Catalans Dragons’ clash with Wigan in Barcelona, the two North American teams aiming to join the British professional set-up and the retirement of an Australian great feature in this week’s Rugby League talking points.
The next big venture for Super League
The dust had barely settled on Catalans Dragons’ 33-16 win over Wigan Warriors at Barcelona’s Camp Nou before talk began about which iconic venue Super League could take a game to next.
A regular-season record crowd of 31,555 gave a further boost to the competition’s ambitions of staging matches elsewhere in Europe.
Indeed, the Catalans had already been planning to play more home games outside of Perpignan in the future, with Super League chief executive Robert Elstone giving them his backing.
“They’re already talking about other major cities in this part of the world – there is talk of Marseille, Nice and Bordeaux.
“You want to pick a vibrant city with an interest in sport that’s got a great stadium that can showcase this.”
Ottawa and New York wait for news
While Toronto Wolfpack continued to strengthen their grip on top spot in the Championship with a 42-14 win over Toulouse Olympique on Saturday, the other two North American teams bidding to join them were left waiting to find out whether their proposals would get the green light.
The New York bid is fronted by Huddersfield-based Ricky Wilby, while the Ottawa bid is being led by Wolfpack founder Eric Perez, who purchased the professional license belonging to Hemel Stags – still playing at amateur level – following their withdrawal from League One.
The two are expected to find out this week whether or not they will be accepted by the RFL into League One for the 2020 season. Meanwhile, Super League supremo Elstone believes Toulouse would be a perfect fit for the top flight – if they earn promotion on the field, that is.
“They showed me some of their marketing material which is good and they have a business community behind them which creates a revenue stream, which not many Super League clubs have.”
More magic to come?
Closer to home and the thrilling Friday night game between St Helens and Salford Red Devils was arguably the game of the week.
The hosts roared into a 16-0 lead with barely 12 minutes on the clock, followed by a Robert Lui-inspired Red Devils running in 30 unanswered points and looking on course to end a 39-year wait for a victory away to Saints.
But, like the banner at Totally Wicked Stadium says, never write of St Helens – and that proved to be the case as they clawed their way back and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat when James Bentley crashed over in the dying seconds and Lachlan Coote converted to seal a 32-30 win.
There was another eye-catching game at the Trailfinders Sports Club on Saturday as London Broncos did the double over Wakefield Trinity with a 42-34 win, thanks in no small part to four tries from Jordan Abdull which helped put them 42-6 up at half time.
Super League bosses will no doubt be hoping for some similar thrills and spills when the competition’s Magic Weekend breaks new ground by heading to Anfield this Saturday and Sunday.
The venue has previously hosted a World Club Challenge and international matches, and with talk of a new professional club launching in Liverpool it will be interesting to see what appetite there is from the locals in a football-dominated city.
Championship rocks Blackpool
Along with the top two of Toronto and Toulouse battling it out, the weekend included Swinton Lions and Batley Bulldogs winning their respective derby clashes with Rochdale Hornets and Dewsbury Rams.
The aggregate attendance for the weekend topped the 15,000 mark as well, which was over 3,000 higher than last year – a number no doubt helped by the presence of Bradford Bulls, Leigh Centurions and Widnes Vikings.
Cronk calls it a day
Australian rugby league will be saying goodbye to another modern-era great at the end of this season following the news Cooper Cronk has decided to hang up his boots.
The 35-year-old has starred at club level for Melbourne Storm and Sydney Roosters, for Queensland in State of Origin and on the world stage for Australia, along with gathering a host of individual awards including the Dally M and Golden Boot accolades, since making his debut in 2004.
Half-back Cronk, who helped the Roosters to victory in last year’s NRL Grand Final, was modest about his achievements in announcing his decision to retire though.