Castleford Tigers, Leeds Rhinos and their fellow rugby league players are being treated like ‘pieces of meat’ with ludicrous fixture scheduling - Dave Craven

The weekly Zoom calls have become slightly depressing of late.

Alex Mellor of Leeds Rhinos was the victim of a lack of 'common sense' from the officials (Picture: Steve Riding)

That is no slight on the interviewees; Leeds Rhinos coach Richard Agar’s assertion that he was not sure if Alex Mellor’s contact on an official last week would have “knocked the dandruff off his collar” was a belter. Mellor, of course, was banned for one game, one of myriad ludicrous decisions in rugby league this week.

More of that later. Those Zoom pressers are becoming depressing because every one of them seems to start with a roll call of injured players.

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And there are so, so many. We shouldn’t be surprised; the fixture schedule is ludicrous – this could be the word of the week – and it was inevitable this would happen when clubs tried squeezing a 25-round season into a shortened time-frame.

Leeds play their third game in nine days on Monday – those who were on international duty will have done four in 11 – and all clubs face similar exhaustive regimes at one point or another.

Danny Brough, who has been playing the game professionally for almost 20 years, likes to say how players are just “pieces of meat”.

Previously, I would almost laugh it off and put it purely down to his exaggerated, colourful turn of phrase but now I find myself concurring entirely.

Our athletes are being treated abysmally. It should be no surprise the quality of Super League has dropped off considerably.

Castleford lost three players to injury in the England game and then were punished when they had to postpone their game (Picture: SWpix.com)

Throw in the lingering Covid, which has returned to wreck the fixture list once more and leave more players sidelined, and it has all become so irritating.

England’s first international game in three years being played on the same night as Super League fixtures was another mind-boggling decision which is hard to truly comprehend.

It should have been obvious that with all this going on, some clubs might struggle to fulfil fixtures which made it all the more staggering that the RFL decided to award two points to St Helens when Castleford Tigers failed to raise a team for Wednesday’s Super League game.

Although Castleford’s Academy was shutdown by the pandemic, and various first-team players were unavailable for Covid-related reasons, it didn’t meet the “threshold for a postponement under the Covid-19 framework” apparently.

Jon Dutton (Chief Executive RLWC2021) are confident the RLWC21 will still go ahead (Picture: SWPix.com)

Frankly, I’d rather look at the threshold of common sense.

Where is the common sense in any of these decisions?

That said, what do the game’s powerbrokers expect when Super League stage games six days apart for a club with the RFL’s international in between?

Ludicrous. Three Castleford players on duty in England v All Stars emerged with injuries which ruled them out of the Saints fixture.

Part of me is desperate for the Rugby League World Cup – currently in doubt due to Covid – to get the green light to start here in October to offer us something glorious on the horizon.

However, players will be so knackered and under-prepared, by then will it really be something to behold? Then again, if it is postponed for 12 months, it is only likely players will be dragged out like shire horses to trundle through more ludicrous workloads first next year, too. Agar wants “cohesive” leadership in the sport and it is needed. Just don’t ask me where it is ever going to come from.

At least football’s coming home. Right...?