BBC BLOGS - George Riley

Archives for August 2011

McDermott and Maguire prepare for battle

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George Riley George Riley | 12:44 UK time, Thursday, 25 August 2011

The two most recent Super League champions - and their two intense coaches - go toe-to-toe on Saturday for rugby league's most coveted trophy.

Leeds Rhinos v Wigan Warriors is also Brian McDermott v Michael Maguire - two blood-demanding leaders in their first Challenge Cup finals as coaches.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson attended Wigan training on Wednesday as Maguire finalised his preparations for Wembley.

The Australian is renowned for his attention to detail and the work ethic he has instilled in the Super League champions. If any of his players were in any doubt as to the magnitude of the occasion, they are not now. I'm told Ferguson gave them a big lift.

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Maverick Long ends colourful playing career

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George Riley George Riley | 14:17 UK time, Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Sean Long retires as one of most successful and controversial players in the modern era of rugby league.

Having won every individual and team honour in the club game, the former Great Britain scrum-half steps into the shadows of the sport as one of its greats. He will also be remembered as one of its most colourful, controversial and enigmatic characters.

The 34-year-old is hoping fans remember him as a "maverick". It was his brilliance on the pitch, and unpredictability off it, that will cement his place in rugby league folklore. At St Helens he is already a legend.

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Wembley awaits semi-final victors

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George Riley George Riley | 09:27 UK time, Friday, 5 August 2011

Challenge Cup semi-final weekend is often one of the most dramatic weekends of the rugby league season. Four sides, all 80 minutes from Wembley, and for some sides who make it this far, it is the last chance to grab something special from the season.

Two derbies, one Yorkshire, one Lancashire, and four sets of fans desperate for that special final.
For me it is always a date that brings back a painful memory of personal calamity, on the day of one of the most thrilling matches in the Cup's history.

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Catalan Dragons breathing fire once again

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George Riley George Riley | 11:35 UK time, Thursday, 4 August 2011

Catalan Dragons coach Trent Robinson believes his side have proved their credentials and will now be tough to beat in the playoffs.

After last week's Crusaders controversy marked the demise of the only other non-English top-flight club, I flew to Perpignan to assess the health of the RFL's best-performing "expansion" side.

Sure, there are huge differences between Crusaders and the Dragons. Moving Super League to a region in which the sport has thrived since the 1930s was hardly the kind of gamble that has backfired so spectacularly in Wales, and failed in Paris before that. But a huge amount of work has had to go into establishing the Catalan club as a competitive presence after their rock-bottom debut season in 2006.

There have been Cup final highs and bottom-of-the table lows in an up and down five years in the elite league, but the Dragons I saw at the weekend are breathing fire again.

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