14 October 2019

Episode 243 - We Saw the Light


Mark & Alan are joined by victorious St Helens fan David as we look back over two Super League Grand Finals with help from YOUR fan reviws. We also reveal the 2019 SLP Dream Team, as voted for by you, the listeners. If that wasn't enough, we give our takes (some hotter than others!) on the Great Britain squad announcement, Bradford in crisis, exspansion (again!) and much more. Get it in your ears!

Listen to the show on iTunes here: SLP on iTunes
If you're not an Apple user, get the show here: SLP on Spreaker
You can also find us on YouTube, or search for us on whatever podcatcher app you use.

Episode 243 is sponsored by Rob's Toy Shop
Find a wide range of toys, gifts, rugby league birthday cards and more at Rob’s Toy Shop on eBay. Visit stores.ebay.co.uk/robstoyshop and on any orders over £5 you can earn 5% cashback, and also 1% of your order value will go into the SLP coffers, by putting 'SLPDiscount' at checkout.

2019 SLP Dream Team revealed from 31:45
Super League Grand Final match reviews from 39:00
News from 108:00

Awards Season is Upon us...
You can now make YOUR votes in the 2019 SLP Awards. Cast your votes HERE.

Thank you to everyone who supports SLP!
Please back our Partner Sponsors:
  • Rob's Toy Shop - Enter 'SLPDiscount' on checkout at Rob's Toy Shop and get 5% cashback on orders over £5, plus give 1% cashback to SLP.
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  • Mascord Brownz - For all your International RL gear! Use our link https://mascordbrownz.com/?affilates=8 and we get 8% of your order value to help our running costs.
  • Sarah's Bookcase Sarah sells Usborne books and with access to over 3000 titles from baby to teenager theres something for everyone.  
Learn about how you can sponsor SLP here: Super League Pod sponsorship

You can also make a donation to support SLP if you prefer: paypal.me/superleaguepod
All donations are hugely appreciated, large or small. If you donate £20 or more you can pick from an SLP t-shirt (limited stock remaining) or an SLP beanie hat.

8 October 2019

My Coach of the Year - by Alan


Whilst his peers might not agree, in sufficient numbers at least, I would argue that Ian Watson is the coach of the year.

There can be no doubt that Justin Holbrook has done a magnificent job with Saints this year; a record winning margin to finish top of the league, making both finals and generally playing a style of rugby that is to be admired and appreciated. I would certainly make Saints my team of the year right now but if you are considering where a coach has had the greatest influence, it has to be Watson and his Red Devils.

There are two primary factors that drive my decision – the quality of squad available and the performance against expectations of the wider rugby league community.

Let’s deal with the squad first. There was no doubt that the Salford squad had talent when considering their prospects at the start of the year; the primary worry was the abilities of the players surrounding the star names and the broader depth of the squad.  In terms of that depth Salford’s ability to keep a broadly settled line up was crucial, especially for their pivotal players.  Of their 35 games of the season so far Niall Evalds, Joey Lussick, Josh Jones and Jackson Hastings all played more than 30 times.  They also managed the merry-go-round of mid-season signings incredibly well, especially for a team where financial stability is always a concern.  The swap of Lui for Lolohea was well managed and Lolohea seemed to settle in well, much more successfully than at Leeds in any case.  What really stands out for me is the performances that Watson was able to get from players that I admit I dismissed as squad filler in January; the likes of Gil Dudson, Adam Walker and Greg Burke looking like capable top division performers.  Watson also had great service from his older statesman in the team, the likes of Kris Welham, Krisnan Inu, Mark Flanagan and Tyrone McCarthy.

Bringing together all these elements resulted in a chemistry and team spirit far beyond what we could have expected, which is a testament to Watson’s abilities.

I, and many more qualified rugby league voices, had Salford either 11th or 12th this year, a similar level of expectation to last year which saw them in the Qualifiers, even if they won the league that no Super League team wanted to be in.  I recall the most optimistic Salford fans had them at the edge of the playoff race which we had a good laugh at and dismissed as nothing more than the rose tinted view of supporters.

Even the most hopeful fan in the ‘shed’ couldn’t have foreseen third in the league and a trip to Old Trafford, and in some style too.

Statistics illustrate how good their year has been, second in tries scored behind the run-away Saints, but the fewest errors of anyone.  They tackled well with the third best missed tackle rate even if they were closer to the middle of the pack in terms of average metres gained and clean breaks. The high number of attacking kicks, second in the league, would suggest that their attacking structure, which you can credit to good coaching, was key to their success.

The performance of the team has led to individual recognition and deals at higher profile teams but the alchemy of developing the success of the Red Devils in 2019 is a testament to Ian Watson and is why he should have picked up the prize for me.

Do you agree? Make your voice heard in the 2019 SLP Awards here: 2019 SLP Awards voting form

Alan
SLP

7 October 2019

Episode 242 - Forever in Transition


Mark and Sarah recaps some big games from around the world of Rugby League his weekend, guided by YOUR fan reviews of the action. Before all that, we have a heavy international squad centric slate of news and a busy night at the Super League Awards to recap. Then we make our guesses on the two Grand Finals to finish the domestic season.

Listen to the show on iTunes here: SLP on iTunes
If you're not an Apple user, get the show here: SLP on Spreaker
You can also find us on YouTube, or search for us on whatever podcatcher app you use.

Episode 242 is sponsored by Little Warden
If you have a website, then visit LittleWarden.com and see what they can do to help you. They can help you with domain expiration checks, redirects and all sorts of other important background web stuff that they’ll make simple for you. Vital Alerts for Hidden Issues.

Super League Awards from 09:30
News from 29:30
Super League match reviews from 70:00
Other results from 90:00
Predictions from 117:00

Awards Season is Upon us...
The official Super League Dream Team has been named. Now it's time to have YOUR say in the SLP Listener Dream Team. Make your picks HERE.

You can now make YOUR votes in the 2019 SLP Awards. Cast your votes HERE.

Thank you to everyone who supports SLP!
Please back our Partner Sponsors:
  • Rob's Toy Shop - Enter 'SLPDiscount' on checkout at Rob's Toy Shop and get 5% cashback on orders over £5, plus give 1% cashback to SLP.
  • Little Warden - Vital alerts for hidden issues!
  • Mascord Brownz - For all your International RL gear! Use our link https://mascordbrownz.com/?affilates=8 and we get 8% of your order value to help our running costs.
  • Sarah's Bookcase Sarah sells Usborne books and with access to over 3000 titles from baby to teenager theres something for everyone.  
  • Rundom.run - raising money for Martin House Childrens Hospice
Learn about how you can sponsor SLP here: Super League Pod sponsorship

You can also make a donation to support SLP if you prefer: paypal.me/superleaguepod
All donations are hugely appreciated, large or small. If you donate £20 or more you can pick from an SLP t-shirt (limited stock remaining) or an SLP beanie hat.

5 October 2019

2019 SLP Awards voting!


Make YOUR votes now in the 2019 SLP Awards!
Vote here: 2019 SLP Awards Voting Form

Voting is open until Friday 8 November 2019. Then we'll reveal all the winners on our SLP Awards show the following week!

3 October 2019

Thursday Nights - by Mark


I've written about Thursday night games before - you can read that from 2016 here - but they're still around and still a hot-button topic for lots of fans.

Regular followers of SLP will know that I'm a fan of Thursday night games, personally. In summary of my atypical view, I like having the game to watch on TV that night and if my team play if frees up the whole weekend to do things with my non-sports-fan wife. I also don't think it's that hard to get to most of the games if you really want to and the attendances, whilst lower than Friday games, aren't "killing the sport".

This is not to say I don't understand that they don't work best for all fans. People who take their young children to the game, or have a long working commute, or live well outside the game's heartlands all have genuine struggle attending their side's Thursday games.

Indeed, when we polled rugby league fans this year, over 5% had the one change they would make to the sport related to Thursday night games, either getting rid or restricting the travel distances - read the results of our fan survey here.

In the follow-up polls that we're still running, two-thirds of voters so far would approve of restricting the distance sides have to travel to 50 miles (from away team's ground to home team's ground). No voter has Thursday as their best day to attend games. (no-one has a best day that isn't Friday, Saturday or Sunday.) Over a third of voters have it as their worst day to attend games - although, lets be honest people, it isn't actually worse for these voters than Tuesdays or Wednesdays, other than you actually get games on Thursdays. Add your weight to these numbers by voting here.

Anyway, that wasn't really what this post is about. This post is more about giving some facts on who has played most on Thursday nights, since they became a regular part of our Super League scheduling in Round 27 of the 2013 season.

The facts
The table below shows who has played the most Thursday nights games, each sides average Thursday home attendance and average overall home attendances, since Round 27 2013 to time of writing (during 2019 playoffs).
During the six-year run of regular Thursday night action, Castleford Tigers have had the most weeknight matches to contend with, 41 in total. This was brought on by a frankly ridiculous 2019 season of 11 Thursday games, 8 of which were away, including the final three games of their season. One of them was Maundy Thursday, so not quite the same with a bank holiday Friday the day after, but still!

Depending on the season and the structure, it's varied between 28 and 30 Thursday games per season from 2014 to 2019. Obviously, some of these were playoff games. Back in the 14-team days of 2014, sides should have averaged 4 games each on a Thursday. In 2019, it would have been 4.67 each if the 12-sides played the same amount of times. If games were spread out evenly, you would expect the 10 Super League ever-presents over the last six years to have each played roughly 30 Thursday games. You can see that hasn't fully happened. To redress the balance, Salford and Wakefield fans should be sent out on the road for a few more midweek trips over the next two years!

Castleford and Wigan have played roughly 2 of every 9 games on a Thursday night over the last six years. Castleford and St Helens fans have had to do the most travelling, whilst Wigan fans have had their home games most impacted. 

Castleford's 11 in 2019 is the most in one season for any side. Four times before, sides had 8 in a season. Although, only once has a team had more than 4 of their home games in a season on a Thursday night - Huddersfield had 5 in 2018. Not all of these were moved for TV..

10 of the 176 Thursday games weren't televised. These were either Maundy Thursday games or fixtures moved due to stadium access issues. Huddersfield have three of the non-televised games, with London having two and a number of others having one each. 

The thoughts
Outside of Wigan games, Thursday nights don't seem to be hitting crowd figures as hard as some make out. Although, there's clearly a perception that needs addressing if we're still to be used by our broadcasters to fill that otherwise vacant Thursday night team sport spot. 

The first thing needs to be a more even distribution of games. Catalans, understandably, don't host any Thursday night games - if fans find it hard to travel the 123 miles from Hull KR to St Helens (the longest road trip Super League will see in 2020), then getting on a flight makes it even harder. Plus, their home broadcast deal is, and should be, different. If Toronto come up, same applies there. But the rest need to be handed out more evenly. For example, no side needs to play more than three home games or more than three away games on Thursdays - and we make the overseas sides play at least three away to help shape that balance. 

The average UK travel distance in 2020 using the reasonable proxy of ground-to-ground travel will be about 56 miles, or 70 minutes in good conditions. Now, we know that 5:30pm to 7:30pm isn't always good conditions to travel across the north. 

So, as well as a more even spread of games for each side, no side's supporters should be expected to negotiate the travel conditions of both Manchester and Leeds areas on the same trip. That, for me, means no-one east of Leeds or west of Salford travel past Huddersfield on a Thursday night. I'd maybe let Leeds play Salford, as that trip is under 50 miles, so even with traffic at both ends it's not unreasonable to get between the two after work for a 7:45pm kick-off.

We know from the Super League leadership that Thursday night games are here to stay at least for the medium term. Sky Sports, our broadcast partner and main source of finance, like the slot. I've always said us fans should make the most of that TV exposure. Hopefully with these two tweaks we'll see a way to make more people like Thursday night games as much as I do!

Thanks as always for reading. Please share and comment with your own, constructive, thoughts. 

Mark
SLP

30 September 2019

Episode 241 - Short in the Forwards


Mark and Tim are with you this week to recap YOUR fan views two big home wins in the Super League playoffs and a whole load of big results outside of Super League. It's also news that isn't news season and we get let down by players in the valleys again. We make our guesses on some huge games ahead on both sides of the Rugby League world.

Listen to the show on iTunes here: SLP on iTunes
If you're not an Apple user, get the show here: SLP on Spreaker
You can also find us on YouTube, or search for us on whatever podcatcher app you use.

Episode 241 is sponsored by Sarah's Bookcase
Sarah sells Usborne books and with access to over 3000 titles from baby to teenager theres something for everyone.  She also works with schools so please get in touch to find out how you can get free books for local schools. Find out more at: www.facebook.com/sarahsbookcase

News from 08:15
Super League match reviews from 40:45
Other results from 78:00
Predictions from 91:30

Awards Season is Upon us...
The official Super League Dream Team has been named. Now it's time to have YOUR say in the SLP Listener Dream Team. Make your picks HERE.

Thank you to everyone who supports SLP!
Please back our Partner Sponsors:
  • Rob's Toy Shop - Enter 'SLPDiscount' on checkout at Rob's Toy Shop and get 5% cashback on orders over £5, plus give 1% cashback to SLP.
  • Little Warden - Vital alerts for hidden issues!
  • Mascord Brownz - For all your International RL gear! Use our link https://mascordbrownz.com/?affilates=8 and we get 8% of your order value to help our running costs.
  • Sarah's Bookcase Sarah sells Usborne books and with access to over 3000 titles from baby to teenager theres something for everyone.  
  • Rundom.run - raising money for Martin House Childrens Hospice
Learn about how you can sponsor SLP here: Super League Pod sponsorship

You can also make a donation to support SLP if you prefer: paypal.me/superleaguepod
All donations are hugely appreciated, large or small. If you donate £20 or more you can pick from an SLP t-shirt (limited stock remaining) or an SLP beanie hat.

29 September 2019

Thinking about the TV Deal - by Mark

Most serious Rugby League fans in the UK know that the Super League TV deal is up at the end of the 2021 season.

Whilst the last deal with Sky, negotiated by The RFL, has certainly brought in large sums of money for the Super League clubs, the finer details weren't really all in the best interests of the clubs, the game and the fans. The ability to change a fixture at less than a weeks notice is probably the stand out in that regard.

One of the main determining factors in Super League splitting from The RFL at the end of 2017 was self-determination over the next TV deal - the major source of income for most clubs. So, they have to get it right!

My understanding is the Super League board are looking to appoint an external party to help them weight up all the options and permutations. I think that nothing is off the table - from how many games are televised, to who televises them and beyond.

I don't know how strong the Super League's hand is going to be in these negotiations, but there are a few things I think they should be looking for:
  • A minimum of two weeks notice for any game moved for TV coverage - this is a no brainer, we have to try and get a bit more notice for fans to plan arrangements and for clubs to maximise on things like hospitality sales and any special offers or occasions.
  • All week(school)night TV games fixed before the season kicks off - and I don't say all Thursday night games, because the broadcaster may want to try Monday's again. But getting the scheduling that is most moaned about sorted early doors just makes things easier all round.
  • More televised games - ok, this is obvious too, but worth trying for. Ideally, we'd get all games televised like in the NRL - one Thursday, one Friday, two Saturday, two Sunday (but then I know people will moan about not having a regular home game day...you can't win in Rugby League eh!?)
  • Sunday tea-time games throughout February - little bit less obvious, but the sport I think translates best to ours might be American Football. If we're still with Sky, their Sunday evening NFL audience needs tapping into as the NFL season ends and the Super League season starts. Filling the same TV scheduling slot is a perfect way to work on that audience. Super League should be asking Sky for this as part of any new deal. Hopefully, they would be an additional TV game each instead of just one of the normal two.
  • More Saturday tea-time games in May and June - on a similar line to the above suggestion, this is where we can pick up the usual Saturday early-evening football slot to try and tap into the audience used to watching team sports at that particular time slot. Obviously, if that was to stay a Catalans slot and we still get those games in the UK (or maybe even Catalans & Toulouse) then this slot will be naturally filled, so it's about picking up the slot in open weeks. Again, Super League should be putting this to Sky. Surely it's a potential win for both parties too. Obviously, if the new deal was with another provider then we look at their existing slots and find ones we can best fill when other sports are in off-season.
  • Guarantees of a more even split in coverage - this only really applies if we stick with the 2.5 TV games a week schedule - but how can it be right that one team is on TV 6 times (Salford) in the regular season and another 18 times (Castleford)? Is this even what we really want as armchair viewers? When you recognise that one of those games was at Magic Weekend and one was Catalans away, it made 5th place Castleford (in this particular season) the Sky pick four times more often than 3rd place Salford. TV audiences have been deprived of this great Salford side when such uneven coverage can happen.
  • No Thursday games in the first week of the playoffs - maybe no Thursday playoffs at all, but that might be pushing it, and you have to make some concessions in negotiations - it's no good for Sky or Super League for a side to get half their average crowd for a playoff game, which happened to Warrington this year. Whatever the reasons, some action needs to be seen to be taken to address this. (more on Thursday Night games coming soon, keep your eye on the blog!)
  • Some free-to-air games - a tough one for sure - we need to get more games in front of more eyes, and we need to get the support of the broadcaster in doing this. BT have done it with Rugby Union. Sky did it with the Cricket World Cup Final. A few games a year need to be shared with free-to-air TV. Whether it's the headline game a Magic Weekend, or an opening weekend fixture, a playoff semi-final or whatever, we need to get agreement to put some stuff out there free-to-air to spread the fan base and generate more interest.
Thanks for reading and please comment with your thoughts on what Super League need to go to the negotiating table looking for from the new deal.

Mark
SLP