29th July 2020, 14:20 | untitled
The players of St Helens, Catalans Dragons, Leeds Rhinos and Huddersfield Giants are not the only ones relishing a return to action at Emerald Headingley this weekend.
For the RFL’s Match Officials, the last five months of Lockdown and season suspension have been an equally frustrating and challenging period.
They spent the majority of the time on furlough, giving them time to show support for the work being done by others – such as Chris Kendall volunteering for the NHS in Kirklees, and Robert Hicks enlisting his children to raise money for Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield where his fiancee’s mother had been helped to recover from Covid-19.
But in recent weeks, they have returned to official training – and that has meant a range of new challenges, as they have come to terms with both the changes in laws and interpretations introduced for the Betfred Super League resumption, and also with the need for regular Covid-19 testing on the same basis as the players.
“I’ve got nothing but praise for the way all our Match Officials, both in the full-time squad and the Grade 1 and other part-time officials, have conducted themselves all through this period,” said Steve Ganson, the RFL’s Head of Match Officials.
“They weren’t allowed to do any formal training under the terms of their furlough, but when they came out of that and reported back earlier this month, they were all in very good shape – with some really good results on our first round of fitness testing.
“It does feel a bit like we’re the 12th club getting ready for the restart, and that has extended to the regular weekly testing for Covid-19.
“Fortunately it’s been so far so good, for all our match officials as well as the players. There has been a lot of new information for them to absorb, but they’ve already adapted well."
That has given Ganson a full squad from which to select the officials for the opening double header this weekend.
Ben Thaler will referee the first match between Saints and Catalans, with Liam Moore and Mark Craven as touch judges, James Child as video referee, and Scott Mikaluaskas as reserve.
For the second game between Leeds and Huddersfield, Hicks will take charge with Tony Martin and Jack Smith as touch judges, Kendall as video referee, and Marcus Griffiths as reserve.
“It’s going to be a challenge for everyone involved this weekend adjusting to the new laws and interpretations,” added Ganson.
“We’ve made our officials available to join training sessions with all the clubs to do some practical work on how things will change without scrums, and with the Six-Again rule introduced.
“We’ve also been in regular contact with Bernard Sutton and the NRL to ensure we have all the latest information about how things have been working over there, especially with the Six Again.
“I think for the officials, as well as the players, and all Rugby League supporters, it’s just great to have the game back. It’s taken a lot of work by a lot of people to get us to this point, but hopefully this weekend everyone will be in a mood to celebrate the return of Super League.”
This weekend's appointments can be found here.