Dave Craven: Blossoming League 1 proving a point to game's administrators
THERE was talk recently about Betfred League 1 becoming an amateur competition next year.
Given the standard so far this term, though, it is fair to say its current inhabitants are seeking to make sure that won’t ever happen.
It is almost as if they were affronted by the mere suggestion. And rightly so.
Certainly, the last word you presently associate with League 1 is amateurish. Far from it.
The third-tier is blossoming at the moment with not only a highly competitive competition but stories aplenty too.
Bradford Bulls’ meltdown with Workington Town last weekend over whether the fallen World Club giants could live stream the contest in Cumbria might have been a little unsavoury at times.
It could certainly easily at least have been saved from the public domain. But it helped build publicity for Workington who – like many semi-professional clubs – have done wonders with their promotion of games.
The match wasn’t streamed live in the end and underdogs Workington, with Bradfordian Leon Pryce in charge, came home to inflict his illustrious former club’s first defeat of the season.
Jordan Tansey scored the match-winning drop-goal. Many will remember how he has previous for stunning Bulls at the death in games laced with controversy of some sort or another.
Tansey also is another sign of the quality that is currently playing in League 1.
Workington alone this week have signed former Kiwi superstar Fuifui Moimoi having also recruited Ryan Bailey.
Keighley Cougars signed up ex-England prop Darrell Griffin a few days ago as well while Bradford, of course, have a squad littered with talent as do the likes of Doncaster and York City Knights.
The competition is only five rounds old but it is already shaping into a fascinating battlefield.
Heading into this weekend, Doncaster are the new leaders on points difference from Bradford and York, while Workington, Whitehaven, Keighley and Hunslet Hawks are all tucked in nicely behind.
With the top five all having a chance to go up, any number of clubs will fancy their chances but – for Yorkshire rugby league in particular – it is great to see the likes of Doncaster and York thriving again. With Richard Horne at the helm, and Carl Hall’s continued support, Doncaster are looking like a side intent on returning to the Championship.
York – who do great work marketing their games – are in a similar position following the influence of Jon Flatman at Bootham Crescent.
All of which makes deciding which Ladbrokes Challenge Cup fifth round game to cover next weekend all the more difficult.
Bradford surely can’t go to Warrington and win can they? Even with the John Kear factor...?
Struggling Catalans might have a little trepidation about going to York, though, especially if they lose again tomorrow at Castleford. Doncaster v Featherstone Rovers should be a belter while what price Oldham knocking out Hull KR for a second time in three years?
Of course, it is still a financial struggle for many clubs in the third tier and, if the £75,000 handout from the Sky television deal was held back in future, many would find it almost impossible to survive.
But that would be a short-sighted move from those controlling the purse strings and, for the good of the sport as a whole, let’s hope they see the value of an holistic approach.