30th May 2018, 17:51 | steve_mascord
WE Got Issues went to our first Summer Bash at the weekend - which is just as well, since some people seem to think it will be your last.
With a combined attendance of 11,805, the knives are out for the Championship’s answer to Magic Weekend. We all know the reasons crowds were down this year - well-supported Bradford went down to League One and Hull KR went up to Super League in 2018.
Personally, I enjoyed the weekend. Some of the tries were fantastic - if you can catch the 100-metre effort from Toulouse Olympique, you’ll see what I mean.
The weather was pleasant and so was the atmosphere, aside from the aggro between Leigh and Toronto which perhaps those of us not from Leigh will never really get our heads around completely. More of that in a second.
Your correspondent spent a fair bit of time outside the venue working but from what I did see inside, there were a lot of skills that seem to have disappeared from the game at a higher level these days - deft offloads from front rowers, weaving long range runs and other sleights of hand that work less often in Super League or the NRL.
I overhead a security guard say to another: “Did you know there’s a team from Toronto in this? It’s completely mad. I met someone from America inside’.
Notwithstanding the security guard’s dodgy geography, the 100 or so Toronto supporters were living proof to the local fans who seem to believe the Wolfpack are something of a faked moon landing and that the 7000 people who show up to Lamport for each home game are actually cardboard cut-outs.
No doubt there are some who left the ageing resort town believing that they had actually encountered paid actors with years of training in putting on accents.
For this old hack, this was the most exciting aspect of the weekend: when have we ever seen this before - at least since the French took up the game in 1934 and, presumably, sent the odd supporter across the channel for Test matches?
“Real” cockneys at Dewsbury? “Real” Melbournians at Leichhardt? The idea that urban North Americans crossed the Atlantic to follow their rugby league team in a club competition which mixes European cities with small northern towns completely blows my mind.
Some fans clearly don’t like Toronto because they are a threat. One Aussie friend of mine asked a fan of a club other than Leigh why he hated the Wolfpack so much. The response was “they don’t bring any fans”.
He then enquired how many that club had brought to Blackpool. The answer was “500”. “Well, after 120 years the best you can do is 500 and after less than two they’ve brought 100. I’d say that’s not bad.”
But some of the rivalry is not ideological at all; it’s clearly personal.
Many of the key personnel at the Pack hail from the Centurions and things got nasty at full-time when they played each other on Saturday and, reportedly, as the teams were boarding the bus afterwards.
There are claims and counter claims as to who started it, with eagle cam footage doing the rounds.
One would hope a marker is put down to prevent us ending up like some sort of South American soccer competition with bedlam on the side-lines every second week; we don't want outsiders thinking people the ‘R’ in RL stands for Rabble.
I don’t know who was to blame.
But there is an important point to be made anyway: coaches and players come and go. Sure, in the opening years of a franchise, that is when a culture is established. But it doesn't continue without help.
You can like the idea of Toronto and believe in the club’s potential, without agreeing with everything the current players, officials and staff do.
How many of you formed your opinion of Wigan based on the tactics employed between 1895 and 1897? Does your perception of London Broncos date back to Hussain M’Barki’s heyday at Fulham?
It’s important not to allow recency bias to cloud your thoughts on a whole club and concept.
And the same goes for Summer Bash. With Magic, if it appears stale, we look to move it to another venue. Summer Bash deserve the same opportunity.