Dave Craven: Super League’s week of nonsense, more nonsense ... and a little extra nonsense

Ian Lenegan (Wigan Warriors), Eammon McManus (St Helens), Robert Elstone (CEO Super League), Simon Moran (Warrington Wolves)
Ian Lenegan (Wigan Warriors), Eammon McManus (St Helens), Robert Elstone (CEO Super League), Simon Moran (Warrington Wolves)
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HAS everyone stopped squabbling? Unfortunately not, it was one of those rhetorical questions.

For a couple of hours on Tuesday afternoon, there was a genuine feel-good feeling about the future of rugby league – a rarity – following the introduction of Robert Elstone as Super League’s chief executive.

Indeed, having covered this sport for 20 years, rarely has someone in such a position come across so well; he spoke with authority, knowledge, enthusiasm and, crucially, was able to express why he feels his plans for the sport will work.

Certainly, the majority of the rugby league media came away impressed. And it takes a lot to impress what can be a cynical bunch at times.

However, of course, all that soon changed when it emerged ‘news’ that the Super 8s had been scrapped for 2019 wasn’t actually rubber-stamped.

Far from it.

It was a spectacular own goal that has led to a week of nonsense, more nonsense and a little extra nonsense being spouted.

Now, it wasn’t necessarily Elstone’s fault this occurred. Clearly, having Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan, St Helens counterpart Eamonn McManus and Warrington’s Simon Moran sat alongside him did not help matters.

They all (apart from Moran) wanted to have a say and get across their own agenda.

But, essentially, the press conference was to unveil Elstone, not him plus three representatives of Super League’s new-look set-up.

It was a spectacular own goal that has led to a week of nonsense, more nonsense and a little extra nonsense being spouted.

Dave Craven

Still, since they came to power at the end of last year, the Super League board had imposed a vow of silence on themselves 
regarding all game structure matters.

They wanted time to get their heads around the intricacies of the broadcast deal, gauge some opinion, work out where money was being spent, decipher what had been happening commercially while the RFL had been running things.

Once they had done all that, they would be ready to reveal what their masterplan would be.

So, having rightly been so judicious and meticulous in their approach, why did their first public appearance involve Lenagan firing shots at Leeds Rhinos, stating Super League votes were consistently running at 11-1, with the defending champions being the ones arguing against matters?

Clearly, the big matter regards changing the format. Now, behind closed doors, Super League may well have got assurances from plenty of Championship and League 1 clubs, and even the RFL, that they’ll back their plans of returning to one-up, one-down.

But with nothing yet confirmed why on earth would they publicly say otherwise?

It offered Leeds chief Gary Hetherington a perfect opportunity to strike straight back at Super League – as he did a couple of hours after the press conference – and so everything then descended into chaos. Now, it seems every other hour someone is making some damning, derogatory statement about one party or another, needlessly dragging the sport through the mud yet again.

It could so easily have been avoided if they had kept their vow of silence just a little longer.

Instead, we have this farce. Even talk of civil war again although, in all reality, it won’t come to that.

Super League will no doubt get their own way, probably in time for 2019 but, if not, certainly once this broadcast deal ends in 2021.

However, Elstone’s job had been made all the more difficult. Being from Barnsley, though, he should be able to handle it.