Leagues in Full Swing
From Our Sports Correspondent
Professional " Rugger " has been played in this country upwards of half a century, due to the breaking away of certain Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire Clubs, from the English Rugby Union (the amateur ruling body). This break occurred following a dispute over the question of paying working class players who were unable to play for pleasure alone. Actually, the suspension of the Salford Club, for a period of eight weeks, for alleged professionalism led up to this secession.
The recalcitrants thereupon formed the Northern Union, which comprised twentytwo clubs. These clubs proceeded to play each other and each played forty-two matches in the year 1895/6. The following season further clubs joining the professional ranks, it became necessary to have separate competitions for both Lancashire and Yorkshire, in addition to the Junior Leagues.
Fifteen years later in 1901 came the establishment of the Northern League, which in 1922 was renamed the Rugby League, and is the equivalent of the Football League in Soccer.
In the early days it was essential that the players had other occupations as wages were small, whereas to-day this is unnecessary.
The game, under the Northern Union at its inauguration adopted the Rugby Union Rules in their entirety, but .various alterations have since been accepted. Briefly, there are, a new scrutnmage rule whereby a defending half-hack works the scrummage, and when a defending side touches down over the try-line, the re-start proceeds from this point and not from the "25" line. The number of players, too, were reduced from 15 to 33. These alterations tend to speed up the game.
New Gate Records
Undoubtedly more spectators are being attracted to the game, and this is confirmed by the gate records set up last season in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup. For example, the match between Warrington and Salford at Wigan attracted a crowd of 41,600 and 37,900 paid to witness the other tie between Huddersfield and Leeds at Wakefield. In the final of this Cup at Wembley last May the attendance was 52,250 and the receipts over £7,000, a world record for professional rugby
In Australia, New Zealand and France, too, the game is growing _in interest At Sydney also on June 6 last year the game between Australia and England the attendance .was 70,200, and tlr receipts £6,500, yet this was only the first Test of the series.
During the present season it is, expected that all previous records will be broken not only as regards gate receipts, but also the number of spectators attending.
The Leagues are now in full swing and the same clubs as last year again predominate the leading positions. Such sides as
Leeds, galforcl, Hull. gwinton and Warrington weekly provide good entertainment in the premier League.
Of the other Leagues. Liverpool Stanley, Widnes and Wigan in the Lanes Rugby League and Hull, Leeds, Huddersfield, in the Yorkshire Rugby League, should maintain their superiority.
The Challenge Cup
The first round of the Rugby League Challenge Cup will be played on February 13 next year, and the final tic on May 8, at the Stadium, Wembley. Leeds, the winners of this trophy last season, beat the favourites, Warrington, by 18 points to 2 and won the cup for the fifth time, and as their side would appear to be as strong as last year, they should again have a good season.
The chief need of the game, for the
future, would appear to be a Junior League
as the clubs in the lower part of the table, have, at present, no incentive to strengthen their sides and so improve their positions. When the " bogey " of _relegation is present, these clubs will, of necessity, struggle more for self preservation, particularly as competition becomes intensive. The question of club nurseries is also bound up in the formation of a junior section of the league.
The Rugby League Council appear to have this aspect of the game well before them, and the supporters of professional Rugby may expect some movement shortly whereby the omission is rectified. Another matter to which their endeavours are being directed is the schoolboy between the ages of 16-19. The schoolboy leagues cater for boys from the ages of 14-16, and the intermediate leagues for youths between 19-21, leaving a big gap, which accounts for many good youngsters dropping out of the game at a most important age.
In the Antipodes Last season the English team toured Australia, playing seventeen games of which fourteen were won, and three lost; a very satisfactory result.
The tour showed a marked improvement among the Australian players, and although the tourists were severely handicapped by injuries, the latter scored 82 goals, 79 tries, totalling 401 points. against 45 goals, 38 tries, or 204 points by our opponents.
Generalising, the game appears to be on the up grade, and with wise management and care should become very popular.
In the South, now represented chiefly by Streatham and Mitcham, new clubs are joining, and the splitting of the amateur from the professional seems to have been to the advantage of both codes. Certainly it is better than veiled secret subsidies, to which so many games are subjected, that the avowed professional should play, as such, " in the open."