There’s only one thing I can talk about, isn’t there?
I would much rather be discussing a meeting between the two biggest clubs in Britain, where Saints showed us that Leeds won’t have it all their own way this season. Or I would like to talk about how both Bradford and Warrington managed to get their seasons back on track over this weekend. I would also prefer to talk about the logjam of contenders this season, with there clearly being a good number of teams like Huddersfield, Hull FC, Harlequins and Castleford who have made dramatic strides from last year and all seem capable of beating each other.
But I can’t, because these details all pale into insignificance next to the events that took place in Wales yesterday.
The death of Leon Walker on the pitch in Maesteg yesterday was a shock to the whole game of Rugby League. Professional athletes are basically paid to keep themselves in prime condition, which makes it all the more gut-wrenching when they die in a manner like this. What made it all the more unbelievable was that this was the second Wakefield player in the last six months to abruptly die whilst on club duty, a horror which most clubs manage to avoid happening even once. It is yet another crushing blow to a club that has had an unfair amount of horror and grieving to deal with in recent times.
Off the field, it’s hard to imagine any club could have had a worse six months than Wakefield have just had. There’s been the much publicised death of Adam Watene during training. They’ve also had the crushing blow of essentially losing Richard Moore as a player for the foreseeable future due to the onset of Crohn’s disease (no small matter itself). There was the matter of Jamie Rooney almost dying of heart failure during a routine knee operation. I’ve already even written a post about the tribulations Wakefield have been enduring this season, and that was before this latest shock. They have also had to deal with the passing on club legends like Dave Topliss. This isn’t even taking into account the relatively trivial matter of a devastating injury list that has left their squad even more threadbare. Any of these events on their own could be catastrophic to the morale of a club, so one has to wonder how Wakefield have managed thus far dealing with all of them, and how they will deal with this latest calamity.
It’s to the Wildcats’ credit that despite these afflictions they have had such a successful start to their Super League campaign. Trinity are currently fifth in the table with only two defeats. On top of that they’ve already won at Wigan and looked pretty spectacular in their only televised encounter to date this season against Warrington. Even their two defeats were very respectable, with battling losses at Leeds and Hull KR being more than some other teams have achieved at Headingley and Craven Park. It’s remarkable that John Kear has got the club enjoying such success in the face of such difficulties, but the events of Sunday will be testing his ability to manufacture a positive out of adversity to its upmost limits.
Wakefield’s next game is the televised encounter at home against St Helens on Friday. John Kear has confirmed today that the game will be going ahead. I can only imagine that many of the players would rather be doing anything else instead of playing, and that would be perfectly understandable. But it also wouldn’t surprise me if many of them want to get out there, to have an escape from the grim realities that unfortunately surround the club at the minute, and to have a platform to give Walker and Watene a fitting tribute. I’m sure the people of Wakefield will galvanize behind them, and I’m sure they also have the best wishes of the Rugby League community, and to that end I’d like to commend the RFL for declaring that every game in the country this week (professional and amateur) will have a minute’s silence beforehand as a mark of respect to Walker. As much as tribal rivalries can cloud relationships between supporters, we should all be humane enough to feel pity towards the far-more-than-fair share of suffering that has gone on at Wakefield this year.