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Francis contribution “bigger than Sunderland debate”

The Forty20 Magazine editor has added to his comments regarding the Super League award. Forty20 Magazine co-editor Phil Caplan has elaborated on comments published earlier this week, which called for a discussion around the potential …

The Forty20 Magazine editor has added to his comments regarding the Super League award.

Forty20 Magazine co-editor Phil Caplan has elaborated on comments published earlier this week, which called for a discussion around the potential renaming of the Harry Sunderland Trophy.

Caplan suggested that Sunderland’s connection to ‘White Australia Policy’ and his role in Roy Francis’s move away from Wigan should prompt the sport to rethink the name of the award, which is given to the Man of the Match in the Super League Grand Final.

The comments provoked an impassioned response from Rugby League supporters, with many angry at what they perceived to be the rewriting of history.

Appearing on this week’s episode of Forty20 Live, Caplan reaffirmed those calls for a rethink, while pushing for the sport to better recognise Francis’s contribution to the game.

He said: “I’m not saying we should definitely rename it, I’m saying we should discuss the possibility of renaming it.

“There are a lot of institutions at the moment looking at things like statues that have been put up, names that have been given to places, in light of the fact that history is an ever-changing feast.

“It’s also about what we know about Harry Sunderland, and Roy Francis, who is the father of modern coaching, but someone we don’t recognise enough in the sport,

“It’s a debate we should have. I’m not suggesting that Harry Sunderland’s name should come off that trophy, and it may be that as a compromise Roy Francis gets a separate trophy named after him.

“What I am saying is there are a lot of allegations, some of which that can be proven, going back to the 1930s, about Harry Sunderland.

“Those allegations suggest that one of the reasons Roy Francis was let go from Wigan as a teenager, even though his record proved him worthy of a place in the team, had racial undertones.”

Caplan went on to discuss Francis’s contribution to modern coaching, which included the introduction of sprint training and video reviews.

He said: “The story of Roy Francis is bigger than all of that; it’s all about his contribution to the sport.

“But there were instances in his career when the colour of his skin stopped him getting the recognition he deserved.

“He wasn’t allowed to go on the 1946 Indomitables Tour, even though he was one of the form wingers in the competition.

“We laud the fact he became the first black player to play for Great Britain the following year, but he should have gone on that Tour.

“But at that time the Australians didn’t want to take anybody of colour because of the Whites Only policy in Australia.”

Caplan added: “We don’t recognise him in Wales, we don’t recognise him here and we need to do something to redress that.

“One of the ways we could that would be to change the name of the trophy that’s after somebody who didn’t give him the chance to shine, but the debate is about more than that.”

Watch the full episode of Forty20 Live below.

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