WE ALL love rugby league, but sometimes it’s good just to forget all about it.
Our long turnaround from the game at Huddersfield eight days ago to Sunday’s match at Widnes was perfectly-timed.
We are 13 games into the season now and a bit of mid-season fatigue does begin to set in, so it was a good chance to get away and recharge the batteries.
I know we are privileged to play sport for a living, but what we do is quite intense. You are in the spotlight all the time, so sometimes it is good to be able to get away, switch the phone off and not think about rugby for a day or two.
You have to be sensible about it and look after yourself, but the bonus is getting to spend some time with the family.
I managed to get away with my wife and little boy over the long weekend and it was great just to be with them for a few days. They make sacrifices throughout the season – no summer holidays together and that sort of thing – so you have to spend time together when you can.
I know quite a few of the boys got away, but if we manage to have a good run in the Challenge Cup it will probably be the last chance we get before the end of the season, so it’s important to make the most of it.
The disappointing thing was having the break on the back of a couple of games without a win. In the Saints game we played well, Warrington was disappointing and Huddersfield was so-so.
There’s plenty to work on, so it was exciting to get away and relax a bit, but after a few days I am always itching to get back in and I’m looking forward to Sunday’s game.
We have been through a tough spell and there’s more huge games coming up. It will be a big one at Widnes this weekend then we’ve got a rematch with Huddersfield in the Challenge Cup, which is do or die.
We are top of the league and we want to stay there, so every game is important and we are going to have to be on our mettle.
Widnes is always a challenge, because their home form is so good. They put Castleford to the sword there a couple of weeks ago and that shows what they are capable of.
They also pushed Warrington, who have beaten us twice, close last weekend, so they will go into it in confident mood.
It’s a hostile place to play and their fans make a lot of noise, but I enjoy that. Everybody talks about their plastic pitch, but I don’t mind that either.
It’s controversial because it’s the only one and I suppose that gives them a bit of an advantage when it comes to home games, but it’s a fast track and that’s what we like.
We have a 3g pitch at Kirkstall and we train there all through pre-season, so it’s nothing new to us, plus we’ve played on the one at Widnes three or four times now.
The artificial surface is different, the ball doesn’t bounce the same as it does on grass and it can get a bit nasty when you get tackled on it, but it’s definitely not an excuse for going there and playing poorly.
Sunday is a game we need to win. We are still in a good position and we’re going to be top of the table going into the Widnes game, whatever anybody else does, but our last two performances haven’t been what we want.
We’ve played three of the top sides in the last three games and had a win, loss and a draw, but we feel like we’ve let ourselves down a bit.
We set a high standard against Saints, but we didn’t play well against Warrington and last week we were in a position to win the game comfortably and then we ended up scrambling a draw.
We haven’t played to our full potential in the last two games and that’s the disappointing thing. We’re not looking at the table, we just want to go to Widnes, play well and get some confidence going into the big games coming up.
I FEEL I should say something about Danny Jones, but it is difficult to find the words.
Danny was taken ill playing for Keighley Cougars at London Skolars last Sunday and died in hospital later that day.
The whole sport is in a state of shock and I actually felt physically sick when I heard the news.
Losing a player in circumstances like that is awful, but when you hear he has a wife and five-month-old twins, it’s just an appalling, tragic thing to happen.
Nobody should go out to play the game he loves and not come home. I didn’t know Danny, though I knew of him, but I feel so sorry for his friends and team-mates, Keighley fans and everyone at London Skolars.
But I can’t imagine what his family and closest friends are going through. He was only 29 and they have been robbed of a lifetime together.
The thought of his little ones, who won’t know their father, is heartbreaking.
I have been keeping an eye on Twitter on the funds that have been set up for Danny and it is brilliant to see how people have been dipping into their pockets.
I don’t know what Danny did for a full-time job, but he was a part-time player so his family will need all the help and support they can get.
In circumstances like this, the sport always rallies round and that’s one of the best things about rugby league, the game really pulls together when somebody needs help.
I have been thinking about this a lot and I hope heart screening can now be introduced right across all levels of the game. We have been screened about three times over the last four or five years, most recently in pre-season.
Apparently it doesn’t happen in the amateur game or the lower divisions, maybe because of the cost, but it would be good if the RFL could come up with the funds to prevent tragedies like this from happening again.