Carl Ablett: Wasps interest in rugby league should be welcomed – but with caution

Danny McGuire.
Danny McGuire.
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ARE WE going to get sent to Coventry? I’ve heard this week that Wasps Rugby Union Club, who are based there, are interested in setting up a Super League club in the city.

I know there’s already a League One side there and Coventry got a taste of top-class rugby league last year when a Four Nations double-header was played at the Ricoh Arena.

But I am not sure if just planting a Super League club there – or anywhere else – would work.

It is good for our game that people at clubs like Wasps think it has a bright future and might be willing to invest time and money into the sport.

If there is somebody at Wasps – or anywhere else – who has got money he wants to invest in our game we need to encourage that.

But starting from scratch in Super League probably isn’t the way to go about it. I’ve written in this column before about Toronto and I think they are doing it the right way, by beginning at the bottom.

They are finding their way in League One and hoping to move up through the ranks to Super League. Hopefully, if and when they get there they will have all the structures in place to be successful.

At the moment we have got a strong, competitive competition and all the teams are quite evenly-matched. To bring somebody in you’d have to cut somebody out, but the current 12 – and anyone who gets promoted through the play-offs – deserve to be there and have worked hard for it.

I can understand why people look at Toronto and the strength of their squad and say they are starting too low, but you have got to work your way from the bottom up and that will stand them in good stead.

If we’re talking about a new club, rather than replacing an existing one, I’m also not sure where the players are going to come from.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the grassroots and the problems at that level, with lots of clubs folding or struggling for players.

There’s still good young players coming through, like the ones we’ve got on loan or dual-registration at Bradford and Fev, but if we are going to expand at the top we’ll have to get the lower levels sorted out as well.

I think rugby league will always have a future. We are a northern-based sport, but that doesn’t mean people in other areas can’t enjoy our game.

London is a massive market – that’s where all the finance is – and we need to tap into that. I played for London Broncos at the start of my career and it would be great to see them back in the top flight. They are doing things the right way, as we saw when we played there last season. They took a step back and looked at the club and what was needed to get back on a strong footing.

They are being patient and rebuilding on and off the field and, I think, when they do get back to Super League, they’ll be in a better state than when they left.

The big thing for our game is getting the balance right between trying to expand and making sure we are still strong up here, in the heartlands.

This has all come up since reports that Wakefield might be interested in selling their Super League place if they got a big offer.

I hope that doesn’t happen. Wakefield have got a really loud and loyal bunch of supporters and it would be terrible for them if their club had to drop down a level. It’s bad enough when that happens for on-the-field reasons, but doing it voluntarily would be a huge blow.

Wakefield have done well over the last couple of seasons and they’ve got some good young players coming through, but obviously the stadium is holding them back.

They need to move out of there so they can get more people into home games and generate more money.

Maybe all the speculation will focus some minds and force a bit of action over Wakefield’s plan for a new ground.

Finally, just a word on Danny McGuire who will make his 400th appearance for Leeds tonight. What an achievement that is. He is a bloke who has been consistently good throughout his career and his record speaks for itself.

His game has evolved a bit and he’s had to fight at times to overcome some serious injuries, but he is still one of our most influential players.

He’s phenomenal, a Rhinos legend.

Ashton Golding. PIC: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

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