Dave Craven: Child’s play for Powell but worrying signs from top official

Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell.
Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell.
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Right, shall we discuss the performance of James Child the other night?

Ordinarily, yes. But this is a new season and a new era so let’s do something new and ignore the easy, traditional option of attacking officials for inept decisions and concentrate on some positives.

I’m not sure how long this will last folks but stick with me for week one, at least.

A performance that is worthy of a mention has to be that of Daryl Powell.

I’m not referring to his feat as Coach of the Year for his exploits with Castleford last season as we are all well-versed in those matters. No, it was his display in that splendid live Sky Sports footage on Thursday lunchtime when highlighting the club’s My Home Debut feature.

Essentially, that is a brilliant and innovative idea – one of many since chief executive Steve Gill took over there – which involves giving kids new to the sport their first taste of Wheldon Road. It sees starry-eyed children getting an inside look at what life is like at the club including a visit to the Tigers changing room to see how it’s all set up for match day.

However, as part of Thursday’s live broadcast as Sky visited all 12 Super League clubs to mark that night’s opening game of the season, two young lads – while being interviewed by Richard Graves – get the surprise of their life when Powell bounds into the ‘sheds’ to give them a talk.

But then, more excitement still, first-team hooker Adam Milner appears too to tell his boss he’s injured and can’t make the weekend’s game versus Wakey. Cue the need for a new hooker.

The timing and delivery is sheer quality as Powell signs up the youngest lad – all of about six years old – throws Milner’s 
No 9 shirt on him, asks him to flex his biceps and then gives him a pep talk ready for the prospect. A superb PR coup as the game looks to sell itself ahead of the big launch.

From Rugby League Rocks last Sunday, to Wednesday’s news about the Sky Try initiative to get 700,000 people playing, watching and participating in the sport over the next seven years and then Thursday’s announcement that live games will be broadcast not only in Australia and New Zealand but, for the next five years, North America and the Middle East, too, the RFL has admirably drip-fed plenty of positive news in readiness for the season launch.

Yet, on a more serious note, unless there is action over some of the incidents in Thursday’s opener between Widnes and Wigan, much of that will swiftly be undone.

For all it was a suitably thrilling 22-22 draw to kick things off, Child’s decision to red card Widnes winger Patrick Ah Van for a swinging high tackle caused plenty of uproar, even if Widnes coach Denis Betts concurred. The disciplinary panel will be mightily busy this season if every such tackle – high but mis-timed rather than malicious – warrants a dismissal and there is a danger a precedent may be set.

However, where the match review panel truly must act on Monday is calling Wigan scrum-half Matty Smith up for his needless kick on Rhys Hanbury after 12-man Widnes celebrated levelling in the closing stages.

Child deemed it only worthy of a yellow card but, if the sport is to attract and retain more young kids like those excited lads at Cas, the England man has to be hit with a three-game ban.