RL Weekly: Disciplinary Dilemmas, Magic Johnstone & Lindsey’s Legend

Warrington Wolves' Josh McGuire was handed one of the longest bans in Betfred Super League history this week
13:00, 08 Jun 2023

Warrington Wolves boss Daryl Powell has told The Sportsman that the club is supporting controversial forward Josh McGuire after he was handed one of the longest bans in Betfred Super League history. 

Speaking to RL Weekly after a tense press briefing in which the Wolves head coach did his best to bat away any discussion of McGuire’s extraordinary 12-match ban, Powell admitted “we want to make sure he is okay”.

Barring a successful appeal against his mammoth suspension for using “unacceptable language”, the 33-year-old Australian will not play for the joint league leaders until September. Indeed he has barely played for his new club at all, having missed the first seven matches of the campaign for a similar offence, against the same opponents Leigh Leopards. It is a baffling story, and one that has presented the club with a sizable and unwelcome mid-season problem.


“Obviously he’s pretty disappointed,” said Powell, when asked by The Sportsman about McGuire’s wellbeing. 

“I sat down with him to discuss things and spoke to (owner) Simon Moran who was asking how he was. 

“Obviously we want to make sure he is okay. Kylie Leuluai, our player welfare manager, has spent a bit of time with him and will continue to do that.

“Kylie is pretty good, he is that laid back he is laid down, so he will be good with Josh.”

While Warrington rally behind their man, there remains the very real chance they may ultimately have to cut their losses and let him go. He is an expensive overseas recruit now the wrong side of 30. And how many second chances does one individual merit for the same offence? 

Powell refused to discuss that. “It is unfair to discuss it, I won’t discuss that situation, I won’t add fuel to any fire,” he said.

Only the club will know how effective the education for McGuire, promised after his first misdemeanour, has been. 

A repeat offence within months, understood to be for a derogatory slur aimed at Leigh winger Josh Charnley’s son, suggests problems remain. And the disciplinary hearing notes released by the RFL on Wednesday evening were particularly damning, with the tribunal believing McGuire “was not telling the truth”, adding that his version of events “lacked credibility” and that the player had “failed to respond to the education received.”

It is a pretty ugly distraction to what has been an excellent season so far for the Wolves, who continue to fly high despite their thrilling Magic Weekend defeat to Hull FC. 

Tony Smith’s side produced a powerful performance to underline their recent resurgence after an awful start to the season, and the Black and Whites are showing signs of being dangerous dark horses if they can continue their upward momentum.

Catalans Dragons though are the team to watch right now, roaring to the summit with their usual mix of guile and explosive power. And in winger Tom Johnstone the Dragons have pulled off one of the best bits of transfer business in recent years. 

Eyebrows were raised when head coach Steve McNamara moved to take the injury-prone winger to the south of France, but his faith has already been more than repaid. Johnstone is flying, adding a hat-trick in their Magic win over Wigan. 

McNamara has always been brave in the transfer market, and crucially has grown not to care what anyone else thinks. More often than not he gets these big moves right.

So what of the Magic Weekend, the carnival weekend that IMG wants to kill off but fans, clubs and broadcasters are adamant they won’t let go? There were loads of positives from this latest pilgrimage to Newcastle.

And the noises since the weekend from RFL Commercial boss Rhodri Jones have all been positive about the event too. It seems it will get a stay of execution, but does need a better place in the calendar, and more “worth” as an event. 

There have been calls to move it to a smaller stadium that could sell out. I would like to see it kept in a big football stadium, which provides the Magic element for all involved, who would not otherwise experience that kind of big-stage feel unless they reach the Challenge Cup Final or Grand Final. But it needs moving in the diary. Put it right at the start of the season, an explosive kick off to round one after the long winter of rugby league cold turkey. It doesn’t need overthinking. 

Suggestions of a 9s tournament instead just feel like another unnecessary gimmick. There is still love for Magic, it just needs a slight tweak or “reimagining”, with affordable tickets to ensure it is not an either/or choice for fans whose teams are likely to make one of the big finals.

Wakefield Trinity and Huddersfield Giants both need a rethink by the way. Huddersfield’s struggles this year have been barely believable after the impressive foundations laid by Ian Watson this year. 

Indeed, for all the rave reviews Watson received last year, he must now feel under pressure. A coach turning on his players publicly is always a worrying sign, and Watson has openly criticised “some individuals who are way off the mark”, warning that they will be replaced if they don’t start turning up. 

As for Wakefield, their latest loss was another to watch from behind the sofa. This Trinity side is frighteningly toothless. They are not only the worst side in Super League this year, they look to be the worst side that Super League has ever seen. 

Tonight (Thursday) sees ITV broadcast the latest Rob Burrow documentary, “Lindsey and Rob: Living with MND”. 

With the BBC cameras having been a regular addition to the Burrow family home since Rob’s tragic diagnosis in 2019, this latest programme follows his heroic wife Lindsey as she juggles caring for Rob, looking after the three kids, her physiotherapy job, and training for her first ever marathon. 

The outpouring of warmth and love for Rob, and his former team-mate Kevin Sinfield’s fundraising efforts, has been wonderful to witness. But Lindsey deserves so much love and limelight, that she will always shy away from. She is a modern day Wonder Woman, a legend thriving in circumstances that so many of us could not envisage even surviving in.

As with much of the BBC filmed footage, it is at times a very tough watch that once again lays bare the brutality of this horrific disease. But it also underlines the very best of the human condition, with the positive mindset and approach to adversity, showcased by Rob and Lindsey, a wonderfully uplifting lesson to all of us.

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