Widnes Vikings chief executive Phil Finney believes time should be taken to review the reserves competition following confirmation of its 2020 cancellation last week.
The Vikings were one of only three Championship clubs that secured entry to this year’s league alongside London Broncos and Bradford Bulls.
The formal competition will not now continue, and although clubs have been encouraged to arrange friendlies when possible, Finney says lessons should be learned from what has unfolded to date.
He told League Express: “As a club we are big advocates of youth development and developing a pathway first and foremost for local lads, but then also people further afield.
“Whilst we agree with the philosophy that there should be a reserve grade in place for the long-term development of players, there is a concern at present that there isn’t the volume of players to make the competition competitive enough, and we did make those suggestions at the start.
“It was only early days this year, but we had seen some big scorelines already.
“We would love to maintain a reserve team in future as part of the Category One Academy criteria, and have a vibrant pathway feeding into the first team.
“But we played some games where were we significantly beaten; Wigan really dominated us and Warrington did as well.
“The amount of experience that they had in their teams meant that it wasn’t a really good experience for us, Wigan or Warrington.
“There was never going to be a perfect solution in the first year, and I think that, following the pandemic, the right decision has been reached.
“But this could be a good time to review it.
“We have been quite open that we’d be more than happy to get together with another club or clubs and look at a more collaborative approach towards a reserve team.
“That could make sure that the appropriate people play in the reserves competition and that we don’t take too many out of the community game.
“I just think it needs more of a game-wide solution rather than one that suits certain clubs.”
OLDHAM Chairman Chris Hamilton has spoken about his relief at news last week that assistant coach Brendan Sheridan was able to return home from hospital after contracting Covid-19.
The former Dewsbury Celtic coach and Sheffield player spent three weeks at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, including two in intensive care.
During his time in ICU, Sheridan’s family and Hamilton were updated daily about his condition.
With help from the nurses on duty at any given time, his family was able to video-call him once he woke up.
Hamilton said: “The progress he has made over the last week is amazing.
“It wasn’t that long ago that I was speaking to his mum Denise and everybody still had their fingers crossed over what might happen.
“Since then the momentum of his recovery is remarkable, and people have been taken aback by it.
“The players and everybody at the club are chuffed that he’s been able to go back home.”
Sheridan appeared on Look North television news on Friday to express his thanks to the NHS for his treatment, a message that was posted on the Mid-Yorkshire NHS Trust website.
Sheridan said he was very humbled and very grateful to the “fantastic” people at Pinderfields for the hard work and dedication of all the staff at the Trust.
He also said that the effort that went into making sure patients got the best possible care was absolutely amazing.
Sheridan concluded: “A big thank-you to all the staff on ICU, Ward 20, across the hospital and out in the community for all you are doing to support patients.”
A club statement echoed his comments: “Roughyeds and their fans wish to acknowledge and support everything Brendan has said about the NHS and Pinderfields Hospital and to add to that their very best wishes for Shez’s continued recovery.”
Hamilton, meanwhile, has continued his own volunteering during the Coronavirus lockdown by signing up to schemes with local organisations Northern Care Alliance and Action Together.
BATLEY BULLDOGS have been holding training sessions for their players during the lockdown through the video-conference-calling App Zoom.
Mark Barlow has been holding conditioning sessions on a Tuesday and Thursday that 24 players and staff tuned into last week.
Coach Craig Lingard explained: “We’ve started doing fitness and cardio sessions a couple of times a week on Zoom.
“It’s been a good way to stay in contact and keep the players ticking over.
“They’ve included some core strength and body weight stuff, because not everybody has the weights equipment at their homes.
“The lads have been doing it in their living rooms and back gardens and hopefully it helps with their fitness, strength and stamina.
“I’m 42, but I’ve been doing the sessions, as have the other staff, including the physios.
“If the players can see us doing it, then there’s no excuse for them.
“It sounds like we’re over the top of this (the lockdown) now and are starting to come down the hill, so the lads need to make sure they come back in some kind of condition.
“Other sports are setting dates for restarting again, so there’s some light at the end of the tunnel, and these Zoom sessions will help their fitness before we return.”
Prop Shaun Pick has been able to take part, despite struggling with a neck injury before the sport closed down, and Lingard is hoping to have a fully fit squad when they are in a position to return.
And he has praised the club’s off-field work during the period of inactivity, with memorable Batley games of past years being shown online on Sundays, combined with a half-time draw for supporters.
Lingard added: “The old games on Sunday have been great, not only for Batley fans but the wider Rugby League community.
“The half-time Golden Gamble tickets have helped bring in a bit of money to keep the club ticking over, and I believe that so far everybody who’s won has donated the money back to the club, which is fantastic.
“The media team has been doing a really good job keep fans interested and engaged and there’s been plenty of good content out there.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS say they will still use the one-off 2020 Summer Bash shirt they produced, despite the event being cancelled last week.
The RFL formally confirmed the move last week following the postponement of the Magic Weekend.
A statement from the governing body read: “With all Rugby League activity currently suspended due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, the RFL and clubs have agreed there is no realistic prospect of staging the event as planned this year, so have made the decision for the clarity of clubs, players, supporters and other stakeholders.
“The concept of a round of fixtures being played at a single venue at some stage in 2020, whether in the Betfred Championship and/or League One, or the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup, remains one of the possibilities in the wide variety of options in the contingency planning being considered by the RFL and the clubs.”
Featherstone had planned to play in a shirt that marked their 1940 Yorkshire Cup win, the club’s first trophy.
Chief executive Davide Longo says that the kit will still be worn at some stage, when the club is able to play again.
Longo said: “It goes without saying that we are bitterly disappointed that this showcase event is postponed, but the sport has no other option in these exceptional times.
“The club fully supports the decision and all we can do is stay safe and hopefully return to play when the time is right.
“The specially produced 2020 Summer Bash kit, which marks the club’s first ever trophy win, will still be used once the season commences, but more details to follow in due course.”
Supporters from any club who have bought tickets for the Summer Bash in Blackpool from the RFL will be contacted directly and will now be entitled to a credit for a ticket to another major Rugby League event this year or in 2021, including the Rugby League World Cup or to a full refund.
Further details can be found on the RFL website.
LEIGH CENTURIONS have extended their condolences to the family of former player Andrew Collier, who has died at the age of 53.
Collier earned heritage number 1026 after joining the club during the summer of 1991 from Wigan, and he made 14 appearances in a memorable promotion season to the first division under Kevin Ashcroft.
A Centurions statement read: “A hard-working and industrious player, popular with his fellow team-mates, Andrew Collier made his Leigh debut in a 26-10 win against Ryedale-York at Hilton Park.
“That win over Ryedale-York was the catalyst for the most enjoyable of seasons for many long-standing Leigh supporters and Andrew Collier played a big part in the success.
“Having two players named Andrew Collier in the squad created some confusion and so the pair were distinguished by being named Andrew Collier Wigan and Andy Collier Leigh.”
Paying tribute to his old team-mate on social media, the latter wrote: “My thoughts go to my friend and namesake’s family at this sad time. Andy Collier was hard as nails on the pitch and a gentleman and entertainer off it. It was pleasure to know him. RIP pal.”
In a two-year stint with Leigh, Collier made a total of 20 appearances, scoring two tries while playing either at loose forward or in the second row.
The statement added: “He will be much missed by his family, friends and former team-mates. Sincere condolences from everyone at Leigh Centurions.”
LONDON BRONCOS coach Danny Ward has already seen enough from the return to reserve-team rugby to support its continuation, both at the club and across the sport.
The formal reserves competition for 2020 was cancelled last week, but Ward is still keen to arrange friendlies for the Broncos, once guidelines permit a return to playing.
Ward explained: “I’m a big fan of the reserves and really pushed for it coming back.
“We’re grateful that the club was able to support us to do that, because it’s massive down here with not having the same structures of lower league clubs and dual-registration that they have up north.
“I can understand why it’s been canned this year, but I still hope we can arrange some friendlies because we’ve already seen the benefits of it again.
“We invested some decent time and money into it and signed 13 lads just to play in the reserves.
“One of those, Will Blakemore, was one who came back to the club after we couldn’t keep him on once he left the under-19s, and he ended up making his first-team debut.
“He would have been lost to the game without the reserves and there are a lot of other players like that both here and everywhere.”
WHITEHAVEN coach Gary Charlton has paid tribute to his squad after they came together to raise funds for four local causes.
The Haven players carried out a series of fitness tests and challenges over the course of five days last week.
Starting on Monday, they each did a 5K road run, a 10K cycle ride, 200 squat thrusts, 300 push-ups and they finished on Friday by attempting to eat five boiled eggs without a drink.
The four charities are Scrub Hub, Hungry Caterpillar, Number11/Sandwich Man and Kebsi13.
Scrub Hub is a group of volunteers who have got together to make gowns for the NHS and Care Homes in Cumbria.
Number 11/The Sandwich Man and Hungry Caterpillar are providing meals to key workers throughout the area, not just NHS but other emergency services, care homes, postal workers and others.
Kebsi13 was set up by Ellenborough ARLFC to help support former player and coach, Kevin Gartland, who is battling Motor Neurone Disease.
Charlton said: “It’s been brilliant – the players have got together themselves and it shows what kind of team we’re got here.
“There’s also been a lot of work done by Des Byrne, who does so much for the club, and between him and the lads it’s been exceptional; they’ve even been putting their own money in.”
You can support the Whitehaven players at: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/wrl
DEWSBURY RAMS coach Lee Greenwood believes that a two-week lead-in to any return to playing would be sufficient, after being among the coaches to respond to an RFL survey on a host of lockdown issues.
Greenwood explained: “Once we do get the green light to play again I wouldn’t want to be doing six weeks training without a game.
“But there is safety to consider. If you go in with no contact work whatsoever then there’s a higher risk of injury.
“For me, two weeks would be long enough to be able to train and play again.
“But we’re all just speculating and nobody knows when we’ll be in a position to make that decision.”
SWINTON LIONS coach Stuart Littler expects to hear imminently whether his Ireland team will be playing in the planned European Championships later this year.
The equivalent under-19s tournament has already been shelved and Littler says player welfare must come first.
Littler said: “There was a Zoom meeting between all the countries and the RFL and the decision was set to be put to a vote this week.
“We have to see what the government comes up with and what the season looks like when we come back, because we could be playing until November.
“My concerns as a coach are the welfare of the players and what their expectations are, because next year’s we’ve got the World Cup and a massive focus is being able to peak at the right time.”
BRADFORD BULLS coach John Kear has been thinking outside the box to keep his players stimulated during the lockdown.
Kear has set his squad a series of drills that includes using bins for target practice as well as their running and bodyweight exercises.
He told the Telegraph and Argus: “We’ve given them some skill drills they can obviously do by themselves. We’ve had them targeting dustbins with their passing and so forth.
“I thought the days of the pass to the wheelie bin were long gone – it’s going back to when I lived down Wheldon Road and was passing against the wall.
“We’ve tried to be as inventive as we possibly can.”
HALIFAX managing director Dave Grayson has paid tribute to the club’s sponsors after a number of them stepped forward to help during the current period of inactivity.
Grayson used a detailed update on the club website to outline how several backers, headed by main sponsors Eclipse Energy, have offered their support.
Grayson said: “These are indeed unique times and affect us all.
“I have no doubt all those associated with Halifax RLFC will be anxious as to what will happen to this great club.
“Rest assured every possible action is and will be taken to secure its survival. We certainly are all in it together.”
The club has also extended its condolences to the family of Stuart Kelley, a former captain of Fax who passed away on Thursday April 23 from coronavirus, having been in poor health for some time, aged 78.
SHEFFIELD EAGLES have been posting photographs from the club and supporters chronicling its history on Facebook.
In a folder titled ‘Eagles Heritage 1984-Present’, fans have been encouraged to share their pictures of the club through the years.
It has included some of the earliest team pictures in the club’s history, plus the one from when the club was officially named.
There are also programmes from historic clashes with touring Australian teams, pictures from the 1998 Challenge Cup final win and several of the most iconic players to feature for the Eagles.
YORK CITY KNIGHTS forward Danny Washbrook has paid tribute to his former Hull team-mate Ewan Dowes and ex-Great Britain star Paul Sculthorpe for their charity cycling efforts, as he continues his own.
Washbrook is cycling the distance of the Tour de Yorkshire in his back garden in order to raise funds for NHS Charities Together and Dove House Hospice, cycling ten miles every day for 38 consecutive days.
Dowes and Sculthorpe did 26 consecutive hours on a watt bike over the weekend and Washbrook tweeted: “Ten miles per day for six days has my legs in tatters so no idea how you’ll feel after 26 hours straight – awesome job.”
To support Washbrook’s cause, visit: www.justgiving.com/team/dwashfundraising