BBC BLOGS - George Riley

Archives for August 2010

Nerves, emotion and tears before Challenge Cup final

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George Riley George Riley | 17:25 UK time, Monday, 23 August 2010

A year ago Ryan Atkins rang me and asked if I could get him and his mates in to watch the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley. Now, the 24-year-old Warrington centre is back on the phone bursting with adrenalin, as he finally anticipates his first taste of the famous venue as a player, against his hometown club Leeds.

"I've never been to a final before, even as a fan," Atkins tells me after a Wolves training session he describes as "intense" just days before the 2010 final. "I wanted to come down and watch when I was with Wakefield last year but couldn't make it. This now is the biggest week of my career, it's nerve-wracking and it won't hit home that I'm playing until I walk around the stadium for the first time."

It has been some year for Atkins, leaving Wakefield with a heavy heart to sign for Warrington, the team he was seeking tickets to watch as a fan at Wembley last August, cementing his place in the Wolves side and playing a huge part in winger Chris Riley running in 25 Super League tries - both of them now in the England picture as a result.

This weekend the Leeds lad bids to deny the Rhinos a first Challenge Cup success since 1999 but admits keeping his emotions in check will not be easy. "It's hugely daunting but pressure makes diamonds," says Atkins, who admits his Wembley debut will render him like the proverbial kid in a sweetshop.

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McDermott leaves Quins in good shape

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George Riley George Riley | 10:36 UK time, Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Brian McDermott's decision to step down as Harlequins coach and return to Leeds ends the passionate Yorkshireman's four-year bid to spread the rugby league gospel in London.

Since I myself quit Leeds for London, I have found it tough enough persuading pubs to show Friday night Super League on their TV screens, so McDermott's job has clearly been the most challenging of his career.

I spoke to the former Great Britain international a couple of hours after his decision to return to the Rhinos as assistant coach at the end of the season was made public.

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A step too far?

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George Riley George Riley | 15:05 UK time, Friday, 13 August 2010

The Rugby Football League has taken a huge gamble in moving the Magic Weekend to the opening week of the Super League season.

The move away from Edinburgh is no surprise following a 10% dip in crowds at Murrayfield this year on the same weekend in May 2009. The first two years in Cardiff were well supported and Wales will no doubt offer its traditional warm welcome to the rugby league family once more.

But the decision to open the 2011 season with all seven fixtures at one stadium is risky, especially a stadium located outside the traditional rugby league heartlands. The RFL is no stranger to making bold decisions, with the governing body often applauded for its trailblazing moves. But is this a step too far?

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Super League licence up for grabs

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George Riley George Riley | 13:30 UK time, Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The Rugby Football League looks set to grant a Super League licence to at least one Championship club next spring, with a current Super League side losing out.

With confirmation that Super League will remain at 14 clubs, this means at least one top-flight side will lose their licence for the period 2012-14. The lucky Championship side will be handed a licence in March, with the remaining licences awarded in July 2011.

This news will do little to allay current concerns of fans of Castleford, Wakefield and Salford, who have as yet failed to build on the ambitious new stadium plans that helped secure their current licence. These clubs earned licences thanks largely to promises of a new stadium, which at present remain unfulfilled.

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