Phil Clarke defends his Challenge Cup stance where he says mismatches do more harm than good
Phil Clarke defends his Challenge Cup stance where he says mismatches do more harm than good.
Last Updated: 07/05/14 3:24pm
Their Chairman, Neil Hampshire, wrote to say that the fixture would prove to be a cash windfall for the club and that I was disrespecting the 100 year history of the competition.
Some said that I was in danger of denying rugby league a chance to see the David versus Goliath sporting contests which are so popular all over the world.
There was an interesting comment by one man who felt that change was needed and that Super League clubs should be forced to play without their overseas players to make the contest a more even one.
Let me say that I am not a fan of change in sport. I like tradition, and it is sometimes embarrassing how often we change things in rugby league.
However, I have thought about the future of the Challenge Cup for some years now and the direction it should take. It is a special day in the rugby league calendar and I want to see it grow and prosper.
But the opening 20 minutes of the game played between Wigan and Hunslet proved my point that the part-time players are not able to cope with the speed and strength of the full time professionals. The Warriors scored seven tries in the first 13 sets of possession.
The draw for the quarter-finals could have pitched Leigh against Keighley which would obviously have put one of them into the semi-final. Much as I admire both clubs and wish them well, I do not think that the game would have benefitted from one of them trying to take on say Leeds say in a semi-final.
I think that this type of contest and exposure may have been detrimental to the game, much as it might have helped in the short term with cash flow at the two smaller clubs.
A Cup for all?
I think that we have reached a stage when the divide in the sport means that we need to have a separate cup or cups. I appreciate that this idea needs some consultation but I would like to suggest that we have a Challenge Cup Finals day/weekend at Wembley in the future.
I think that we need to offer the smaller clubs a real chance to play at Wembley by organising a knock-out cup that gives each level of the game a chance to make it to the big stage.
How about a final for the best two teams from the Community Game, one for the best two part-time teams and one for the Top 16 Teams in the country? The greatest thing about the Challenge Cup is that it brings the whole game together, let's do that even more.
I made contact with the Chairman of Hunslet this week and debated the subject at length. I listened to his experiences of the game against Wigan and the path that the club is on these days.
I wish them well as they seem to be developing a club on some sound business principles and I hope that they continue to contribute to the game, rather than take from it as some part-time clubs have done in the past.
However, he also accepted some of the points that I made and felt that the chance for Hunslet to go to Wembley and play there again would be a very exciting and uplifting for the club.
We have had and still do have finals days in rugby league when more than two teams provide the entertainment. The concept of double-headers seems successful in rugby union.
Can someone out there please work out a way of making it work for the Challenge Cup?