A pre-season tweet
Angela Powers has put the long winter nights to good use and unearthed a new rugby league community.
Last Updated: 18/01/11 5:45pm
Just a few more sleeps now and the Super League season begins. I can't wait.
Traditionally, I've had to endure the off-season emptiness with just close family for comfort. This time though, I have not been alone - 2010 was when I discovered the joys of social networking. Twitter, to be specific.
Now I know the thought of tweeting causes many to roll their eyes heavenward and mutter 'get a life'. And I must admit, when I first tried it I didn't 'get' it. But now, I'm hooked. And it seems that the #rugbyleague community has cottoned on to it big time too.
So if you are one of those who mocks me and my online friends, or if you are thinking about getting on board to see what the fuss is about, here is my guide to Twitter - highlighting the Good, identifying the Bad, and avoiding the Ugly.
Twitter is where you can get up close and personal with the players like never before, and very entertaining it is too.
When Luke Burgess (@lukeburgess87) broke his jaw playing for Leeds, within hours, a picture of his mis-shapen and bleeding mouth, taken inside the ambulance, was flashed all over #rugbyleague. He kept fans up to date with his recovery, setting a new standard in communication.
The best player-tweeters are those who give little insights into daily life on and off the pitch and interact with followers.
The fans love it when players tweet back. For me Brett Hodgson (@bretthodgson) leads the way here, and his teammate @paulwood_wolves is a great tweeter too. Honest, forthright and funny, you see a side to him you never knew existed.
Salford Reds have jumped onto Twitter with enthusiasm, and it was @jodieABuchanan and @ashleygibson812 who opened the floodgates. The latest Red on board is @robparkerrugby - worth a follow for his witty asides and sarcastic put-downs. Every team has its tweeters - it doesn't take long for word to get around when they join.
When news breaks, it's all over Twitter like a fixture-list-freezing snowfall. Not only do the big guns like @skysports and @skysportslive break the big stuff first on twitter (other sports news tweeters are available), the clubs themselves seem to have embraced the forum for getting their message directly to the fans. They include @hullkr_online, @BradfordBullsRL and @CTRLFC (Castleford) among many more.
And then there are the celebs. Former league players like Anthony Sullivan (@antsull) and Garry Schofield (@GarrySchofield6) often drop in with their wit and wisdom, as do Sky RL commentators @martinoffiah and Jon Wells (@thegingerbomber) - two of my favourite tweeters because they tell it as they find it. Oh, and @russellcrowe tweets about RL too.
The real stars of twitter though are the fans themselves, and they have moulded themselves into a tight Twitter community that debates with passion, shares hopes and fears with the opposition and enjoys the sort of light-hearted banter that's ubiquitous on the terraces of rugby league.
Some player-tweeters don't exploit the medium well though, because they tweet in a vacuum, using it to send in-joke comments back and forth to their teammates. C'mon lads - don't be one-dimensional! And while we're at it, less of the 'what I'm having for tea' tweets. Booorrriiinnnggg!
Also beware the fakes who pretend to be Super League stars, although, like the now notorious @longythe7 (NOT Sean Long) they are soon exposed. If something doesn't ring true, then it probably isn't, and my instincts tell me that @magic_maurice isn't really Mr Lindsay of Wigan. Oh, and a Saints source has told me that their coach Royce Simmons doesn't tweet, so who @roycesimmons is is anyone's guess!
Every now and then, a tweeter gets nasty, with personal comments that go beyond the banter. Block them. And believe me, it isn't long before the Twitter community gets on the case of the online idiot.
While planning my twitter Good, Bad and Ugly, I asked the RL tweeters what they loved and hated about it. This is a fairly representative cross section of opinion.
@awbaggaley: banter, isolated #rleague fan in Newcastle, locals only care about soccer, Twitter is great for exchanging opinions etc
@Seanmulkern: I love how we can interact with players, and find out other fans views etc. anything to do with rugby league helps me though!
@gingerkev: love that you can keep in touch with fans from all clubs, talk about all sorts not just rugby with like minded folks!
@haiggy3: greater access to players and some tweet back with good banter. Karl Pryce is very funny.
So why not have a go? If you pick who you follow carefully, ask respectful and relevant questions to the people you follow and get involved with the banter, you can get the most out of Twitter.
It's like standing at the virtual office water-cooler with like-minded people, and it just might get you through the remaining long dark nights of the RL close season.
You can follow Angela's tweets @angelampowers.