FURIOUS Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell believes the Rugby Football League should “hang their heads in shame” after Super League players were made to play twice in four days for a second time this season.
As well as the traditional Easter period where sides take to the field on Good Friday and again on Easter Monday, the competition has just witnessed a similar schedule last weekend.
For the first time in the competition’s history, clubs played Friday and again on Spring Bank Holiday Monday raising serious question marks about player welfare.
The ‘extra Easter’ emerged as the Super League season started in February a week later than normal in order to accommodate England’s pre-season warm-weather training camp in Dubai.
That trip, of course, was cancelled barely a fortnight before players were due to depart in early January, after it became clear Super League coaches were concerned by the disruption caused to plans for the new campaign.
However, it was then too late to alter the fixture list so clubs found themselves playing twice in four days yet again, putting them under undue pressure.
Powell has bit his tongue until after the event but has now expressed his feelings.
Given his side won both contests over the weekend, defeating Widnes Vikings on Friday and then vanquishing Leigh Centurions 38-0 on Monday, his concerns certainly do not stem from sour grapes.
Furthermore, his Castleford side are top of Super League but he remains almost incandescent his and other squads were forced to play the famously intense sport in such quick succession.
“The fact we have this game anyway is baffling,” Powell told The Yorkshire Post.
“I read an email somewhere talking about player welfare but it is a nonsense bearing in mind we’re only halfway through the season and we’ve had to do two of these weekends now.
“Whoever thought this up is absolutely crazy. Whichever board of people thought it was a good idea…
“Apparently, this was supposed to aid our national side at the end of the season. But how can the best players play in two of these and then be at their best come the end of the season?
“It is an absolute nonsense and whoever made this decision either didn’t play the game or has forgotten what it’s like to play the game as there’s no way it’s either feasible or sensible.
“They always rattle on about player welfare and then do this. You can forget about player welfare when you do that to a group of blokes. It’s ridiculous.”
England head Down Under for the World Cup in October but Powell – who played for England in the 1995 tournament and represented Great Britain on 33 occasions – believes such fixture scheduling will only jeopardise their chances of finally winning it for the first time since 1972.
He continued: “The whole thing is just a nonsense and it is appalling. I’ve never complained about Easter and never will.
“But to put two of these weekends together in such a short space of time is a farce.
“People sit up in their ivory towers and have no idea what goes on on the ground in order to get players ready to play and then to recover to then play again in this way.
“It is an unbelievable decision and people need to hang their heads in shame.
“To put players through it and then think England will have fresh players at the end of the season? Stupid. Absolutely stupid.”
Powell is further irritated by the RFL decision to allow Huddersfield Giants to postpone their Spring Bank Holiday Monday game with St Helens due to Huddersfield Town being in the Championship play-off final.
They have rearranged that match for June 16 given that is Challenge Cup quarter-finals weekend and both clubs have been knocked out.
“That is another major issue for me as it creates an unbalanced competition,” added Powell, whose side host a Saints team on Sunday who, remarkably, will have had a 10-day turnaround given they played in the televised game against Wigan last Thursday.
“The Rugby League has decided that we’re going to have some teams treated in one way and others treated in another.
“So, they can make as many references to a football final in London as they want.
“But again – on the ground – they have given a competitive advantage to two teams which again is an appalling decision.
“It should never have happened. Whoever made that decision has absolutely no clue what it takes to get players ready to play.
“Huddersfield Giants haven’t even had one Easter yet; they played on the Wednesday when it came to the Easter period rather than Friday and now they don’t have this as well.”