Dave Hadfield: Wildcats will get lost in Rhubarb Triangle if they are demoted and that can't be right
John Kear's side has won half a dozen matches and they are not bottom of Super League
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Tuesday 26 July 2011
There is not usually a lot of love lost between Wakefield and Castleford, but a Cas supporter spoke for many in rugby league this weekend. "If they kick Wakey out, it's a disgrace," he said. "It's a hundred years of history and two big derbies for us every season."
In fact, it's 116 years of tradition and it's debatable whether Super League licenses should be handed out on the basis of what is more convenient for your peers.
But now that the announcement that will almost certainly consign Wakefield to the Championship is imminent, the feeling, not just within the Rhubarb Triangle, is that something is not right.
The Rugby League will today reveal which 14 clubs will comprise Super League for the next three seasons, up to 2014. Widnes already know that they are being promoted. Even if you discount Halifax's bid for elevation, that means one existing club will drop out.
All the candidates have been inspected to judge how they fare against the criteria for Super League membership. There are several who fall short; you could pick holes in the applications from Salford, Crusaders, Harlequins and, yes, Castleford. But the unbackable favourites for the drop are Wakefield Trinity Wildcats; the bookies have stopped taking bets.
Back in 2008, the RFL described their Belle Vue ground as "limited and old-fashioned". They have tried hard to tidy it up, but it remains the biggest millstone around their necks. Of their proposed new stadium on the outskirts of the city, there is no sign.
What can be said in their favour is that they have improved their community programmes, their youth development and their attendances. Under the new ownership of Andrew Glover, the club's structure is more convincing than for many years. John Kear's side has won half a dozen matches and, even with a four-point deduction for going into administration before the takeover, they are not bottom of Super League.
None of this will be enough to save them when the 14 successful applications, graded into categories A, B and C, are read out at Old Trafford. There will be anger - and not just in Wakefield.
Not that it needs to be a death sentence. Glover came into the club with his eyes open and with a contingency plan for relegation. They can re-group and aim to re-apply in 2014. None of that means that there will not be acute pain in the short- and medium term. The money the club gets from the disbursement of central funds will plummet from £1.2m to £100,000.
Crowds, which have been edging upwards, will inevitably plunge. You simply cannot get the same attendances for Batley and Dewsbury that you can for Castleford and Leeds, however hard you work at it.
And rugby league's trade press is full of leaked news of the deals that Wakefield players have cut elsewhere, in preparation for the anticipated stroke of the axe. For the last year, Belle Vue has been known as the Rapid Solicitors Stadium. Today's events will chime with its alternative, unofficial name – the Rapid Demise Stadium.
As for a Rapid Return, Trinity will cling to the hope that someone else will implode before the end of the season and grant them a reprieve. That is possible, but the RFL has shown how committed it is to its outpost clubs in London and Wales.
Otherwise, it is a minimum of three years in the wilderness for the Wildcats and, for those who believe an injustice is being done, that is not rapid enough.
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