Category Archives: Uncategorized

Don’t back five-day bookiefest!

Crystal clear?

Phew… what a week! The Altior saga has again given those who cry ‘foul’ to take a pot shot at racing and the modern phenomenon that is bookmakers linking with the top trainers. That’s sad, frustrating, annoying even, and for the sport’s governing body, there is still a big job to be done to increase transparency.

What’s in a name?

It’s sad to see the fragile Waiting Patiently will have to spend longer in his box before his next run than we all hoped would be the case, after such a promising Tingle Creek performance last month. If ever a horse name could be changed, then Ruth Jefferson might want to do so by horse deed poll (I know, I know) to something like See You Next Week, or Takeshisracingwell (note maximum use of 18 characters!), for his racing moniker is proving unfortunate. Let’s hope we see him back with a vengeance next season in the top 2m-2m4f races.

For f(ive day Festival)’s sake

And while we’re on… Cheltenham… or should I Cheltenhmmmm…

Not that I don’t LOVE the Festival. It’s one of the things that drew me into watching the sport way back in the days of bottomless ground, The Dikler, Pendil, Lanzarote, Comedy Of Errors and the incomparable Sir Peter O’Sullevan calling them home, and I’d honestly say that thus far in my working life, I spent my most cherished four days there for radio at the 2010 renewal.

However, I have a problem with a five-day Festival. A big one. You can have too much of a good thing you know, and that good thing has already been compromised to some extent with the various additions to the cards in the 21st Century.

I know that Punchestown week lasts what appears to be forever… I’ve been over a few times… and while it’s good, it’s not Cheltenham. For me, four days is stretching things quite far enough. If there is to be any adjustment to proceedings then I’d be changing the race times to have at least 45 minutes between each one, but keeping the same number of races.

Anyone who is a regular on those fab four days in March will tell you that getting around at the track is a nightmare. You have to queue for the loo, the beers and food, the betting, and last year I’m sure I saw people queuing for the queues.

Spreading the day out by bringing the start time forward again, and giving everyone that bit more time to do what they need to between races, would surely be appreciated by those at the track.

I know the meeting is a huge earner for the sport, Jockey Club Racecourses in particular, and that an extra day would potentially up the ante by another 20% or so, but at what cost to the soul of the Festival?

The other spring festivals are very good, don’t misunderstand me, but Cheltenham should always be a cut above, and should always strive to put on the best races in each class. It’s been stretching the truth on that one a little already. So, a further day that includes such mouthwatering action as an ‘amateur conditionals limited selling handicap for horses who have won on the Flat going right-handed in September and are not trained by Willie Mullins or Gordon Elliott’, or whatever is the plan, would be extracting the proverbial from the public payers of premium prices.

Ultimately, five days stinks of a bumper (excuse the pun) bookies’ benefit.

Rhino Rob rises to his biggest challenge

Turning to rugby league, how awful it has been to digest the news about Rob Burrow over the past few weeks, but what an amazing and moving response we have seen from people both within and outside the sport.

It is testimony to the esteem in which he is held by supporters that a pre-season friendly, originally billed as his great mate and fellow Leeds Rhinos legend Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s benefit game, has sold out.

While ‘JJB’ would, I am sure, have drawn a big crowd after his tireless efforts for the club over eons, I can think of hardly any (well actually, none) that have been sold out in my lifetime as a fan of the sport. There’s no doubt that the ‘Burrow factor’ is equally as important in this.

I vividly recall being present at Wilderspool, as coincidence would have it, when the little fella threw dummy after dummy to get across for his first Leeds try, almost beneath the feet of myself and my great pal and media colleague Phil Caplan. We knew that there was a buzz about Rob and the other Rhinos youngsters, such as Danny McGuire, being brought through by then-coach Daryl Powell, but neither of us could have imagined just how good he, they, would become.

It’s been terrible to read of Rob’s diagnosis with Motor Neurone Disease, and to see his emotional interview with Tanya Arnold on the BBC (and immense credit to Tanya for keeping it together herself, as that must have been so tough to do). After all the effort, energy and entertainment he provided, all those memorable moments that went with it, it really does not seem fair.

The shock and sadness among Rob’s former teammates has been palpable, and immense credit should go to the Leeds club itself for how they have handled and supported him. Not only that, but the reaction from sportspeople who you would never have dreamed of as being RL fans, plus the supporters of other clubs, has had me choked on reading, and must have been overwhelming and at the same time comforting for the man himself.

Throughout those ‘golden years’, win or lose, Rob would always give his response to a performance when called upon to do so. I can only speak for my own experiences here, but he never once turned down a request for print, radio or TV. He also made a memorable appearance at my local cricket club, Rawdon, in the summer of 2018 when he talked frankly about his career. The club has had many star names do likewise over the years, but with Rob’s manner, wit and honesty, plus some great stories, the members are still adamant that he is the best guest they’ve ever had.

From a personal point of view, watching on and reporting on so many of the games that ‘beep beep’ played in, it never ceased to amaze me how a man so small and lightweight would throw himself in front on any opposing player, no matter how huge, in the line of duty. He played with immense courage, and he will face this just the same. I wish him and his family all the very best in their battle with this terrible disease. If there is any justice in life, medical science will come up with a way to overcome this in time for Rob to benefit.

It’s great to see Sky Sports committing to cover this match. If they have been present at a benefit game before, I can’t recall it, and again it shows how much these two players have meant to the game, while the emergence from retirement of Kevin Sinfield, Danny McGuire and Jamie Peacock, to name just three of the players’ former colleagues, can only add to what looks sure to be an amazing emotional experience.

Bensational!

Ending on a brighter note, what a performance by England to turn around their first Test defeat into a relatively rare recent away win for the nation at Newlands.

To the backdrop of Table Mountain, Jimmy Anderson delivered with the ball yet again; Dominic Sibley, whom I had seen make a major contribution to Warwickshire’s defeat of Yorkshire at York in last season’s County Championship, worked tirelessly and got due reward with an unbeaten century with the bat; and then there was Ben. Oh Ben.

And what a player Ben Stokes really is. There is absolutely every reason to compare this man to Sir Ian Botham, boyhood cricketing hero to many (myself included). In my lifetime watching cricket, there hasn’t been a better all-rounder playing for England than either of these. Sorry Freddie, who was absolutely brilliant on his day too, but for me, Beefy ‘n’ Ben won more matches than you managed sporting the three lions.

Yes, of course they were different players. Of the pair, and I speak purely of Test cricket here, if pushed I’d still have a Botham at his best with the ball. And, while he was absolutely outstanding at his belligerent best with the bat, I’d now have to say that even he’d take a slight second-best to Stokes with willow in hand.

Of course, it’s not just about what you score, it’s also about context, about how you get them, about playing to situations. Both (as opposed to ‘Both’) have been able to do that, but perhaps it could be argued that Stokes is now nudging slightly ahead in that respect, with two particular knocks in the past six months elevating that feeling. I also hesitate slightly as I write that, partly through deference to the cricket hero of my youth, and partly also because the more recent can sometimes feel more significant than a fading memory over the passage of time.

I know, Sir Ian scored 14 Test ‘tons’ including a double, and his batting heroics at Headingley (did I mention I was there?) and Old Trafford in ’81 are rightly in the annals. And yes, I also know that the fiery, flame-haired incumbent is still six centuries shy of the great man. He is also currently 41 Tests short of Botham, and at the rate he is going with 3,906 Test runs to his name, he looks a shoo-in to pass his predecessor’s total of 5,200, if fitness affords him the same number of Tests (102).

There is little, possibly nothing, more to say about that monumental knock at Headingley in August, and while last week could hardly be expected to be in that mould, he scored runs in both innings, the second knock providing his team (and skipper Joe Root) with the impetus to declare. Then of course, he returned to scotch a very commendable Proteas rearguard by ripping out the tail to complete the job. Throw in five catches (if that’s possible?!) and you have a truly outstanding all-round cricketing performance. That’s Bentertainment!

Enough from me. Please do leave your comments and join the debate.

Until the next time… @JonathanDoidge

Wayne Bennett names 19-man squad for Elland Road Test

James Graham will Captain England in the Third Test against New Zealand at Elland Road this Sunday, as the national side aim to secure a 3-0 victory against the Kiwis.

Head coach Wayne Bennett has made four changes to his 19-man squad: Leeds Rhinos half-back Richie Myler, Warrington Wolves’ Stefan Ratchford, Wigan Warriors’ Joe Greenwood and Wakefield Trinity centre Reece Lyne come in to the side to replace Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Tomkins, Daryl Clark and George Burgess.

Second row Elliott Whitehead will make his 20th appearance for England in this Sunday’s Test.

England Squad in full:

  1. Jonny Lomax (St Helens, Orrell St James)
  2. Tommy Makinson (St Helens, Wigan St Judes)
  3. Jake Connor (Hull FC, Siddal)
  4. Oliver Gildart (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
  5. Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants, Deighton Juniors)
  6. George Williams (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
  7. Richie Myler (Leeds Rhinos, Halton Farnworth Hornets)
  8. Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves, New Springs Lions)
  9. Josh Hodgson (Canberra Raiders, East Hull)
  10. James Graham (c) (St George Illawarra Dragons, Blackbrook)
  11. John Bateman (Wigan Warriors, Bradford Dudley Hill )
  12. Elliott Whitehead (Canberra Raiders, West Bowling)
  13. Luke Thompson (St Helens, Bold Miners)
  14. Adam Milner (Castleford Tigers, Stanley Rangers)
  15. Tom Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
  16. Joe Greenwood (Wigan Warriors, Saddleworth Rangers)
  17. Stefan Ratchford (Warrington Wolves, Wigan St Patricks)
  18. Mark Percival (St Helens, Halton Farnworth Hornets)
  19. Reece Lyne (Wakefield Trinity, Ideal Isberg)

JONATHAN DOIDGE JOINS BBC RADIO LEEDS AS THE STATION’S NEW CRICKET COMMENTATOR

Jonathan Doidge has been appointed as BBC Radio Leeds’ new cricket correspondent to cover Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

Jonathan will take over the commentary mic from Dave Callaghan (known as Cally) who sadly passed away earlier this year.

Born in Horsforth in Leeds, Jonathan has been a regular on the county circuit for a number of years and has expert knowledge of the game and its players. He also has over two decades worth of experience in sports journalism and broadcasting.

Jonathan said: “I enjoyed many hours sharing the mic covering cricket with Cally. He was a friend as well as a colleague and I understand that he meant a great deal to his listeners.

“It will be both an honour and a privilege to cover my county. I am very excited about what lies ahead. Roll on April!”

Jonathan will cover all County Championship games, both home and away, along with the shorter one day, and T20 matches.

Jonathan added: “There has been a lifelong passion for cricket in my family. Both my brothers represented Yorkshire at various levels and I still play (badly!) when I can. I know what cricket means to Yorkshire people and I have a great respect for both that and the game itself.”

BBC Radio Leeds Sports Editor, Jonathan Buchan, said: “Whilst we will never be able to replace our beloved Dave Callaghan, I hope our listeners will welcome Jonathan in as one of their own. His knowledge of the game and passion for the county shines through and that was a major part in the decision to add him to our team. He already has a strong relationship with the club and the characters that have stood at the crease both in the past and present day.”

Listeners will be able to hear ball-by-ball commentary of every Yorkshire game in the 2019 season via the BBC Radio Leeds website

Rapid revival from Rhinos

Leeds Rhinos 46 Catalans Dragons 10

Jonathan Doidge at Headingley Carnegie

When you have just succumbed to a record Super League defeat, you probably don’t much care how your next two points are won so long as they come quickly. This, an eventual runaway success for Leeds, was achieved the hard way for the most part, before a welcome flourish. They deserved this and should rightly gain in confidence from it.

A surfeit of first half penalties stymied many attempts to fashion opportunities and rendered the contest impotent in terms of momentum.
Led forward by the industrious Matt Parcell, whose try took the game away from the Dragons just as they were threatening to get right back in it before the break, the Rhinos played with purpose.

Most of the good stuff that the home side managed to string together in between the sound of the whistle was, in part, down to Parcell, while Adam Cuthbertson was also very effective, bagging a couple of well-earned tries.

There was a much greater feeling of structure about the team, both in attack and defence. Others of significant influence were Joel Moon and Jimmy Keinhorst, while Danny McGuire grabbed his first try in competitive action since the 2015 Grand Final.

Jordan Baldwinson got a first start for the home side, while Carl Ablett was back from suspension and the team were better for it. Rob Burrow’s return from illness was not too taxing, the veteran getting the final 25 minutes and having the desired impact, both creating and scoring.

Catalans tried going route one, hitting the home side down the middle and appearing reluctant to use much in the way of width. Their kicking game was probably better than the Rhinos’, with Walsh causing more problems with what went aerial from his boot than anything that Leeds could muster.

However, otherwise there was little imagination from the Dragons’ attack, especially after the loss of Greg Bird, who was hit late by Singleton in the first-half and had to have seven stiches in his head as a result, so missing the entire second half. Jodie Broughton also sustained a bicep injury.

“I thought they were really good. It thought we handled a real difficult night extremely well,” said Rhinos coach Brian McDermott of his charges.

“We were up against it weren’t we. Down to 11 men at one stage and we showed real commitment to each other.”

On the subject of the officiating, the coach chose his words carefully. “I’m caught between saying something which I very tame and then just saying that there’s not much point. If you were to look at the penalties I would say that every one of them was a penalty. I don’t disagree. But it’s not the version of rugby league we’ve been playing for four rounds and that’s all I’d say.”

“Regardless of last week it’s just good. I’ve been our biggest critic of our offense so far and some of that has started to click, so we don’t go by the usual mundain repetitive attack that I think you see in some teams in Super League.
“I thought the pack were great,” he added. “Jimmy Keinhorst was outstanding again. Joel Moon played in the pivots and was very effective. Danny McGuire looked in control of everything and that’s great to see.

“I thought Adam Cuthbertson was the difference again. He’s getting back to his best. He’s one of those blokes that when you take him out of our team we’re a lesser version in attack of what we’d like to do and put him in it and he’s a big part of what we do.

“This tonight doesn’t write off last week. It still hurts. We are still embarrassed by it. I’ve got the best job in the game and part of that best job in the game is dealing with the losses. When we lose everybody cheers and when we win it’s oh Leeds should win. It throws up some real challenges and tonight was a good night but we’ve got to knock about another 10 versions of tonight together over the next few weeks.”

Catalans counterpart Laurent Frayssinous was not happy with his team’s approach to the contest.
“(I am) Disappointed with the result and disappointed with the attitude we brought tonight,” he said. “Leeds wanted it more than us in every department. There were some signs in the first half defensively that we were not ready for a big battle.

“We conceded 40 point in three games and tonight we conceded more points than we did in three games so that’s disappointing. Offensively in the first half we won the ruck. When we carried the ball strong we had a bit of support and fight on the ground but defensively we were not on our game.”

Leeds led 14-4 at the break, Cuthbertson taking a parcel offload five metres out to set the scoring in motion, with Sutcliffe’s conversion and a further penalty, awarded against the Dragons for dissent, giving them an eight point lead.

Amid all of that, Singleton was put on report for flying in late on Bird, while shortly after Sutcliffe’s penalty goal, Golding did well to hold Justin Horo, who had picked up the ricochet when Walsh’s bomb came back off the posts and had looked like scoring.

The penalty frenzy continued apace, with Cuthbertson taking a 10-minute sabbatical for a professional foul, and after a team warning against Leeds, Keinhorst also had an enforced breather for holding down.

The pair’s time off the field overlapped by about a minute, giving Catalans time to ship play left on the back of the penalty and score through Brayden Wiliame.

Back to 12 men, Parcell did well to hold off three men on the way to scoring his try, after exchanging passes with Cuthbertson, and when Keinhorst threw and dummy and hit the gas to score six minutes after the break, it looked as though that was probably that.

However, Richard Myler’s suspect-looking pass was carried over for a try by Julian Bousquet which gave the Frenchmen hope, with Walsh’s conversion making it 20-10. That was where the fun ended for Frayssinous’ men, however, as Leeds came home in a style that had appeared unthinkable eight days earlier.

Keinhorst intercepted Walsh’s pass to scatter the defence, Burrow sending Cuthbertson over for a second try on the next play. Then the diminutive number seven zipped through just inside the Dragons’ half and scorched away to score under the posts.

Keinhorst was at it again just two minutes later, making a break down the left before drawing full back Bosc and sending McGuire over. Sutcliffe then got on the end of a Burrow grubber to complete the scoring, adding a total of nine goals from as many attempts.

Leeds
1 Ashton Golding 8
2 Tom Briscoe 7
3 Kallum Watkins 7
4 Joel Moon 8
5 Ryan Hall 7
6 Danny McGuire (C) 7
14 Liam Sutcliffe 7
10 Adam Cuthbertson 9
9 Matt Parcell 8
16 Brad Singleton 7
18 Jimmy Keinhorst 8
12 Carl Ablett 7
24 Jordan Baldwinson 7

Subs:
21 Josh Walters 6
7 Rob Burrow 8
20 Anthony Mullally 6
15 Brett Delaney 6

Tries: Cuthbertson (8, 58), Parcell (36), Keinhorst (46), Burrow (65), McGuire (67), Sutcliffe (77)
Goals: Sutcliffe 9/9

Catalans Dragons

16 Thomas Bosc 6
2 Jodie Broughton 5
18 Vincent Duport 6
4 Brayden Wiliame 6
21 Ian Thornley 6
6 Luke Walsh 7
7 Richard Myler 6
20 Luke Burgess 6
9 Paul Aiton 7
10 Remi Casty (C) 6
15 Ben Garcia 6
12 Justin Horo 6
13 Greg Bird 5

Subs (all used)
11 Louis Anderson 6
14 Julian Bousquet 7
17 Jason Baitieri 7
23 Alrix Da Costa 6

Tries: Wiliame (30), Bousquet (50)
Goals: Walsh 1/2

Attendance: 13,208
Referee: James Child
HT: 14 – 4
Penalties: 9-9
Man of the Match: Adam Cuthbertson (nearing his best again and two tries to boot)
Weather: Mild, dry
Match rating: 3/5