Jon Wilkin: Players must tackle fixture congestion, says St Helens captain

Jon Wilkin talks to the St Helens players in a team huddle
St Helens' captain Wilkin feels other players can help him change the way the game is run

Super League's players could have done more to prevent this year's punishing fixture list, says St Helens captain Jon Wilkin.

Teams in the top flight of English rugby league had to play twice in four days over Easter - then do it again at the end of May.

Wilkin has challenged the game's leading players to make a difference as to how rugby league is run.

"You've got to help yourself," he told the 5 Live Rugby League podcast.

"One thing I've found is that players will often have an opinion, criticise and comment about things. But there are very few who'll actually give their time to change things."

Wilkin spent six years attempting to set up a players' union, League 13, which ultimately failed because of a lack of support.

He suggested that a union is still badly needed in the face of such a congested fixture list, and at a time when the future structure of the game is under scrutiny from the clubs and the RFL.

There have been renewed calls within the game for the players to be given a bigger say, with several senior figures from within their ranks criticising the scheduling of matches.

"The reason League 13 doesn't exist anymore is because ultimately it was a labour of love from me, but there no was investment in time or effort from the players," said Wilkin.

"This was an issue going way back. The only way for clubs to make revenue is to run more games and for me that was worrying for two reasons.

"Firstly, I thought it was a false economy. More games diluted the quality. And secondly, if your playing 32 games a year, that's 32 weeks when you're playing a contact sport and that's incredible. To think your body is in any position to recover and heal quick enough is stupid.

"I think these things needed to be addressed and still need to be addressed. But there isn't a players' body capable or willing or able to do that."

Many players are represented by the GMB union, which Wilkin says gives them legal cover. But he thinks representation should go further than that.

"There's nobody actively sitting in meetings with the chief execs, with the clubs, with the chairmen, with the other key stakeholders in the game - there is nobody representing the players at that level." he said.

"We need more of those senior players in the game to stand up and have an opinion. It's not necessarily a negative opinion.

"If anything the ambition is to be collaborative; to work with people, to develop relationships with key stakeholders in the game, for the betterment of the players, but also for the betterment of the game as a whole."

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