Walker to quit at RFL cash cut

Dave Hadfield in Auckland hears the fallout from GB's defeats

The key battles on the field in the Tri-series have been fought and lost, but there are equally important and closely related issues to be decided back in Britain this week. The Rugby Football League's top brass flew home to be confronted tomorrow by a proposal to cut £900,000 of development funding next year - money to pay for work that clearly needs to be stepped up on the evidence of Great Britain's performances in the southern hemisphere.

The key battles on the field in the Tri-series have been fought and lost, but there are equally important and closely related issues to be decided back in Britain this week. The Rugby Football League's top brass flew home to be confronted tomorrow by a proposal to cut £900,000 of development funding next year - money to pay for work that clearly needs to be stepped up on the evidence of Great Britain's performances in the southern hemisphere.

Heavy defeats by Australia and New Zealand have left Britain's Test team kicking their heels until an unwanted curtain-raiser against the New Zealand Maoris on Friday, before the Kangaroos and the Kiwis meet to settle the unofficial world championship.

If the Association of Premiership Clubs has its way, the groundwork that could one day take Britain back to the top table will not be done and the chairman of the RFL, Sir Rodney Walker, will resign in disgust. "I can't believe the short sightedness of some people in the game," Sir Rodney said before leaving Auckland yesterday. "My letter of resignation is written and, if they succeed in what they are trying to do, it will be handed in this week."

Sir Rodney and the RFL chief executive, Neil Tunnicliffe, will also face calls for wholesale redundancies at the league's headquarters at Red Hall on the outskirts of Leeds. "But if those staff go, the World Cup next year will not take place," Tunnicliffe warned. Tunnicliffe's measured response to the embarrassment of Britain's 26-4 defeat by New Zealand on Friday was to stress the importance of the long-term development work which includes elevating Wales, Ireland and Scotland into the World Cup.

That tournament will not be blighted by Great Britain's failure as a unit in the southern hemisphere this time, he insisted. "Everyone is going to go home and work their butts off," he said. "We'll have 12 months of hard work off the back of the lessons learned here."

The most obvious of those is that British rugby league, as it is now structured, does not produce enough players of the right calibre to compete with the best at international level. The usual excuses about players missing through injury, unwillingness or incompetent selection do not apply. Only Paul Newlove of Britain's best 13 failed to make the trip and he is always an uncertain proposition where overseas assignments are concerned. The fact is that Britain's best have been shown up as woefully inadequate at this level, although Andy Goodway could have perhaps mitigated the situation by playing Sean Long from the start in both games and using the interchange rule more sparingly.

The coach's own position is now precarious, to say the least. The likeliest scenario is that now, with GB not due to play for another two years, he will be made redundant. For the good of the game, it would be better if anyone contemplating reducing the development budget that recent events have shown to be so badly needed became redundant around the same time.

Comments