The international break allowed clubs to recharge, Shaun Wane to blood new international talent and the rugby league family to pay another huge tribute to Rob Burrow.
The Leeds Rhinos legend was a guest of honour as England’s men and women both humiliated France 64-0 in an otherwise damp squib of an international double-header. But the presence of the Burrow family was another heart-warming reminder of what rugby league does best. Looking after its own, celebrating, supporting, protecting and cherishing.
This writer was fortunate enough to be with the Burrows on Saturday in hospitality box number seven (of course), and every minute you spend in their company is a reminder of what an incredible family they are.
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Rob’s smile that greeted the arrival of his treasured kids Macy, Maya and Jackson onto the pitch as they delivered the match ball to referee Liam Moore was genuinely the biggest I have seen on my friend’s face for some time.
He was absolutely bursting with pride and the nation was with him for the entire wonderful moment, captured beautifully by the Sky Sports cameras.
Rob remains relatively stable health-wise, with his new glasses a source of great amusement when his old mate Barrie McDermott popped his head in to say hello. Rob and Barrie’s friendship is fantastic, with the pair still able to make each other belly laugh on demand. And if you ever hear Barrie come out with a somewhat strange word during his TV commentary, you can bet your last dollar that Rob has had something to do with it!
Wife Lindsey meanwhile - an absolute superhero - has overcome injury to run the Leeds Marathon next weekend, raising funds like thousands of others to build the specialist MND hospital in Rob’s name. Rob himself is planning to head around the gruelling course in his chair, pushed by Kevin Sinfield and friends, on what will be a memorable day for the city.
As for the rugby team that Rob, Barrie and friends played for with such distinction, Leeds Rhinos could do with a win over in-form Salford as the Betfred Super League resumes this weekend.
Ironically it was Sinfield junior - Kevin’s son Jack - who was the talk of Rhinos boss Rohan Smith’s midweek press briefing. Scrum-half Aidan Sezer is sidelined with what Smith calls a “really deep” dead leg that has “become a relatively serious injury”.
Leeds need to regroup after losing to Leigh and many think it could be Sinfield’s time, with the teenager yet to feature this season.
“He has really grown,” said Smith.
“He’s still a young lad but has been playing really well in academy and reserve fixtures. I look forward to the opportunity when that’s right.”
The wise money though would be on the experienced Richie Myler stepping up against dangerous Salford playmakers Marc Sneyd and Man Of Steel Brodie Croft.
Salford are brilliant to watch, with boss Paul Rowley using his press conference this week to compare the attacking flair of two sides he says who thrive on “chaos”.
“Leeds like chaos and don’t conform to what normality would look like for a rugby team,“ said Rowley.
“They challenge you in a lot of ways which makes them a really dangerous side.
“They clearly practise chaos and prepare for the unexpected so are good at reacting to different situations.”
How do you practise chaos? Well Rowley himself has unwittingly been doing so in unexpected ways. Star winger Ken Sio has been sidelined by a pothole injury, turning his ankle painfully in a freak accident on the Red Devils training pitch.
There are many aspects of Salford’s working conditions that frustrate their head coach, and the state of their training pitch is one of them, with Rowley believing the continued uncertainty over the ownership of the stadium is seeing the facilities fall into a state of disrepair.
“You can either whinge about it or crack on,” he says. “The unsettled nature of the ownership of the stadium hasn’t helped. If you are selling your house you don’t decorate just before you sell it do you? The sooner things get sorted out the better.”
Salford have received a huge boost over the past week however, with over £100,000 raised in the first week of their Community Share project aimed at placing the club in the hands of its fans.
“Give us your heart and we’ll give you ours,” Rowley adds, of the club’s close bond with its community.
The other piece of headline news during the domestic break was an unexpected Betfred Super League return for former England half-back Luke Gale. The 34-year old goes straight into the engine room at rock bottom Wakefield after leaving a Keighley Cougars side disgruntled at their perceived injustices in IMG’s move to replace promotion and relegation with licensing.
Gale is bound to be rusty but won’t have any time to get up to speed with Warrington Wolves their hosts this week. Warrington boss Daryl Powell of course knows Gale as well as anyone from their time together at Castleford.
“Luke will bring some enthusiasm in there,” he said. “He always has a smile on his face, he will go in there and be buzzing.
“He’ll try to stimulate some growth from that perspective. He is a smart player and understands the game, knows how to pick a team apart, and will show leadership.
“So we need to get after him. He hasn’t played Super League this year.”
Can Gale rescue Wakefield? It would appear unlikely.
But his experience, leadership and enthusiasm can only have a positive impact upon the beleaguered bodies around him.
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