Written by Callum Walker
Live sport is often people’s escape, but, with everything that is happening in the world at present, that cannot be the case. However, some Rugby League clubs have taken it upon themselves to head into the virtual world.
With technology rapidly expanding, alongside a new-found boredom, clubs such as Castleford Tigers, Featherstone Rovers, Warrington Wolves and Oldham RLFC have taken it upon themselves to host live games on Rugby League Live 4.
Though far from the real thing, the virtual games provided light relief from an enormously serious situation. Castleford’s high-scoring triumph over Salford, Warrington’s narrow victory over Hull KR, Featherstone’s smash-and-grab at York and Oldham’s slender loss to Swinton were watched eagerly by hundreds of fans.
No virtual fixture was as completed as intensely as Warrington’s with Hull KR. Ben Murdoch-Masila and new signing Leilani Latu donned Wolves shirts and picked up a controller in their bid to occupy themselves as the coronavirus isolation measures ramp up.
There was, of course, a social distance of two metres between the pair – as has been recommended by government – which was the first thing to point out. The second was the powerful look of concentration adorned on the duo’s faces as they needed a golden point extra time winner – through Gareth Widdop – to end the game in Warrington’s favour, though it maybe should have been a try as the former St George Illawarra star made a clean break through KR’s defence.
Hull KR hit back and the boss is fuming! 😠
— Warrington Wolves (@WarringtonRLFC) March 22, 2020
Naturally, the sight of two brick walls holding the smallest of console controllers was enough to put a smile on anyone’s face, which is what the sport and the world needs right now.
The Castleford Tigers’ fixture against Salford Red Devils was also something to behold as it ended in a 54-42 whirlwind try-fest. But, it got the fans talking about rugby – even if it was virtual rugby. In a world where nothing seems the same, witnessing some kind of normality whether it be on a computer screen or in real life, is a tonic to those staying at home.
Clubs that entertain games such as these are doing things right. Yes, nothing replaces the rough-and-tough excitement of a live fixture, but this is no longer reality. At least the technological advancements enable some kind of ball-playing entertainment and fixtures such as those played above should perhaps be played more regularly.
A virtual Super League, a virtual Championship or a virtual NRL competition could give fans and players some kind of Rugby League fix. A prize at the end of it, or just simply status and bragging rights would keep the Rugby League fraternity engrossed in the game, taking their minds off more serious issues. That is what it’s all about in such saddening times.