MUCH has been made of the new era that rugby league is about to enter, and rightly so, but as the likes of Bradford, London and Leigh, armed with significant spending power and full-time squads, push for promotion to Super League,Haven Boss Steve Deakin maintains that mere survival would represent success for the club .
When the much-travelled Deakin, took the reins at Whitehaven last September, he faced a mountainous task.Although the club survived relegation, a mass exodus of players followed.Deakin, whose side are the visitors to Odsal in the Bulls’ first home game on February 22, explained: “Out of a squad of 24, 18 lads left and we were left with six players.
“Some retired and others moved on, but we’re up to about 21 players now and we’re hoping to have at least another couple in time for the start of the season.We offered contracts to seven players from the Workington-Whitehaven area during the off-season, which were refused for one reason or another, so it’s a tough gig.
“If we can keep everybody else then we will be competitive – that’s the key for us because we’ve got the lowest budget in the Championship.”
The financial disparity between the top and bottom of the division rankles with Deakin, who quit his job as reserve-team coach at Catalans to return home last year. The Cumbrian part-timers’ budget is dwarfed by that of many of their Championship rivals and their squad is still not complete.
The Lancastrian said: “I think this is going to be the toughest competition at this level for years with the teams that have come down from Super League in Bradford and London.Leigh have gone full-time and Bradford and London have both admitted that their squads are stronger this year than they were last year in Super League.There is a massive mismatch, not only in terms of players and resources but off-field resources as well.The full-time clubs have full-time physios and coaches.
“Although I applaud the RFL’s initiative with this new structure, I do think they could have made a better effort to equate funding We get something like £150,000 and Bradford are getting something like £850,000, so where’s the level playing field?
“You increase competition levels with degrees of parity, not disparity.I think the disparity in this competition is greater than in any other professional sport in this country.I’m making this statement pre-competition, not post-competition, so we don’t quite know how it’s going to work out.
“If Whitehaven stay up this year, it will be a success. If we can get another two or three players in, manage to gel and stay in this competition, it will go a long way towards setting us up for the following season, where we will have a lot more continuity.”