Presentation remains the missing link

Dave Hadfield, who watched four out of the six games in the opening round of Super League, assesses the impact of a whole new oval ball game

It would not be exaggerating the value of the opening performances of Paris St-Germain and London Broncos if their players were to be given medals before their match at Charlton on Thursday night.

Whatever else they might achieve in this and subsequent summer seasons, they got the Stones Super League away to a start that ensured that the first weekend of the new competition would go down as a success.

The fact that both sides won - and that Paris did so before a crowd of nearly 18,000 - undermined some of the prevailing prejudices against the new shape of the sport. They showed that whatever might be wrong with Super League as a concept, it is not the inclusion of London and Paris.

The atmosphere at the Stade Charlety on Friday night was different from that at any game I have seen in France. The crowd was younger, more cosmopolitan, infinitely more sustained in its enthusiasm.

Agreed, more than half that crowd had got in by applying for, rather than paying for, tickets. But that is beside the point; the key was to get them there. The attendance at Halifax on the Saturday night was less encouraging, but London's victory was another unexpected bonus. Teams from the two capital cities which are capable of winning matches against opposition as competent as Sheffield Eagles and Halifax would be a genuinely new and exciting element in the game and many will be willing them to continue their good work.

Unfortunately, there was too much elsewhere that was all too familiar. There were two hopelessly uncompetitive sides - Oldham and Workington Town - incapable of making Wigan and St Helens raise a sweat. Those are the sort of non-contests that Super League is supposed to abolish. No sign of that on the first weekend.

There were mixed signals, as well, from the way in which clubs presented their games. Much emphasis has been put on the importance of pre-match entertainment, but the signs on a chilly March weekend were that nobody in the crowd cared very much about that aspect.

Even in Paris, the presence of "France's top rap band" attracted few into the stadium early. Many came in after the start of the main match, in fact.

Oldham had a Tina Turner lookalike - an admission of the derivative nature of much of the thinking, if ever there was one - Leeds and Halifax had sky-divers who failed to dive out of the sky. Where it was dark, there were fireworks; where it was light, there were balloons.

Leeds laid on the widest range of pre-match activities, but their build- up on the pitch was also the most embarrassing. The non-arrival of the parachutists, a depleted steel band and a compere whose sole function seemed to be to get up the collective nose made it a squirm-inducing launch.

Even the balloons were reluctant to leave the ground, and when the music and the pom-pom dancers burst into activity for a try that had already been disallowed the phrase "teething problems" no longer seemed adequate. The contrast with the spectacular way in which Auckland Warriors staged their first home match a year ago was total.

Leeds were also an example of how the mood of the first weekend often depended on factors that had nothing to do with Super League or summer rugby. Their spectators are on a downer at the moment, with a dismal Challenge Cup semi-final defeat still fresh in their minds, and they were not in the mood to be jollied along

At Odsal, on the other hand, a rare five-figure crowd was in the mood to be jollied along and a notoriously atmosphere-free ground had a different feel to it. But that was not because of the excellence or otherwise of the Muldoon Brothers' country and western. It was because Bradford are going to Wembley and suddenly seem a side worth watching. A wintry weekend was no test of the long-term viability of summer rugby. Perhaps the entertainment will stir the blood more when the weather is better.

For now, a weekend that may be remembered as the start of a bold, new future or the time when rugby league headed off down a cul-de-sac will be summed up for me by two contrasting images. At Headingley the pitch seemed to have responded to summer rugby by turning overnight into a desert. And at Odsal it snowed.

peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions