Rugby league prides itself on being a family game where big, honest men pit themselves against each other on the pitch while rival vocal spectators mingle happily on the terraces without the slightest sign of trouble. You could say it’s about as far removed from Football as you can get.

However, on 10th September 2010 league leaders shield winners Wigan Warriors took on 2009 champions Leeds Rhinos in a play off game for the right to go through to the semi finals and a weekend off. The losers had to play and win the following weekend in order to progress.

It was a pulsating game with big hits and the usual skullduggery from both sides. Wigan raced into a 14 point Leeds before Leeds came storming back and with a couple of minutes to go led by 1 point. On the last play of the game Wigan spread the ball wide to winger and MOS elect Pat Richards who broke down the left. In the subsequent chase Leeds stand off Danny McGuire pulled back a wigan player and in doing so injured himself, putting him out of the game for 6 months. Then it turned sour.

Initially Wigan players ran across to verbally abuse a prone McGuire, in doing so breaking an unwritten rule amongst players of both codes of rugby to assist clearly injured players, prompting England Captain and injured Leeds prop, Jaime Peacock to issue the following statement:

“For me, the most important thing from all of that was Mark Riddell and Thomas Leuluai standing over Danny while he was lying on the ground calling him a cheat,” the 32-year-old told the Yorkshire Post.

“It has gone unmentioned so far but it was one of the softest things I’ve ever seen on a rugby field. It doesn’t get any more cowardly and there’s no place for that in our sport.

“Their actions prevented Danny getting treatment for a while and, if we’re talking about unsportsmanlike behaviour, that’s probably the worst of any.

“I’m sure our lads will remember it going into Saturday’s game.

“When someone’s lying there with an injury like that, it’s harsh and uncalled for.”

Don’t mince your words there Jamie!

Back to the game and complete mayhem was happening on the field with players of both sides inexcusably abusing a referee clearly out of his depth. A penalty was awarded to Wigan, nowhere near the correct spot, which the aforementioned Pat Richards took a shot at goal that missed, giving Leeds the win.

The next sour incident was Leeds coach claiming in his aftermatch on fired interview that the injury had been caused by an “off the ball incident of foul play”. It might have been the emotion of the situation but it really was a silly thing to say.

The aftermath of the game saw a massive overreaction from fans, with current players who are good enough to put themselves in the public eye on the likes of Twitter being subjected to abuse and bile of completely unacceptable proportions.

Perhaps the most sour of all were the comments made by ex GB international, Wigan player and Skysports pundit Phil Clarke who posted on his official Skysports blog:

“McGuire’s injury could well act as a lesson to any other player watching that it doesn’t pay to cheat. Perhaps the rugby Gods have punished him for his unsportsmanlike play”

Surely this type of comment, where a so called impartial professional seems to delight in the injury of a player has no place in sport, let along a game which prides itself on it’s family friendliness.

I guess my point here is I like many enjoy the game of rugby league for what it is, a sometimes brutal but skilful game played by hard men. I don’t mind a bit of biff, the adrenalin is flowing after all. I am however quite sad at the soccer like reaction of some of the players, fans and a tv journalist. It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

I hope it was a one off, but girly soccer tendancies do seem to be creeping into the game and the crowds more and more. Perhaps it is a problem with society in general, who knows.

My biggest hope however is that this weekends rematch goes off with no trouble and the best team winning ( the best team is ALWAYS the one who scores the most points by the way, nothing else matters).

Sadly I cannot go, how I wish I could be there………

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