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.”