Betfred Championship news round-up

BARROW RAIDERS coach Paul Crarey has finally handed a competitive debut to high-profile halfback signing Jarrod Sammut, and welcomed back winger Shane Toal and secondrow Tom Hopkins after injury.

But the Walne brothers, props Jordan and Adam, have both departed the Cumbrian club after taking medical advice over concussions issues.

Crarey responded by bringing in Salford forwards Josh Johnson and Jack Wells on short-term loans.
Australian-born Malta international Sammut, who started his career at Penrith Panthers and has also been at Crusaders, Bradford, Wakefield, Workington, London Broncos, Wigan and Leigh, is set to make a second appearance in the Premier Sports-televised game at Widnes tonight (March 7).

After damaging an ankle during pre-season, he played at stand-off as Barrow won 38-12 at Rochdale in the fourth round of the Challenge Cup (they will host Workington in round five on Sunday).

Toal, who like Hopkins, was a key player as the Raiders won promotion from League One last season, scored a hat-trick of tries (Hopkins also crossed).

Neither of the Walnes, who also played alongside each other for Salford, have figured this season.
Jordan, 29, joined Barrow from Hull KR in 2019, when he made 24 appearances with two tries.

The following year, he featured four times (one try) and played five matches with one try last season, when he was sidelined for a spell after suffering a concussion during the Challenge Cup first-round tie at Oldham.

Adam, 31, arrived from Huddersfield ahead of the 2021 campaign and made twelve appearances, scoring three tries. But he has been troubled by an historic injury.

He said: “Myself and Jordan have both had numerous head injuries throughout our careers that are having lasting effects in different ways.”

The Raiders said in a statement: “We would like to thank both brothers for their time at the club, and in particular to their contribution to the League One title win.”

The brothers launched a joint fitness and well-being business, Raw & Outdoor, when the 2020 season was halted due to the pandemic.


BRADFORD BULLS boss John Kear reflected on the value of Elliot Kear’s versatility after a Challenge Cup victory at London Broncos teed up a home fifth-round tie against Leigh in front of the Premier Sports cameras next Monday, March 14.

While the pair are not related, they have worked together with Wales, so the club and country coach knew exactly what he was getting when signing the 33-year-old from Salford in May.

The 27-times capped star had joined the Fire Service, so wanted to play part-time, and agreed a deal with Bradford, where he had three seasons from 2012-14, until the end of this year.

Kear, who has also represented Crusaders and London Broncos (as well as rugby union club London Welsh) and featured in the World Cups of 2013 and 2017, undertook Fire Service training last year, so was limited to three Bulls appearances after four for Salford.

He picked up a leg injury in this year’s opening-round (he claimed a try from fullback in the 46-16 win at Dewsbury), and in the absence of Jordan Lilley and Billy Jowitt, returned to play in the halves alongside Dec Patton in the 34-8 knockout win in London.

“One of the reasons we brought Elliot to the club was his versatility,” explained Kear.

“He played stand-off, centre and wing (against the Broncos) and may well end up in a different position in the future.”

Lilley, who picked up a knee injury in pre-season, made the trip but didn’t play in a tie which featured a hat-trick of tries by Kieran Gill, the centre signed from Newcastle.

“He was very close, but the medics said if we left it another week, it would give the injury more time to repair and stand us in better stead going forward,” he added.

Bradford have entered into a dual-registration partnership with Leeds. The pair already had a loan arrangement.


HALIFAX PANTHERS flyer Lachlan Walmsley has his sights set on a regular berth in Simon Grix’s side.

The Australian winger who has designs on a place in Scotland’s World Cup squad after featuring against Jamaica in October was a regular at Championship rivals Whitehaven last season, sometimes playing fullback.

Walmsley, who qualifies for the Bravehearts through his maternal grandfather George, who lived in Perthshire before emigrating to Australia as a ‘Ten Pound Pom’, scored 16 tries and kicked 75 goals in 23 games, the last the play-off eliminator defeat by Halifax at The Shay.

But with the likes of Zack McComb and Italy international James Saltonstall for competition at the Panthers, the 23-year-old has had to be patient.

Having made his debut in the opening-round game at Batley, Walmsley missed out on the follow-up matches at home to London Broncos and Widnes.

The next fixture at Workington was postponed, but he returned for the Challenge Cup fourth-round visit of Featherstone.

And while disappointed at the 29-16 scoreline, he was pleased with his two-try haul.

“It’s frustrating we went out, and letting them build a 16-0 lead in the first half cost us, but I’m happy to have got another game and scored my first tries for the club,” he said.

Walmsley – who joined Whitehaven from South Newcastle Lions, of the Newcastle Cup, a NSW ‘Country’ league – continued: “I Want to be playing every game, but if you’re not performing, you don’t get picked, and Zack and Salty had been outstanding in the previous games.

“It was great to get out there and be able to do my job, and I’ll just keep pushing for a place.”

Halifax’s Challenge Cup elimination means they have a blank weekend when the fifth round takes place and are next in action at home to Leigh in front of the Premier Sports TV cameras on Monday, March 21.


LEIGH CENTURIONS coach Adrian Lam hailed halfbacks Ben Reynolds and Joe Mellor after they helped seal the third successive win which clinched a Challenge Cup fifth-round home clash with Bradford.

Lam’s side beat Widnes 38-4 in a tie screened by Premier Sports, who will be back for the visit of the Bulls next Monday, March 21.

Achieved with the help of a hat-trick of tries by former Canberra Raiders fullback Caleb Aekins, it followed league triumphs against Bradford and York.

Lam is pleased with the way his side have responded to their 28-6 defeat at Featherstone last month, and picked out stand-off Reynolds and scrum-half Mellor for particular praise.

Former Castleford and Wakefield man Reynolds, 28, is in his second spell at Leigh and made his 100th club appearance (it was a 100th career appearance for former Salford back Ed Chamberlain).

Like Reynolds, Wigan product Mellor, 31, who has also played for Widnes and Toronto, represented Leigh in Super League last season.

“Our two halves have been really good,” said Lam, who was appointed in November.

“Ben making his 100th appearance for the club is worth flagging up, because that milestone is a great highlight for any player and he’s been outstanding for me.

“He’s been strong from the start of season, he’s picking it up as we’re going along, and he will get better still.”

Mellor is co-captain with prop Adam Sidlow, who said: “I also played alongside Joe at Toronto, and I’ve played against him as well.

“He’s really tough, and seems to be made of stone. He runs at opponents all the time. He’s class, we’re glad to have him.”

Mellor says Leigh’s target is to reproduce their form of the first 20 minutes against Widnes for a longer spell.

“It was a strong start, but we need to maintain it, ” he explained.

“And our discipline needs to be better.”


LONDON BRONCOS coach Jermaine Coleman believes the addition of old boy Alex Walker to his squad is a real bonus.

The Scotland international, born in Harlow, Essex, came through their Academy and scored 41 tries in 102 appearances, the first in 2014.

His form during the capital club’s Super League campaign of 2019, when he featured 27 times and claimed six tries, earned a move to Wakefield.

Having played nine times for Trinity, with two tries, in 2020, the 26-year-old figured just once last year, and was loaned to Featherstone, where his nine appearances (with seven tries) included the Million Pound Game defeat by Toulouse in France.

Walker, who qualifies for Scotland via the family heritage rule and has seven caps, including one from the 2017 World Cup, played under Coleman during a loan spell at London Skolars in 2016.

“He’s an experienced, high-quality player,” said the team chief, who swapped capital clubs in September and the following month was part of the Jamaica coaching team for the 30-30 draw against a Scotland side featuring Walker at Featherstone’s Millennium Stadium.

It’s been a tough start to the the season for the now part-time Broncos, who have moved into the Cherry Red Records Stadium at Wimbledon.

The 34-8 Challenge Cup fourth-round defeat at home to Bradford was a fifth in as many matches after league losses to Widnes, Halifax, Whitehaven and Featherstone.

However Coleman, whose side have a blank weekend before they make the long trip to Barrow on Sunday week, March 20, believes the return of a number of experienced players after injuries will be significant.

Bradford notched 22 points in the final 14 minutes, and Coleman commented: “The closing stages were unacceptable, but before that, we played some of our best rugby of the season so far. That’s a step forward.”

Coleman has brought in Salford’s former Wigan hooker Amir Bourouh on a two-week loan.


NEWCASTLE THUNDER coach Eamon O’Carroll plans to use the forthcoming weekend’s break due to Challenge Cup elimination to further hone his side for the trip to Dewsbury on Sunday week, March 20.

The ambitious North-East club are in their second season at Championship level after a lengthy League One stint and their first as a full-time operation as they plot a path to Super League by 2030.

O’Carroll, who works alongside hugely-experienced director of rugby Denis Betts, under whom he both played and cut his coaching teeth at Widnes, said beforehand that the fourth-round tie at York would show the level Newcastle need to aspire to.

His side went down 42-13, having beaten Whitehaven 40-24 in the league the previous week.

And the 34-year-old former Ireland forward, who took charge ahead of last season after a couple of years as assistant coach to Steve McNamara at Catalans Dragons, pointed out: “We are an evolving team, and consistency in performance is one of the things we are working to achieve.

“We know we are not perfect, and there are likely to be ups and downs, but the aim is to keep taking those steps forward and keep adapting to this division and being full-time.

“We operated a hybrid system last year, and as the months went on, I could see the value of players being full-time and living in the area, and we are now trying to use that experience to further improve the way we work.

“It’s not only the structural rugby stuff, it’s also things like recovery and not having lads regularly travelling long distances in cars, and the fact they are with each other more definitely helps with bonding. I can see the team growing.

“Not only do they train together for longer, they also share a couple of apartments, which further develops that togetherness which is so important in any team sport.”


YORK CITY KNIGHTS loanee Ronan Michael says he’s settled in well and has a triple incentive to perform for James Ford’s side.

The 21-year-old is keen to help the minster-city club make the play-offs, secure a spot in the Ireland squad for the World Cup this Autumn and prove he’s worth a contract extension at parent club Huddersfield.

Michael – who is from Balbriggan, a coastal town 20 miles from Dublin, who in 2020, became the first Irish-born player to feature in Super League since Brian Carney back in 2009 – knows Giants coach Ian Watson will be monitoring his form.

Having been loaned to Whitehaven and Swinton last season, making 15 appearances in total, he started each of York’s first four Championship games.

He then helped them defeat Newcastle 42-13 at the LNER Stadium in round four of the Challenge Cup. That sealed Sunday’s fifth-round trip to Whitehaven, for whom he played four times.

Speaking to Rugby League World magazine, Michael, who played rugby union for the noted Clontarf club before joining the Huddersfield Academy at 17 and has already featured five times for Ireland, explained: “I see it as a really good opportunity for me to develop.

“It’s a World Cup year and I need to be playing games. That’s been made clear to me. I’ve had conversations with the Ireland coach (Stuart Littler).

“As a team, I think promotion is obviously the end goal, isn’t it? We want to get promoted to Super League.

“And it’s the last year on my (Huddersfield) contract. I’m positive that if I perform well at York, they’ll see the value in me and I’ll hopefully get re-sign.”

York have landed Leeds’ 18-year-old centre Levi Edwards on a season-long loan.
For the full Michael interview, see the March issue of Rugby League World, available now by visiting


BATLEY BULLDOGS winger Johnny Campbell reached 101 tries for the club as his double helped Craig Lingard’s side sail to a 66-6 home win over The Navy in the Challenge Cup fourth round.

It took the 34-year-old’s seasonal haul to six on his 190th appearance for the Heavy Woollen team, who will now host Featherstone on Sunday for the right to feature in a sixth-round draw which will include Super League sides other than Toulouse, who have not entered the competition.

Campbell first played for Batley between 2008-15, returning after a two-year stint at Bradford (seven tries in 19 outings) which included a loan spell at Keighley (three in three).

He scored eleven tries in 21 games last season, helping the Bulldogs make the play-off semi-finals and winning the Coach’s Player of the Year award.

While the Bulldogs notched twelve cup-tie tries, Lingard praised the services side, tweeting: “Outstanding effort representing the forces in the Challenge Cup.”

The fifth-round pairings mean Batley have successive games against Featherstone, who visit in the league on Sunday week, March 20.

Last season, Batley were beaten 30-22 at Rovers in the second round of the Challenge Cup, then lost 28-18 when the fixture was repeated in the league six days later.


DEWSBURY RAMS halfback Matty Beharrell’s satisfaction at reaching 1,000 career points was spoiled by his side’s 26-12 Challenge Cup fourth-round defeat at Workington.

Tetley’s Stadium coach Lee Greenwood signed the 27-year-old from Doncaster during the closed-season to replace retiring Liam Finn.

Beharrell recorded a try and two goals against Workington to take his Dewsbury haul to 20 points.

The Hull KR product notched 222 for Newcastle in 2014 and 2015, 13 for Swinton in 2016, 260 for Keighley, where he moved ahead of the 2017 season, and 485 for Doncaster, who signed him in July 2018.

Dewsbury, who host Newcastle on Sunday week, March 20, seeking a second win of the campaign, have signed former Sheffield and Featherstone winger Ben Blackmore.


FEATHERSTONE ROVERS coach Brian McDermott watched his side come through a tough Challenge Cup test at Halifax – then issued a salient warning ahead of the fifth-round tie at Batley on Sunday in what is the first of successive trips to the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium, with a league meeting with the Bulldogs to come on Sunday week, March 20.

The visitors were 16-0 ahead at half-time at The Shay – but were drawn into a scrap when the Panthers scored through former Featherstone player Louis Jouffret in their first set of the second half.

Rovers eventually won 29-16, and McDermott, twice a Challenge Cup winner as coach of Leeds, said: “We were probably guilty of thinking it might take them five or six sets to get into the game again, but they were really good in their first, and that surprised our players.

“I told them at half-time ‘It’s the Challenge Cup, matches always takes on a different feel’.

“That’s the way it worked out, and it’s something we need to take on board.”

Featherstone’s win also kept them in contention to participate in the 1895 Cup, which they won last season.


SHEFFIELD EAGLES coach Mark Aston wants to see a big improvement on his side’s Challenge Cup performance against Hunslet Club Parkside when they play North Wales Crusaders away in round five on Saturday.

It took a late points surge to see off the amateurs by a 40-20 margin at the South Leeds Stadium.

“I’m disappointed,” said Aston. “How we applied ourselves early on wasn’t good enough.

“I thought they were great, and a credit to the National Conference League. They had a real dig, which we knew they would do.

“But for most of the game we were nowhere near where we need to be. We made little impact and our game management was poor.”

Aston expects his versatile back Josh Guzdek to be out for four to six weeks after picking up a shoulder injury during the match.

A delay in the completion of the club’s new community stadium means the first match there will now be against Widnes on Monday, May 23.

They had been due to host London Broncos on Friday, April 15.

The club say information regarding that game and the scheduled home meeting with Newcastle a week later will follow.


WHITEHAVEN hope to impose home rule as they bid to make the sixth round of the Challenge Cup – which would also earn them a place in the 1895 Cup – and climb the Championship table.

Jonty Gorley’s side ended a run of three successive away games with a 60-0 win at League One Doncaster in the fourth round of the Challenge Cup, and are now awaiting Sunday’s fifth-round visit of York.

An LEL Arena league clash with Sheffield will follow on Sunday week, March 20.

Whitehaven beat York 37-12 the last time they visited, for a league game in June, but Gorley knows they are a different proposition this year.

The team chief was delighted with a second clean sheet of the campaign as well as the win at Doncaster, which was achieved without injured forwards James Newton, Glenn Riley and Kieran Hudson.

“We’ve only played in flashes so far this season, but once the penny drops with this squad, we will be fine and start to pick up wins,” he said.

The Cumbrian club last competed in the 1895 Cup in its inaugural year of 2019, losing 48-12 at Oldham in the first round.


WIDNES VIKINGS coach Simon Finnigan says his side were “taught a lesson” by Leigh as they slipped to a disappointing Challenge Cup fourth-round exit in from of the Premier Sports cameras.

The visiting Vikings – who complete a third successive Monday-evening television appearance when they host Barrow tonight (March 7) – lost 38-4.

It was a first defeat of the season after four league victories, and Finnigan admitted: “We were second-best in most areas.

“We were confident we could do something, but they had a purple patch at the beginning which we didn’t cope with.

“I thought we were getting back into it, but we didn’t start the second half very well.

“I think Leigh played as well as they have all season, and we were taught a lesson.”

Widnes say the actions of a “very small minority” of their fans who went onto the pitch after the final hooter could land the club in hot water.

“It has potentially serious implications,” they said in a statement.

“We would like to thank the majority of fans who travelled and behaved well.

“But we will now be in dialogue with the RFL to understand if there will be any sanction to the club due to the actions of a very small minority.

“As a club we cannot condone such actions and will fully support any potential investigation.”


WORKINGTON TOWN coach Chris Thorman was full of praise for his players’ resilience and determination as a 26-12 win over Dewsbury sealed Sunday’s Challenge Cup fifth-round derby at Barrow.

The Cumbrian sides were both promoted from League One last year, the former as champions and the latter through the play-offs, with their sole league meeting at the Matt Johnson Prestige Stadium drawn 24-24.

Town also went to Barrow this pre-season, and were beaten 24-12.

Alex Clegg, Dec O’Donnell, Perry Singleton and Caine Barnes scored tries while Jamie Doran landed five goals to down Dewsbury at Derwent Park and claim a first Workington win at the fourth attempt.

“With injuries and a suspension (for forward Evan Simons) we had only 17 players available,” said Thorman.

“They all contributed immensely to a very thorough performance.”

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