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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Stokes turns up heat on hapless Haven

TO say Whitehaven’s Cougar Park flops received the sharp end of Ged Stokes’ tongue is perhaps an understatement. He was not a happy marra!

The craggy Kiwi certainly has a sharp sense of humour, an affable manner and indeed a temper, which he recently described to be more of a passion!

Whether passion or temper, Mr Stokes had every right to vent it into the red faces of his players out on the pitch as soon as the hooter went to signal Haven’s abysmal 17-16 defeat against newly promoted Keighley.

But this was the Northern Rail Cup – in which Haven must be desperate to excel after last season’s abrupt exit.

Batley offered redemption last night – or alternatively derailment.

Defeat was not an option, it would not only put Haven out of the competition but send more than a few tempers above boiling point.

Out on the pitch at Cougar Park Stokes gave his under-performing players “the after match talk I have never given and never wanted to give.... I have let the players know that.”

Moreover Haven were out-enthused by arguably the weakest side in the Championship.

But is it not the nature of the Haven beast? Never write it off – so here’s hoping the team were able to play with more passion and give the Bulldogs a bit of a battering, leaving Doncaster at home on Sunday with something to play for.

As if the Keighley defeat wasn’t bad enough, what’s made it all the more painful is the broken ankle sustained by skipper Leroy Joe.

A calamity on the face of it but, on the brighter side, a full recovery could see him back on two strong legs for what we hope will be a meaningful business end to the season, provided, of course, others can take responsibility and perform in his absence.

The fracture, I know (from personal experience) will keep him out for at least a couple of months, maybe longer. And the venerable Kiwi is 35.

Haven need Joe on two strong legs which is why they were delighted he agreed to carry on this season.

Leroy took over the leadership from Gary Broadbent, of course. It gave him a new lease of life.

What now? Captaincy issues are all the rage.

General opinion is that having a captain in team sports is important – someone like Aaron Lester or Leroy to follow into the trenches but have Wigan just set the trend in appointing five captains under their new Aussie coach?

Seriously, though, none of this is rocket science.

One captain, as such, ought to be enough – in the good old days when Great Britain were thrashing the Aussies it was the captain, more often than not someone like Eric Ashton or Alan Prescott, who was actually doing the coaching off the cuff, as well as leading the side out.

But there’s always been a case for more than one leader on the field, someone directing the backs, usually the stand-off, and a strong man to lead the pack.

I’m sure David Seeds had a big influence on Whitehaven’s back play during his long and distinguished career. I recall Haven’s skills coach telling me that during his spell of captaincy it was a case of him having the armband “with four or five leaders around me like David Fatialofa, Lester and Sam Obst – not forgetting Leroy Joe”.

Seeds is among the Stokes school of coaching disciples – “I’d loved to have played for him, rather than one voice we have four or five different voices but when Ged jumps in then everybody stands to attention.

“Ged has his hair-dryer moments and when he does you know about it.”

Here’s hoping the temperature didn’t have to be turned up too high last night.

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