BBC BLOGS - George Riley

Archives for May 2012

Is the Magic Weekend format sustainable?

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George Riley George Riley | 09:24 UK time, Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Murrayfield and the Millennium Stadium drew a mixed response, but I thought Manchester was a magic weekend for rugby league.

It remains a unique concept that thrills its fans and frustrates its critics. Fourteen teams, 14 sets of supporters, seven matches, two days, one stadium. It reads like an "all you can eat" menu for the die-hard rugby league fan.

But was the Magic Weekend a success in its first (and presumably not its last) year in Manchester? Is the concept sustainable? And if it is such a magnificent sporting innovation, then why is rugby league alone in doing it?

On attendances alone, the Rugby Football League's (RFL) decision to bring it closer to the heartlands worked. Crowds may have appeared sparse at times on television but the aggregate weekend gate of almost 64,000 was actually a record. Is it proof that attempts to take the game to Cardiff and Edinburgh were not worth it? I'm not convinced.

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Rugby league chief comes out fighting

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George Riley George Riley | 17:39 UK time, Tuesday, 22 May 2012

In a week that has seen a successful move to Monday night Super League and will culminate on Saturday and Sunday with the Magic Weekend taking place in Manchester for the first time, Rugby Football League chief executive Nigel Wood has come out fighting.

With Bradford Bulls' financial plight prompting fresh concerns for the health of the sport and MP Andy Burnham leading calls for a return to promotion and relegation, Wood has issued a passionate defence of rugby league and its management by the governing body.

I sat down for an exclusive interview with Wood for a 5 live Sport rugby league special, which will be broadcast from 21:00 BST on Wednesday. He loves his rugby league and we spoke for 45 minutes before I'd even turned the microphone on.

The RFL agreed to the interview despite its initial wariness about the potential for another battering at the hands of the national media. My view was that any governing body is more likely to attract criticism for being silent than for anything it could say. But Wood is clearly hugely frustrated at having to do interviews like this.

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A winning mentality

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George Riley George Riley | 14:51 UK time, Thursday, 17 May 2012

Rugby league may be known for its physicality and brutality, but Huddersfield are trying to gain another advantage over their rivals - by beating them with the power of the mind.

The game's unforgiving ferocity has been complemented this season by the Giants' psychological approach that has helped guide Nathan Brown's men towards the Super League summit.

In week one Huddersfield stunned Wigan at the DW. The pair are now joint top and the Yorkshiremen are confident of toppling the Challenge Cup holders again at the Galpharm this weekend.

There was one unfamiliar face in the away dressing room that day. Karl Morris is a leading sports psychologist known largely because of his work with golf professionals. He's worked with Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood to extinguish the mental fires that can burn the most talented of performers. He is now massaging the mental muscles of the Giants.

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Battling Bulls may yet prosper in adversity

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George Riley George Riley | 12:31 UK time, Thursday, 10 May 2012

If Bradford Bulls are to be saved, this week's departure of chairman Peter Hood was vital. I say that not in any way to disrespect Hood - I don't know the man. I say it because none of the investors contemplating rescuing the club would do so under the current regime.

I spoke to chief executive Ryan Duckett on Wednesday after the news of Hood's departure was made public. While he would not reveal details of potential investors - who or how many they were - he told me there was a "group of shareholders" who wanted to get involved in the club's future.

This group, Duckett revealed, had indicated that "there are certain people who they are not confident in".

In effect, Hood jumped before he was pushed, and would not have survived a vote of no confidence at the extraordinary general meeting called by the club's majority shareholder Chris Caisley - Bradford's former chairman.

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Challenge Cup draw attracts criticism

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George Riley George Riley | 22:51 UK time, Thursday, 3 May 2012

Making a cup draw looks pretty easy, but the whole process from final whistle in the previous round to picking the balls out of the velvet bag requires both an incredible amount of planning and fine-tuning.

It can also be pretty nerve-wracking, which is something I've only been able to appreciate this year, having been fortunate enough to host both the Challenge Cup fourth round and quarter-final draws.

Previously, I'd always been the jittery fan, sweating in front of the television on a Sunday afternoon, waiting for my team's number to come out. I am, of course, still a fan, but this week my only focus was on not messing it up.

Negative thoughts raced through my mind, knowing every player, coach and fan would be listening in nervous anticipation. I prayed there'd not be a spare ball left in the bag.

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