Lessons for league
Bill Arthur looks at what league can learn from the Dubai 7's after a successful trip with Joining Jack.
Last Updated: 10/12/12 3:43pm
It seems there's no end to the talents of Bradley Wiggins. Tour de France winner, Olympic champion, water carrier and now, it turns out, accomplished DJ.
That was demonstrated on the Joining Jack team bus returning from the Emirates Airlines Dubai Rugby Sevens. The purpose built stadium is a good 50 minute drive from Dubai city. The drive takes you past a lot of nothing, including the site of the Tiger Woods golf complex, which is just a sandy wasteland. Dubai, for all its wealth, has been affected by the global downturn so Tiger's desert golf course never got off the ground. Neither did a housing complex or another shopping mall but the camel racing track is there and the refuse tip.
So the journey back from Sevens needed a bit of livening up and Bradley Wiggins provided that. He plugged his iphone into the bus speaker system, grabbed the mic and introduced his fellow passengers to some of his musical favourites. And the guy's got pretty good taste with his selection including Love Spreads by The Stones Roses, Al Wilson's The Snake, a Northern Soul Classic, and something from Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. It was a pretty good selection and I'll forgive him the Take That track.
The impromptu set went down well with the Joining Jack passengers, apart from a bewildered, elderly South African gentleman who'd somehow got on the wrong bus in the car park. As there was a spectacular electrical storm going on at the time, with torrential rain, nobody had the heart to put the old boy off the bus and so he stayed put although he was beginning to regret it when the team demanded he get up front and sing a song. Fortunately for him the bus pulled up outside the hotel just in time.
I think he made a donation to the charity in return for his lift back to Dubai but it won't have been quite as generous as that made by the B.A.R.L.A Legends who handed over a cheque for £1,000 to Joining Jack while they were out in Dubai, another of the many generous donations made to the charity while out in the middle east.
The British Amateurs have become regulars at the Dubai Sevens and have always made it to the quarter finals. They've been involved for the last four years and their manager Mick Turner says it's a great way of keeping the over 35s involved with the game. .
There has been Super League representation at the Sevens before. In 2004 a St Helens side entered the Invitation section and made it to the semi-finals. Ian Millward was in charge at the time and his side included Darren Albert, Paul Wellens and Sean Long, who was back eight years later as a member of the Joining Jack team and still running rings round his opponents.
Rugby league players just need a bit of guidance on the union laws, as that was the problem that the Joining Jack team had. Even in sevens, supposedly a simpler form of rugby, there were too many penalties awarded for obscure infringements but that's what league players have to come to terms with.
Robbie Paul managed to do so in the Christina Noble team, which had a strong rugby league connection. Their squad featured Henry Paul, Tevita Vaikona,Fereti Tuilagi and Apollo Perelini and they made it to the International Veterans final where they lost to Xodus Steelers, the side that ended Joining Jack's interest in the competition.
It makes you wonder why the Rugby Football League doesn't take a chance and send an official team out to represent the sport in what is a massive networking event. The timing of the tournament, on the last weekend in November, is suitable - apart from next year when it will clash with the Rugby League World Cup final. But England rugby union had a team out there at the same time as their autumn international series was going on.
Spreading the word
An official Rugby League presence would be a great opportunity to spread the word. Joining Jack may have been playing in the over 35s International Veterans section, with their games out on the satellite pitches but the fans flocked to watch the Legends in action. When Saints were there in 2004 they played on the main pitch in front of around 30,000 spectators.
But Mick Turner thinks that rugby league should be even more ambitious and stage the World Club Challenge in Dubai with a nine a side rugby league tournament running alongside it. The Dubai stadium is, he says, available in January and February so why not give it a go? At the Sevens, teams and supporters had travelled from all over the world to be there including from Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The sponsoring airline even offers discounted fares for competing teams while Dubai is really keen to expand its sports portfolio and attract more events to the Emirate.
In the meantime, Joining Jack is planning next year's return to Dubai. And why stop there? The sevens circuit features invitational events in Hong Kong and Las Vegas among other exotic places. Joining Jack took a gamble on Dubai and it paid off handsomely for the charity so why not Vegas?
Finally, thanks Andy, Alex and the Joining Jack team for taking Sky Sports with you to Dubai, thanks to Dean Hartley for his photos and to Wiggo for the entertainment. He really is a sports personality!
For further information on Joining Jack go to www.joiningjack.co.uk