Warrington Wolves boss asks questions of rugby league's leadership

Warrington Guardian: Wolves boss Tony Smith is worried about where rugby league is going in the UK Wolves boss Tony Smith is worried about where rugby league is going in the UK

WOLVES' head of coaching and rugby Tony Smith has expressed 'concerns' about the state of leadership within rugby league in Great Britain.

Speaking after his side’s 52-6 Challenge Cup fifth round demolition of Salford City Reds at The Halliwell Jones Stadium, Smith turned his attention to the £10,000 fine Salford received after fielding 14 players during their recent narrow victory over Castleford Tigers.

Smith then questioned the choices being made at the top of the sport regarding the direction rugby league is taking, holding up the recent changes to the youth systems as an example as to why he is worried about the decisions being made at the top of the sport’s hierarchy.

Below is a full transcript of Smith’s press conference:

“I absolutely think that they (Salford) should have had the points taken off them.

“I would hate to have lost that game today or whenever, because our opponents had an extra man out there. I just think it sends out a poor message, that if you are prepared to pay for it then you can get away with it.

“There are rules there and we all have to stand by them, but there seems to be a snub of the rules at the moment. It is going to take some leadership at the top at this stage and I don’t think we are getting it, some of the direction we need.

“It was concerning that decision. If something is wrong, do you continue to do things wrong or do you lay down the law? It is all our responsibility at the clubs to put players on and make sure we are sticking to the rules.

“Especially with the consequences that can have and the extreme consequences, too. They are talking about promotion and relegation coming back in, how would you like to be a relegated Castleford at the end of the season when they may well have scored a try if Salford had 13 men on the field? How would you like that? I know you may think we are going to extremes there, but we are not. Ask the players what it is like to have one player a foot out of position, what effect that can have on your own line. To have an extra man on the line for three plays when your opponents are attacking the line, that is a god send.

“It (a points deduction) would have sent a message to all of us that it is up to us to do things right. It is really worrying.

“It is really interesting for me at the moment because as a leader I am interested in leadership and how people react when they are under pressure and all those sorts of things. It is fascinating.

“Sometimes you see leaders asking lots of questions of people and trying to appease everyone, or sometimes leaders will say ‘We are confident in the way we are going, we are strong and we believe in the systems that we have got,’ “I am over the innovative tag for rugby league, that we are innovative as a sport. I’m over it. What about being stable, strong, consistent? What about those being our traits?

“We are judging the current systems in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the great depression. We are in the worst economic climate for decades and yet now is the time are choosing to judge our current systems.

“I am also going to say that we have been producing some really good young players, so much so that the Australians are coming here to take them. We are starting to produce some half backs, outside backs, types of players that we have not produced for years, and yet we change the system again. We take away that production system, take away the responsibility for clubs to produce those players and we go to a system that is ‘popular’ by all accounts.

“How good a decision is going to be made when you are desperate to stay in the division that you are in. Or you do just about anything to get to the other division if you are not in it already. We have already got people saying that they are prepared to break the rules to win, what about breaking the rules to survive and stay in the competition? It is going to be mayhem. Do you know how much money is going to be spent on development?

“Our club suggestion was to carry on with an under 23s side, to allow those overage players to play somewhere. To play them in the under 19s and arguably the 20s was probably not the best in years gone past, but to just throw the whole system out the window is a kneejerk reaction.

“Instead of asking, ‘what are we doing well, what is working for us’ we say ‘let’s change the whole thing again’ or ‘I’ll give A, B or C to choose from as I don’t know what is going to work’.

“We need some direction at the moment and I feel that we are just getting asked our opinions and we are all hopeful of the outcome, that we make a stab in the dark and find that the result is a good one.

“I am just putting some questions out there about the effect of stuff that seems popular. If the government said to the whole society here, ‘we are going to have a three-day weekend and cut taxes’ that would be popular and we would jump for it. Is that the right way to go and will that fix the economy? Absolutely not.

“So we need to come up with some right answers, proper answers and come up with what is good and what is not, what is working already and what does not work. Rather than go too radically one way or the other.

“I am fascinated in the difference in leaderships. If I am following a leader I want them to say ‘follow me, I know the way out of here, we may take some wrong turns but we know that we are going to get through this by going in one direction.’ “If a leader asks me which one of three directions that I want to go in, I am starting to doubt that he can get us out of there. That is my concern.

“It is when things go a bit awry that you find out about leadership. Sometimes I have to stand in front of my boys and tell them to have faith in what we are doing. It is like going to the doctors surgery and him saying to you ‘I’m not sure; ask the other patients what is wrong with you.’ You just don’t do it.

“We need somebody to give us some answers to some of the issues we have got. I’m just concerned. We are at a fascinating time for our sport and how we go about things is going to be huge. I am looking forward to seeing the outcomes and how it all pans out.”

Comments (10)

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8:22pm Sun 12 May 13

Lazyleyther says...

Well said Tony Smith. Assuming your CEO backs your opinion, which other CEO's are saying they favour these changes at this time? Yu are talking a lot of sense and maybe option 4 should be Tony Smith for leader to steady the ship
Well said Tony Smith. Assuming your CEO backs your opinion, which other CEO's are saying they favour these changes at this time? Yu are talking a lot of sense and maybe option 4 should be Tony Smith for leader to steady the ship Lazyleyther
  • Score: 0

8:54pm Sun 12 May 13

Casual Postman of Orford says...

Tony speaks a lot of sense here. We need strong leadership or a group of leaders in RL not consulting the clubs who are all in it for themselves on thd future of the game.
Tony speaks a lot of sense here. We need strong leadership or a group of leaders in RL not consulting the clubs who are all in it for themselves on thd future of the game. Casual Postman of Orford
  • Score: 0

8:55pm Sun 12 May 13

jaybs says...

Tony is completely correct with his concerns, I have been saying this for 18 months & was just laughed at with we are the greatest game in the world? but seriously are we? No major sponsors and no improvement in national media.

The game is growing tremendously nationwide but with very little support from the RFL. The RFL bought Odsal who else have they assisted in this way since Swinton way back, why was London never assisted in building their own ground rather than giving a lot of rent to Union.

Now we have plans for a new future for the game and Super League though ones floated by Scottish Football and clearly rejected! How are teams promoted half way through a season getting a figure said to be around £180,000 ever going to be able to compete with the top clubs figure of around £1.8 million? will the clubs just end up being immediately relegated? Also what about the grounds in Thr Championship are we dropping the standard set in Supet League!

Why is the current CEO of The RFL controlling this review? Has he not been the person in charge of recent & current failures with sponsorship, media and the struggling Challenge Cup. We need someone with fresh ideas to take us forward not administrators of the past, could Robbie Hunter Paul lead the game is he not a better communicator or do we prepare someone like Jon Wilkin for a future CEO?

Unfortunately some club chairmen are also stuck in the past their approach is so parochial as long as the rich Clubd at the top stay that way! We need Change Now before it is too late otherwise we will fall even further behind the NRL & Union, some may be happy to see us as a M62 game and part time once again, I really hope not!
Tony is completely correct with his concerns, I have been saying this for 18 months & was just laughed at with we are the greatest game in the world? but seriously are we? No major sponsors and no improvement in national media. The game is growing tremendously nationwide but with very little support from the RFL. The RFL bought Odsal who else have they assisted in this way since Swinton way back, why was London never assisted in building their own ground rather than giving a lot of rent to Union. Now we have plans for a new future for the game and Super League though ones floated by Scottish Football and clearly rejected! How are teams promoted half way through a season getting a figure said to be around £180,000 ever going to be able to compete with the top clubs figure of around £1.8 million? will the clubs just end up being immediately relegated? Also what about the grounds in Thr Championship are we dropping the standard set in Supet League! Why is the current CEO of The RFL controlling this review? Has he not been the person in charge of recent & current failures with sponsorship, media and the struggling Challenge Cup. We need someone with fresh ideas to take us forward not administrators of the past, could Robbie Hunter Paul lead the game is he not a better communicator or do we prepare someone like Jon Wilkin for a future CEO? Unfortunately some club chairmen are also stuck in the past their approach is so parochial as long as the rich Clubd at the top stay that way! We need Change Now before it is too late otherwise we will fall even further behind the NRL & Union, some may be happy to see us as a M62 game and part time once again, I really hope not! jaybs
  • Score: 0

8:25am Mon 13 May 13

baker77 says...

Most sense I've heard in a long time. I think we are all sick of the RFL labelling their "gimmicky" ideas as innovitive.(eg club call) Seems to be the word they use in the place of no idea! I think the current system is fine. We have too many teams as the RFL decided to expand when the game was just not ready and the financial climate extremely poor. They also decided to give away sponsorship of the game last year, consequently cant find a paying sponsor as the previous decision now values it at £0. They have also allowed the dismantling of junior development at clubs. The marketing of our game has been extremely poor for many years. Why cant they address that issue??
Most sense I've heard in a long time. I think we are all sick of the RFL labelling their "gimmicky" ideas as innovitive.(eg club call) Seems to be the word they use in the place of no idea! I think the current system is fine. We have too many teams as the RFL decided to expand when the game was just not ready and the financial climate extremely poor. They also decided to give away sponsorship of the game last year, consequently cant find a paying sponsor as the previous decision now values it at £0. They have also allowed the dismantling of junior development at clubs. The marketing of our game has been extremely poor for many years. Why cant they address that issue?? baker77
  • Score: 0

10:41am Mon 13 May 13

Advanced Biker says...

Mr Smith makes some very good points here. I hope he doesn't get sanctioned by the RFL for telling it as it is.
Mr Smith makes some very good points here. I hope he doesn't get sanctioned by the RFL for telling it as it is. Advanced Biker
  • Score: 0

1:10pm Mon 13 May 13

Bradas506 says...

Once again Mr Smith is correct, not just because I am a Wire fan but as it stands at 12.51pm on the Monday after a CC round we do not know when the next draw will take place for the quarter finals??????

How on earth can we trust the guys at the RFL to pan a restructure. I am not going to mention names but take a look at the Board, if Brian Barwick is any good and I understand he is, then he should take a look at the people around him and ask himself the question.

Before you start building anything you should check to see if you have all the right tools at your disposal, does your team have the right experience to start the project and are they able to see it through to the end.

Personally based on the current tool kit I would leave the building extension to another time.
Once again Mr Smith is correct, not just because I am a Wire fan but as it stands at 12.51pm on the Monday after a CC round we do not know when the next draw will take place for the quarter finals?????? How on earth can we trust the guys at the RFL to pan a restructure. I am not going to mention names but take a look at the Board, if Brian Barwick is any good and I understand he is, then he should take a look at the people around him and ask himself the question. Before you start building anything you should check to see if you have all the right tools at your disposal, does your team have the right experience to start the project and are they able to see it through to the end. Personally based on the current tool kit I would leave the building extension to another time. Bradas506
  • Score: 0

4:04pm Mon 13 May 13

wolfitdown says...

TS has obviously given these proposals a lot of thought while at the same time witnessing the game crumbling around him, scrapping the u23's is hindering development, some of our best over in Aus with more to follow, a lack of intensity at most games.
The best thing about yesterdays game was seeing some of our youth products coming through while not looking out of place, if the RL are concerned about the game then help not hinder the development of youth.
TS has obviously given these proposals a lot of thought while at the same time witnessing the game crumbling around him, scrapping the u23's is hindering development, some of our best over in Aus with more to follow, a lack of intensity at most games. The best thing about yesterdays game was seeing some of our youth products coming through while not looking out of place, if the RL are concerned about the game then help not hinder the development of youth. wolfitdown
  • Score: 0

11:03pm Mon 13 May 13

pennstate says...

Excellent debate and great credit to Tony Smith for speaking out.
I do think we need promotion and relegation because the English fan base is not deep enough to withstand too many 'dead games' games in a season.
Reducing expenditure on youth development is without doubt the quickest way to poor health and oblivion.
Rugby League and Stevo should stop referring to our league 'as the greatest game , because if it was we would not be having this debate. I think it may be in Australia as shown by the crowds and tV audiences.
When Basketball went through a similar phase in the states 30 years ago, the strategy revolved around less teams, better quality and the promotion of national stars. We need to let the likes of Wire, Wigan, Leeds and others prosper and if the gap grows between top and bottom so be it. Attract some big names and we will attract some big publicity. If teams attract big crowds reward them for doing and let them grow even more. Dont stop them spending just to maintain parity with sides which struggle to muster crowds of around four thousand each week. Big names and publicity draw sponsorship and as it stands we dont have it!
Excellent debate and great credit to Tony Smith for speaking out. I do think we need promotion and relegation because the English fan base is not deep enough to withstand too many 'dead games' games in a season. Reducing expenditure on youth development is without doubt the quickest way to poor health and oblivion. Rugby League and Stevo should stop referring to our league 'as the greatest game , because if it was we would not be having this debate. I think it may be in Australia as shown by the crowds and tV audiences. When Basketball went through a similar phase in the states 30 years ago, the strategy revolved around less teams, better quality and the promotion of national stars. We need to let the likes of Wire, Wigan, Leeds and others prosper and if the gap grows between top and bottom so be it. Attract some big names and we will attract some big publicity. If teams attract big crowds reward them for doing and let them grow even more. Dont stop them spending just to maintain parity with sides which struggle to muster crowds of around four thousand each week. Big names and publicity draw sponsorship and as it stands we dont have it! pennstate
  • Score: 0

2:57pm Tue 14 May 13

wolfitdown says...

Spot on pennstate, RFL need to be seen to be doing something to promote and strengthen the game, is the word holistic? dual reg seems a little hit and miss a bit like "what should we do with our excess super talented up and coming not quite ready stars of the future" TS is right RFL should be looking in not out, though he does seem to have changed his mind on SL league numbers, from drop it to ten to leave well alone, maybe thats the problem all is not well.
Spot on pennstate, RFL need to be seen to be doing something to promote and strengthen the game, is the word holistic? dual reg seems a little hit and miss a bit like "what should we do with our excess super talented up and coming not quite ready stars of the future" TS is right RFL should be looking in not out, though he does seem to have changed his mind on SL league numbers, from drop it to ten to leave well alone, maybe thats the problem all is not well. wolfitdown
  • Score: 0

4:41pm Sun 19 May 13

Bill Bradbury says...

The greatest game in the world in my opinion but as far as the national media is concerned hardly one column inch , especially in The Times and Sunday Times and this is supposed to be the height of our season. We see double page spreads for the Union code and our best players being signed by these clubs.

Lot of sense by the Warrington coach especially due to the current economic climate and the debts of many League clubs. Without a wealthy backer millionaire the adage of "in the land of the blind the one eyed man (team) will reign" that is why the keeping of the salary cap is essential and a more rigourose investigation into those clubs who get around it as the current Salford owner implied some weeks ago.

As a Saints supporter is is our turn to feel like how the fans of the lower clubs have felt over the years. Current injury and supension problems plus players past their sell by date, have made us the "cannon fodder" for those in the top half of the league--" got Saints next match that should be easy points" But still we will be back-sometime?? As Tony writes and says the answer is in our Youth policy with home grown players a factor that wigan appear to achieve every year.
The greatest game in the world in my opinion but as far as the national media is concerned hardly one column inch , especially in The Times and Sunday Times and this is supposed to be the height of our season. We see double page spreads for the Union code and our best players being signed by these clubs. Lot of sense by the Warrington coach especially due to the current economic climate and the debts of many League clubs. Without a wealthy backer millionaire the adage of "in the land of the blind the one eyed man (team) will reign" that is why the keeping of the salary cap is essential and a more rigourose investigation into those clubs who get around it as the current Salford owner implied some weeks ago. As a Saints supporter is is our turn to feel like how the fans of the lower clubs have felt over the years. Current injury and supension problems plus players past their sell by date, have made us the "cannon fodder" for those in the top half of the league--" got Saints next match that should be easy points" But still we will be back-sometime?? As Tony writes and says the answer is in our Youth policy with home grown players a factor that wigan appear to achieve every year. Bill Bradbury
  • Score: 0

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