Dave Craven: Forget Super League, I’m looking forward to day by the seaside

James Lowes
James Lowes
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JAMES Lowes clearly is not a fan but, for me, the Summer Bash is the stuff of which dreams are made. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration – I’d be even sadder than I already am if the prospect of six Championship games in barely 27 hours left me so excited.

But, in theory, it is an enticing prospect witnessing the second tier’s clubs all come together at Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road for their own version of Super League’s Magic Weekend.

More often than not, some of the best games I witness during any season involve Championship teams, whether that be in the old Northern Rail Cup final, the Championship Grand Final itself or one of the division’s commendable sides giving an elite opponent a run for their money in the Challenge Cup.

The problem has always been getting out to see such fare when the expectancy is to cover Super League and there are six top-flight teams from the region playing each week and invariably over all four days of the ‘weekend’.

So, to have them all in action by the seaside tomorrow and on Sunday – with just Wakefield Trinity Wildcats from Yorkshire in Super League battle during the entirety – sits perfectly with me.

I’ll be along tomorrow to see, at least, Doncaster – in an even worse state than Wakefield and with coach Paul Cooke having left this week – take on Hunslet Hawks before the re-match of last season’s Championship Grand
Final, Leigh Centurions v Featherstone Rovers.

Is it just me or does anyone else fancy Fev to bring Leigh’s 
25-game winning run to an end?

Will Leigh, fresh from defeating Wakefield in the Cup and forcing James Webster’s exit, be already thinking about their Cup quarter-final with Warrington Wolves, therefore taking their eye off the ball just long enough for Rovers to pounce?

Probably not given their ruthless efficiency over the last 10 months – but castles do get demolished on the beach.

Of course, the most alluring game could be the denouement of day one when Bradford Bulls and Halifax fight it out tonight.

Lowes, the Bradford coach, has been scathing of the Summer Bash concept in what is its inaugural year.

He has called for it to be scrapped before the first one has even got underway citing there is no need to take the game “on the road” to promote the sport and generate new fans given Blackpool has long had a rugby league association.

Lowes has a point. It is not the most ambitious of venue choices by the RFL although it does have provision to host the logistics of such a major event and a willingness to want to do so.

Perhaps the call should have been not to attract new supporters to the game but rather to simply showcase the quality on offer in the Championship and open the eyes of Super League fans to what else is on their doorstep.

With fewer and fewer top-flight clubs now regularly playing on Sunday afternoons, Championship teams like Leigh, Halifax, Featherstone Rovers and Batley Bulldogs do have an opportunity to tap into fresh markets in their own backyard.

With Sky televising this weekend’s feast, too, the competition is given more profile and hopefully the upshot of this trip to the seaside will be an upsurge in latent support of second-tier clubs in traditional heartlands.

Financially, they all need all the help they can get. Even Leigh, a club able to invest a total of a quarter-of-a-million pounds on Warrington’s 34-year-old hooker Mickey Higham this week.