Mahe Fonua blasts fixture schedule as second double header looms
MAHE Fonua has blasted rugby league’s bosses for putting players through a crazy fixture list.
For the Castleford star believes fans may be robbed by not seeing stars at their very best, with 80 per cent the best they can feel.
The Tigers face three games in 11 days – starting with tonight’s clash at Huddersfield – that will make or break their play-off chances.
Next week sees the ludicrous second double header of the season, which sees Lee Radford’s men play next Thursday and on Bank Holiday Monday.
And Fonua has hit out at the way players are being out through it after being told it would not happen again.
He fumed: “I don’t think I’m allowed to say what I actually thought when I saw the second double header in the fixture list.
“They want to speak about player welfare then they throw in two double headers. We came out of Covid-19 and they said they didn’t want any more of those short turnarounds.
“Then they came out and did this, where they had a year or x amount of time to plan our season.
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“People wanted to shorten it up because of the World Cup, but also fit in an England game. Now there’s two double headers.
“I don’t think there’s a player who’ll come out and say, ‘I’m playing at 100 per cent.’ 80 per cent is on a good week.
“Players will be getting jabs on game day, some don’t walk all week and just rock up on game day. I guarantee you there’ll be at least one or two at every club.
“You’ve got to look after your 80 minute men, like Paul McShane and James Roby. In some weeks, I’m sure those boys are just getting on the paddock on game day, if not having a little run at captain’s run.
“It’s a big ask. The physical toll takes a lot out of you. Three games in 11 days? Can’t wait, my body feels ready to go…”
Castleford are aiming to make the play-offs for the first time since 2019, which they hope means three extra matches to the Grand Final.
That would make it 30 league games, plus Challenge Cup games, plus an England appearance for some before playing at the World Cup.
And centre Fonua, 29, believes supporters may be short changed if they want to see the best against the beat, at their best.
He added: “Some clubs might be aiming for the finals for either the first time or the first time in a while.
“They might be going into the with players numbered 30-40 because numbers 1-7 have got some long-term injuries or they copped a knock.
“In a double header, when you play Thursday then Monday, you’ve got almost zero days to recover before having to bang out another 80 minutes.
“For fans and everyone really, even players, it’s unfortunate – especially the ones who have to sit out and watch.
“Had there been a few games fewer, that could’ve been the difference – they could’ve been playing.
“Had they had an extra day’s turnaround, that could’ve seen them feeling 80 or 90 per cent going into a game.
“I just feel if things had been organised a bit differently, teams could go into the finals with a strong and healthy squad to be able to showcase the best rugby they can.”