BBC BLOGS - George Riley

Archives for April 2010

Concerns about a "Wacky Weekend"

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George Riley George Riley | 10:52 UK time, Friday, 30 April 2010

As both a rugby league and snooker enthusiast, May Bank Holiday weekend has, since 2007, served up an unwelcome dilemma.

The Magic Weekend, with all Super League fixtures played in one stadium, runs over the final weekend of the World Snooker Championship. As chairman of the Snooker Writers' Association (don't laugh, it's true), this always hands me a big decision to make.

In 2007 and 2008, I chose baize over brawn. Last year, though, I took the long road to Edinburgh for the first Murrayfield Magic and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. This year I'm going back to listening to the rugby league from the comfort of the Crucible, a little bemused by what exactly the "Wacky Weekend in Edinburgh" - as the Rugby Football League is trying to market the event - is really trying to achieve.

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McNamara gets his chance to shine

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George Riley George Riley | 13:13 UK time, Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The opportunity to step up from England student to national headmaster was one Steve McNamara just could not turn down.

As revealed on this blog weeks ago, the 38-year-old has been chosen to succeed Tony Smith as England coach.

However, this saga has rumbled on while arguments over the timing of McNamara's departure from Bradford were resolved. Given that his contract with the Bulls was up at the end of this season, he is, in that respect, a perfect fit.

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Ex-Tiger looking to put claws into Cas

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George Riley George Riley | 15:20 UK time, Friday, 16 April 2010

Former Castleford captain Andrew Henderson makes an emotional return to The Jungle this weekend for the first time since quitting the Tigers in 2008.

Now leading Championship side Barrow, the 30-year-old hooker told me he never thought he'd ever make it back to his favourite ground - but the magic of the Challenge Cup conjures up opportunities like this. It is one Henderson intends to seize.

"It will be very strange going back to a club that is next to my heart," said Henderson, who never wanted to leave Cas only to be forced out by salary cap restrictions in 2008.

Now living with his family in the somewhat isolated surrounds of Barrow, I asked him what he is most excited about ahead of his Jungle return. "I can't wait to whack Craig Huby," said Scotland's captain. "Over four years at Cas, he was my target for verbals, so he's told me he's gonna hit me hard!"

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The switch, the hits, the pressure

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George Riley George Riley | 10:32 UK time, Wednesday, 14 April 2010

When Gareth Thomas hobbled off dazed, battered and bruised barely 30 minutes into his rugby league career, some cynics deemed it an early sign that the Lions legend wouldn't be able to hack it.

A month later, I'm locked in a fascinating chat with Wales' most capped rugby union international, barely able to get a word in edgeways as he waxes lyrical about the addictive pull of league.

The 35-year-old ran in his first Super League try in Crusaders' terrific weekend win at Wakefield. Reason enough, I thought, to give the man they call 'Alfie' a bell, now the dust has settled on a blood and thunder first month in the game.

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Eventful Easter on and off the pitch

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George Riley George Riley | 17:39 UK time, Thursday, 8 April 2010

Easter Bank holiday derby weekend is usually unforgettable for a rugby league fan, whether your team wins or loses.

Mine was reasonably eventful.

After Lee Smith stole my thunder last week when I'd planned to write an insightful blog on how our broadcasts come together, I'll grab this opportunity to give you an insight in the life of a BBC Radio 5 live sports broadcaster.

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Smith returns to league and Leeds

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George Riley George Riley | 10:12 UK time, Thursday, 1 April 2010

The plan for this week had been to write a blog giving you an insight into how Radio 5 live's rugby league programmes were being put together for a busy Easter schedule.

Thanks to Lee Smith, and the confirmation of one of the worst kept secrets in the sport, that idea has gone largely out of the window.

I was sat in the pub watching Bayern Munich beat Manchester United on Tuesday evening when a text from a source close to Smith confirmed that, just hours after quitting Wasps, the 23-year-old was back at Leeds on a four-year deal and ready for his second coming in the derby against Bradford.

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