A third of the scheduled matches of Super League 2011 have been played and all is well. The salary cap seems to be working and while we cannot match the intensity of the NRL most matches are competitive and every team is capable of providing a shock. We haven't manufactured the situation where a team can finish bottom one year and top the next but measurable progress has been made
Warrington and Huddersfield have continued to enhance their reputations, Castleford are the surprise package and old favourites Wigan, St Helens and Leeds are looking ominously strong. It's great to see the young British players in evidence particularly at Castleford. A reduction in the number of overseas players is a stated aim of the RFL and again enough progress has been made to justify the policy
I'm less happy about the Exiles concept and not sure how a fixture relying on the presence of quality overseas players will help reduce their quantity. There will obviously be a financial incentive but I remain to be convinced about the motivation of a group of mercenaries rallying around a flag of convenience.
Even the name "The Exiles" is false and was created as part of a marketing campaign which I hope has been thought through. At least calling them an ANZAC XIII would be geographically accurate and be based on long standing tradition. On paper though the team could be extremely strong and could be capable of beating England very convincingly. What will the marketing men do then faced with trying to sell Four Nations tickets? Luckily the match will be played on grass
All we need to do is associate ourselves with these media personalities and popularity will be ours.
In reality, we need to present ourselves in the best possible light by holding high profile matches between proper international teams on big stages in front of big crowds. The England team also needs to perform better which they are more than capable of doing. Sam Burgess and Gareth Ellis have proved how good they are in the NRL and James Roby, James Graham, Ben Westwood, Sam Tomkins and others are just as good
Star performers win big matches not policies, structures or marketing teams. Benji Marshall, Jonathan Thurston and Darren Lockyear have demonstrated this in the recent past as did Roger Millward the last time we won the Ashes. It's time for the current generation to stand up