Rugby League Expert & Columnist
Terry O'Connor sad about Super League's Easter schedule
Last Updated: 05/11/19 1:07pm
Sky Sports rugby league expert Terry O'Connor explains why he is disappointed with the change to Super League's Easter programme for the 2020 season. Clubs will now play just one fixture over the weekend, with all UK based fixtures covered live on Sky Sports...
I think there was a big push from people within the game, both players and administrators to make Super League sides play just one fixture over the Easter period next season.
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As a former player I just knew that it was something that you had to do, I was privileged to play rugby league for a living and it was something you just got on with and did.
I hear the phrase 'player welfare' time and time again and half the people who use this phrase don't understand what this is. When I was a player this meant giving you the tools off the field so that when you came to training you were fully prepared and focused on the task at hand, eradicating all the outside influences.
The Easter weekend when I played was all about playing a derby on Good Friday in front of a packed stadium and then fronting up again on Easter Monday - and then the following weekend. These three fixtures were arguably the toughest of the season, but often brought out some of the best in players.
The player welfare argument has finally won, but people should not use this phrase as an excuse - I find it disrespectful and incorrect, it does not mean strain or pressure on the body. Players would be given rest between fixtures and time off to prepare ahead of the next game during this period.
I don't know a lad who works on the motorway or a on a building site who has downtime during the week. If they were to have a downtime, they would not get paid.
People comment that it's the big squads who prosper, or that it's a few weeks further down the line when sides pick up injuries - and I get those two points.
My challenge in recent years to players, coaches and conditioners is that they should have prepared to get through these trickier periods in the season.
I know for a fact that there are players out there that embraced these fixtures as they knew other players did not like them and this set them apart and gave them an extra edge.
The upside of the change to Easter weekend is that we are going to be able to see all of the UK based Super League sides live on Sky Sports. Each team will be on a level playing field and it will be interesting to see how each performs and who will come out on top.
However, with this change players will no longer have a 'get out of jail' card on the Tuesday morning when they tell their coach they missed a tackle because they were too tired from playing on Good Friday and Easter Monday.
There were always people for and against it - but with so much live rugby league on Sky Sports over this weekend we can't not look forward to it.
I'm a fat kid from Widnes, I grew up in the middle of town about 600 metres from the old Naughton Park and as a youngster you dreamt of playing in these big games.
Whether it's a Challenge Cup final, a Super League Grand Final or a big derby fixture it's an incredible feeling to pull on the shirt for these occasions.
I was very fortunate to play in many Wigan-St Helens derbies where the sides hated each other on the pitch, and as a player you dare not lose as the fans would still remember it at the back end of the year - even if you made it to Old Trafford!
Playing in this fixture was always a wicked occasion and a wicked atmosphere. I know that rugby league neutrals and fans of other sports tune in to watch this match-up alone - it's that good and I don't think Good Friday would be the same without it.
I'm really pleased the derby fixtures will be once again be played across the Easter weekend and this year's line-up will whet supporters' appetites ahead of the new season.
I'm a little disappointed we won't see teams play on both Good Friday and Easter Monday - but with the fixtures scheduled for this weekend in 2020, we have plenty to get excited about!