’ perceived as a single sport with ‘major’ and ‘minor’ variants. Even after 120 years, the other handling based football game is happy to present itself as the ‘one true code’ with League its barely-tolerated bastard cousin.

Indeed, the blurring of the rugby lines in such circumstances undoes the great work being done around the world in establishing League’s own identity, which plays into *nion’s hands (presumably before they kick it into the stand).

That’s why the news this week that Coventry Bears coach Tom Tsang has expressed how happy he is to see the Bears joining Coventry Sport Foundation in their long-term vision of making Coventry the first ‘City of Rugby’ caught our all-seeing eye.

The campaign - which  primarily seems to be a vehicle to ingratiate Wasps into the local sporting community (having bowled in on Coventry RFC’s territory like an invading army and set about hoovering up every *nionite within 20 miles) -  was also intended as a vehicle to promote the Ricoh arena as a potential *nion WC venue. The RFU repaid Coventry by taking the midlands game to Villa Park. You just CAN’T trust ‘em…

Now, we appreciate that it’s good to get your brand in front of as many people as possible, but you have to ask: if Coventry City were promoting a “City of Football”, would the Bears align themselves with that? Rugby League being a ‘football’ code and all. Probably not.

Aligning yourself with what is essentially a *nion promotion, sold in under a single ‘Rugby’ banner perpetuates the prevalent perception in some quarters that League can only ever be viewed through the lens of *nion. And, while *nion continues to appropriate league’s clothing in its attempt to persuade the unwary that they are us, the closer we stand to *nion the more people will think that League is merely a quirky adjunct that *nion types play in summer to keep fit. A derivation. A truncation. ‘*nion Lite’.

Ultimately, it’s the perception that League has to hitch itself to *nion’s caravan in order to gain traction that rankles. The fact that Coventry MIGHT pick-up some followers by misapprehension - drawn to the campaign in the belief that there’s really only one rugby-based football code and serendipitously finding the diamond of league in the pile of *nion dogshit.

And as long as *nion pretends to be ‘our mate’ - and we allow that to happen - we’ll never really have the balls to truly step out of its shadow.

Back at the ranch, Ian Talbot - justifiably - wasn’t happy with his side’s performance at the pre-conflagrated Whitebank. His post match view was that it was the worst defeat of the season - and few would argue.

With Barrow, York and Crusaders getting expcted wins, they all managed to scramble above Hornets in this increasingly taut division. This week Hornets get a chance to redress matters as Barrow face Crusaders, Keighley play Swinton and York host Newcastle at a field somewhere near York. Oldham get to play their joker at Skolars, so we can hope for a shock there (though we can’t really see it).

Since Hornets won the away fixture by a relatively comfortable 35-10, Coventry have slipped to 11th in the table with just four wins from their 14 games - but, as always, these development teams remain a banana-skin in waiting; more than capable of catching the complacent, poorly disciplined and the switched-off unawares. Indeed, last week’s 40-10 home defeat to high-flying Keighley puts Hornets’ victory at Butts Park in perspective and shows that the Bears can make life difficult for the best in the division.

Afterwards, Tom Tsang said: "For our third game in a row, we matched our opposition toe for toe in the forwards and for large portions of the game were actually on top physically, but just couldn't make the most of the opportunities we created for ourselves, whereas Keighley were clinical and turned most of their chances and half chances into points.”

A lesson there for all of us -not only do Hornets have to ensure that we aren’t the story in Monday’s papers, a bit of a cricket score would help restore that all-important points difference.