AMONG the problems Greece has faced in recent years, the issues affecting rugby league in the country are somewhat comparatively trivial.
But as far as the sport itself is concerned, these are troubled times following the suspension of the Hellenic Federation of Rugby League’s suspension by the Rugby League Europe Federation last Friday.
The problems began just over a year ago when the RLEF began investigating following the HFRL’s submission of its annual membership audit.
Participants then lodged a formal complaint against the Greek governing body in July, followed by Malta doing the same in October when the Greeks forfeited their scheduled European Championship C match.
A fact-finding mission to Athens by Rugby League International Federation CEO David Collier and the RLEF’s Jovan Vujosevic this February then led to the conclusion the HFRL had been misleading the European governing body over its financial management, leading to the Greeks being hit with an indefinite suspension for “wilfully acting in a manner prejudicial to the interests of the RLEF and international rugby league.”
It is a shame it has come to this, particularly as Greece were one of those non-traditional rugby-playing nations which took up the 13-man code in the early years of the last decade.
Formed along similar lines of the Lebanese team which made its bow in the 2000 World Cup, being made up of Australian players of Greek ancestry, the national team has been playing games for near-on 12 years.
Although it took time to get a domestic competition off the ground, Greece have been ever-present on the international stage, culminating in them winning European Championship C two years ago.
The RLEF were at pains to point out this is merely a suspension rather than expulsion from the organisation, along with confirming their intent to get the HFRL back to being a fully-functioning regulatory body.
“We have concluded the first phase of the process to rehabilitate Greek rugby league,” said RLEF general manager Danny Kazandjian.
“In collaboration with every member of the Greek rugby league community with a genuine interest in the game’s health, the RLEF will implement structures and administrative practices that will ensure that Greek citizens can participate in a well organised sport run on an ethical and inclusive basis.”
There was some positive news for the RLEF this week though, with Burundi becoming the sixth African nation to join the organisation after being granted observer status.
Now to hope the situation in Greece can be rectified to allow them to return to the international arena.
Thursday night attendance watch: Hull Kingston Rovers’ home Super League game with Catalans Dragons actually saw an increase in the 6,723 who turned up to watch the Sunday afternoon game between the two in 2015 – albeit it by only 41 extra paying spectators.
Whether that was due to some more Hull natives deciding to take a trip down to the KC Lightstream Stadium – Craven Park, as your dad still calls it – or a handful extra making the trip over from Perpignan is anyone’s guess, although the latter would have definitely been glad they made the trip.
The Catalans are now up to second in the Super League standings following their 40-0 win over Rovers, which was also their fourth away win of the season.
Admittedly, three of their triumphs on the road have been against teams in the bottom four – Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, Huddersfield Giant and the red-and-white half of Hull – while the other top four sides in Warrington Wolves, Wigan Warriors and Hull FC have all defeated Laurent Frayssinous’ men.
Nevertheless, it is already an improvement on 2015 when the French outfit could only muster a solitary away win in the regular season, despite winning eight of their 11 home games and drawing the nominal ‘home’ game against the Giants on Magic Weekend in Newcastle.
You’ll never win anything with kids: Publicly at least, Shane Wane was not overly-concerned by Wigan shipping 62 points and failing to register a solitary score as they slumped to one of their worst-ever Super League defeats away to Wakefield on Sunday.
It would probably be easier to list the players the Warriors DID have available for this game, with injury, illness and suspensions leaving head coach Wane without 10 of his squad and fielding an inexperienced side.
So it was that Jack Higginson and Nick Gregson made only their second starts at this level in the centres and at stand-off respectively, while Joe Brotherton and Jack Wells made their bows from the interchange bench.
It is all too easy to blame Wigan’s loss on these factors, although that would be doing a huge disservice to Wakefield and their players following a fourth win in a row.
Jacob Miller’s hat-trick was allied with some excellent distribution and pulling the strings in the halves, while hooker Scott Moore was always a danger from dummy-half, and the attacking lines and support play from the Wildcats ran Wigan’s defence ragged.
Elsewhere, the misery continued for Huddersfield and Leeds – the former going down 37-20 to Hull and the latter being edged out 14-10 to Salford Red Devils.
Hull full-back Jamie Shaul grabbed two tries for them in their win and not only has the fifth-highest number of tackle busts with 42, but also ranks third in average metres gained with 10.71.
Consistently inconsistent: Having won six of their first seven games and drawn lazy comparisons with football’s surprise Premier League champions-elect Leicester City, Widnes Vikings have now lost four in a row following their see-saw clash with Castleford Tigers.
Although this is probably a case of their results simply regressing towards the mean, the manner of the 34-24 loss to Castleford in blowing an 18-point lead will have undoubtedly been concerning to head coach Denis Betts.
The game was perhaps the Tigers’ season in microcosm, with them unable to find any level of consistency from week to week.
The same, too, can be said for St Helens, who handed leaders Warrington only their second defeat by winning a thriller 25-22 in front of a near-on full house at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
London calling: The Armchair Pundit contends that the real success story of the rugby league season so far has not been Widnes’ early form, but that of the London Broncos.
Andrew Henderson’s side now have to been considered genuine contenders for a place in the Qualifiers after seeing off Batley Bulldogs – the part-timers also making an impressive start to the 2016 campaign – 32-8 at home in the last round.
Only fellow high-fliers Leigh Centurions and Bradford Bulls have managed to overcome the Broncos so far this season, with the former being by just four points and the latter being by eight. Not bad for a team which finished seventh in 2015.
But although they unveiled a special edition kit for the Summer Bash which will undoubtedly go down as one of mankind’s most awful crimes against team uniforms – The Armchair Pundit finds the shorts particularly offensive – the Centurions showed they are not to be messed with on the field as they trounced struggling Whitehaven 60-6.
Bradford may well have silenced a few of the doubters with a resounding return to form by winning 52-18 away to a Dewsbury Rams side they recently lost to in the Challenge Cup.
Knights on the charge: Quicky, without looking – which team have the best defensive record after Toulouse Olympique in Kingston Press Championship One?
If you answered York City Knights, then congratulations! You may now pass ‘Go’ and collect £200 (Disclaimer: Prize will not be honoured by The Armchair Pundit).
The City Knights may only be fifth in the standings at present, but have won all three of their league matches and conceded just 34 points in the process, with their latest match seeing them run out 60-6 winners away to Hemel Stags.
Just so as not to leave anyone in doubt as to their defensive prowess, York also tweeted a video of some of their biggest hits and tackles so far this season during the game.
The question is how will they cope with the seemingly-unstoppable Toulouse when they play them? The French outfit, who also have three wins from three games, underlined their status as promotion favourites by trouncing South Wales Scorpions 64-0.
It is Rochdale Hornets who continue to lead the way though, seeing off Gloucestershire All Golds 38-16 to make it four games in a row unbeaten in the league.
Amateur score of the week: Boothtown Terriers 48 Bradford Victoria Rangers 20, Pennine League Division One. The victory saw Boothtown go two points clear at the top of the table, although second-placed Lindley Swifts still have a game in hand.
Founded in 1986 as an Army team playing inter-company rugby and friendlies with other Halifax teams, the team eventually settled in Boothtown in 1996 and this year marks their 30th anniversary.
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