1 Jul 2020

Hemmings Way: Good news returns

Despite the fact that it was confirmed this week that we will have to wait until next year to sample the delights of the Magic Weekend in Newcastle there were a couple of happier pieces of news for rugby league in the last few days.

First the re-start date for the 2020 season has been confirmed for August 2nd – hopefully nothing like the local lockdown enforced in Leicester will alter that – and the games will go ahead albeit behind closed doors.

And second is the fabulous news that one of Super League’s iconic sons is returning home to finish his playing career where it all began, as James Graham is confirmed as a Saint for the remainder of the year.

To the re-start first – and we have three games to look forward to Hull KR v Toronto (a real four pointer at the bottom of the table) St Helens v Catalans and Huddersfield v Leeds. The games will all be played at one venue and screened live on Sky Sports with full rounds played in subsequent weeks.

There’s much speculation about how where and when games will be played moving forward – and so stand by for more information about that in the days ahead – but you can rest assured that all parties will be getting their heads together and coming up with decisions that will be for the good of the game – and just as importantly for its spectators.

One thing I certainly hope that remains the same is that the Grand Final, whenever it’s played, stays at Old Trafford. I really can’t imagine a Grand Final being played anywhere else now so hopefully when the Premier League releases its fixtures for 2020/21 a suitable date can be found with the help no doubt of Manchester Utd.

St Helens announcement that James Graham is on his way back for the Super League re-start was timely in light of the fact that Luke Thompson has now headed off the other way to begin his career in the NRL. Welcome back Jammer!

They say “Once a Saint, Always a Saint,” don’t they? and James was first at St Helens as an 11 year old in the Academy. He made his debut in 2003 and won every honour in the game here before leaving for Canterbury Bulldogs in 2011 taking his Man of Steel trophy from 2008, his Grand Final winners ring and Challenge Cup winners medals with him.

Like all players who leave Super League for the game down under I was particularly sorry to see him go. He and I were both brought up in Maghull near Liverpool and so we are fellow Scousers!!

I went to school at Maghull Ormonde Drive Secondary Modern – James was at Deyes Lane Secondary Modern. Unknown to the pair of us we grew up only a couple of miles apart – even though we were many years apart! The two schools are now High Schools by the way… how times have changed!

So I’d really like to say to him “welcome back” and I hope he has as much success in his final year as Adrian Morley did when he returned to the UK from Australia and arrived at Warrington.

Of course, Moz had four years to go at… James has just four months! But I am sure he can lead St Helens to an end of the season that everyone at the Totally Wicked Stadium would wish for.

He is 34 so it is his last hurrah but Saints chairman Eamonn McManus said this week that there would always be a red carpet waiting for James, if he ever came back… but he never really expected to roll it out. With 235 appearances for St Helens behind him James Graham is one of the greats in the club’s history and I for one have no doubt he will make a massive contribution.

And on the subject of massive contributions… the aforementioned Adrian Morley has announced he’s embarking on a walk from Salford’s AJ Bell Stadium to Headingley in aid of Motor Neurone  Disease – and doubtless his great pal Rob Burrow who continues his fight with the illness.

Well Done Moz – we all hope you raise thousands!