THE WORST and best of Super League has been in the headlines this week.
Rugby league will be poorer when Danny McGuire hangs up his boots at the end of this season.
Now 35, McGuire has featured in 19 of Super League’s 24 seasons and there’s a strong case for him being the competition’s greatest player.
He played in all of Leeds Rhinos’ record eight Grand Final victories, as well as winning three league leaders’ shields, a hat-trick of World Club Challenges and the Challenge Cup twice.
From Rhinos’ point of view it was a huge shame he left the club at the end of 2017, though he bowed out in glorious fashion with a two-try, man-of-the-match performance in the Old Trafford win against Castleford Tigers.
Leeds could certainly have used his influence in the two seasons since, but to a large extent McGuire’s move to Hull KR has enhanced his reputation as an all-time great.
He was a vital cog in a well-oiled Rhinos machine, playing alongside some world-class talent. With respect to Rovers, they aren’t at the same level, but McGuire has been just as influential.
If – as looks likely – they retain their Super League status this season, McGuire will have played a huge part in that.
He was outstanding during their crucial win at Leeds in July and came up with the match-winning plays when Tigers were pipped last weekend.
Golden-point extra-time in that game was McGuire at his best. He had missed with a couple of drop goal attempts late in the regular 80 minutes, but – after Rovers had been pinned close to their own line from the kick-off – booted a 40-20 to give them a set deep in Castleford’s territory.
Then, catching Tigers’ defence and everyone else unawares, he calmly knocked over the decisive one-pointer on the first play.
That must have taken nerves of steel because, as he admitted afterwards, “if you miss, you look like an idiot”.
McGuire has reinvented himself over the second half of his career from a pacy try-poacher to an organiser, but has always been a match-winner.
His recent form suggests he could do another year, at least, if he wanted to, but that is the ideal time to bow out.
He has five games left and rugby league fans, whoever they support, should enjoy him while they can.
McGuire’s heroics were in stark contrast to scenes at the end of Catalans Dragons’ now notorious home game against Warrington Wolves the previous evening which ended with an on-field brawl and trouble in the crowd.
Despite the mayhem, only three players have been suspended and two who had been handed penalty notices were later cleared at a disciplinary hearing.
The fact two players the match report panel thought deserved a one game ban and one who they referred to the tribunal will be available on Friday doesn’t say a lot for their judgement.
According to the disciplinary, the grade of charge issued to Brayden Wiliame was too severe and the offence didn’t merit a ban. Mika Simon, issued a one-match penalty notice, was found not guilty and the disciplinary reckoned Kenny Edwards, accused of inciting the crowd, had done no such thing. Many in the game have little faith in the disciplinary process and this week’s events will have done little to change that. But an even bigger concern was what happened in the crowd. Though Warrington fans have copped most of the blame, there have been previous complaints of intimidating behaviour from locals in boxes at the back of the away end.
Sadly, the fracas wasn’t a surprise. A trip to the south of France is, for many, a weekend on the booze and a 6pm kick-off means some supporters have been drinking all day. Though it varies in seriousness, crowd trouble occurs at most big events, such as finals and Magic Weekend, for the same reason.
Unfortunately, because of the family image it prides itself on, the sport seems unwilling to accept there is a problem. An investigation has been launched into what occurred last weekend and maybe that will result in firm action. A few idiots shouldn’t get away with ruining things for the vast majority who just want to enjoy the rugby.