WIGAN halfback Blake Green says hard-to-handle footballs contributed to a poor Challenge Cup final and are hurting England’s World Cup prospects.
Rugby League fans reacted with embarrassment to the knock-on-athon that resulted in a 16-0 win for Wigan over Hull on England’s biggest stage, Wembley Stadium, at the weekend.
While Hull coach Peter Gentle refused to blame the balls, which are this year provided by new manufacturer Rhino who replaced Australian company Steeden, former Parramatta, Canterbury and Cronulla star Green said they were a major contributing factor.
“It’s a bit disappointing and I think it’s a disadvantage for England rugby league,” Green tells RLW.
“They’ve got the World Cup coming up at the end of the year and they’ve decided to change the footballs from Steeden to Rhino and then in the World Cup, you’re going to be playing with Steeden balls.
“If you’re going to look after your own countrymen, I’d be playing with a Steeden because that’s what they’re going to be playing with in the World Cup and it will give England every chance.
“Our players’ association wasn’t consulted about that. They just made a decision. I don’t know if it was a sponsorship deal.
“I think they’re a bit slipperier in the wet than the Steeden but I grew up playing with a Steeden.”
Steeden are listed as an “official partner” on the World Cup website. Gentle said the balls weren’t to blame. “Wigan handled them a lot better than us,” he said. “They were up around 75 per cent, we were around 54, 55.
“If one team can hold it, the other should be able to so we’re not going to use that as an excuse.”
Green is working hard at securing an NRL contract when his Wigan deal expires at the end of next year.
“I left the Dogs to come over and play in the halves,” said Green, who started his English odyssey at Hull KR.
“The reason I came here was to play in big games. It was unbelievable. The crowds are so loud over here, there’s lots of singing, they’re so passionate.
“I’m only 26, I’d certainly like to get home. I’ve learned a lot for Shaun Wane and Iestyn Harris, they’ve got great coaching staff here and they’ve really educated me about the game.
“I think I’ve got a much better understanding than when I left (Australia) when I was 23. The three years I’ve spent over here have been great for me, development-wise.
“Ideally, I’d love to go home and spend time with my family and live close. As a kid, I grew up wanting to play in the NRL.
“Unfortunately, I was just a utility player as a young kid and didn’t secure a spot in the halves. I probably wasn’t ready for it, as a young kid.
“I just developed later.”
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK