Lewis sets out on his crash course

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The Independent Online

If you wanted to be cynical, you could say that Richard Lewis's first live game of rugby league was a good means of testing his commitment to the prospect of becoming the sport's chief executive.

The former No 2 at the Lawn Tennis Association got his baptism at Wakefield last weekend, watching them play Salford in an early relegation tussle more notable for its premature desperation than its skill level. As he gets out and about before and after he takes up his new post on 1 May, he will realise that it isn't always that much fun.

To say that Lewis has a big job ahead of him is an under-statement. He will not only wield day-to-day executive powers and chair the Rugby League's board, but also chair the meetings of Super League and the Northern Ford Premiership. Another of his tasks will be to bring Barla, the custodians of the amateur game, back under the umbrella of the parent organisation – somewhere Barla have no intention of going, so poor have relationships become over the last few months.

The instinct within the game is to suspend any hostile judgement on Lewis's suitability for such a demanding role within a sport of which he admits to knowing little, but he might find a background in juggling more useful than one in tennis.

Lewis made an favourable impression at his unveiling last week, if only because he came across as a decent and reasonable chap. What will be more revealing is how he will cope when he needs to be firm with the people who have put him in place. The implementation group that appointed him is made up of people with their own agendas, their own vested interests.

By the time he takes the reins, he should have a clearer idea of the game he is inheriting. Naturally, the health of its flagship competition is of prime importance, so it is with rare timing that Super League celebrates its 1,000th fixture tomorrow, when Wakefield host Bradford.

The former Great Britain prop Paul Broadbent played in the very first game, over six years ago, for Sheffield Eagles in front of almost 18,000 people on a night of bottomless – if ultimately baseless – optimism in Paris, and he will be in Wakefield's side tomorrow. Broadbent has seen many changes, but one constant has been the gulf between the top and bottom in Super League. That will be on display again, because Bradford are the only unbeaten team, while Trinity have just two points and are rapidly running out of players.

Salford, their victims last week, gave themselves a much-needed boost by beating Warrington on Good Friday, and will hope to build on that at Halifax. London, whose thrashing of St Helens on Thursday ranks as the outstanding result of the season so far, are at Hull, while what used to be south Lancashire stages two mouth-watering derbies. Widnes hope to continue to demonstrate the merits of promoting sides from the NFP against Warrington, while at night Saints try to get back on track against Wigan.

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