Bradford Bulls coach John Kear believes he could have a “very, very good” prop at his disposal should former Welsh international Anthony Walker complete a successful trial at the club.
The former St Helens, Wakefield, Whitehaven and Rochdale player had been training with the Bulls at the time of the lockdown, having been given the all clear to resume playing following a worrying brain condition.
Kear says that will extend to a formal trial once the lockdown restrictions are lifted and he has paid tribute to the work ethic of the 28 year old.
Kear said: “Ant has been training with us through the direction of the RFL and their medical department.
“He wanted to return to playing and we were assisting with his conditioning, and once the RFL gave us permission he started training with us.
“He has stayed true to his word and there will be a trial period with us once we’re able to resume playing.
“If he can be the player I know he can be again, then he’s certainly somebody we’d look to cement with us.
“I first worked with him when I started at Wales and then at Wakefield, and because he’s coached the Wales under-19s I’ve kept in contact with him.
“We’ve had a nice blossoming relationship and Ant’s been working hard.
“When he started with us he was around 126kgs, he’s now down to 115kgs and if we can get him to 112kgs or 110kgs then we have got a very, very good prop.
“Our conditioner Adam Simpson has done a great job with him and everyone has done everything by the book from the RFL point of view.”
Kear says his squad remains in good spirits through a series of online social get-togethers.
He added: “We had a quiz on Wednesday night via Zoom and it was great to see everybody’s faces together again.
“We’ve been working hard to ensure our physical preparation is good, but we also want to keep morale up.
“It’s a credit to (assistant coach) Mark Dunning who set everything up and it’s something we’ll continue to do.”
DEWSBURY RAMS conditioner Adam Mitchell has told the club’s players they can use the current lockdown period to gain an edge on their Championship rivals.
Mitchell has been impressed by the way Lee Greenwood’s squad have acquitted themselves after the coronavirus pandemic cut short their promising start to the season.
Mitchell said: “What I’ve said to the lads who are furloughed and not working is that this is a great opportunity for them to live like full-time players.
“There’s no point sulking about it and they won’t get this six weeks, or however long it ends up being, back again.
“Some of our squad have ambitions to go further than our team, and at the moment they can go to be early, get up and get all their gym work done without having to worry about work.
“It’s a great opportunity. They can’t socialise and go and get drunk, and what they do now can put them ahead of our opposition when we come back.
“Adam Ryder, who is one of our best trainers has got himself in phenomenal shape, and it’s like some of the lads have said, what else can they do?
“We had a really good start to the season and we’ve told them to come back and surprise teams again with how fit we are.”
Mitchell admits the differing circumstances of the Rams’ part-time squad means that training is easier for some than others, but he says everyone has bought into the ethos.
He added: “Morgan Punchard is working double time at the moment on the roads, but he’s still finding time to get out there and send me the stuff he’s done.
“We’ve always been quite a close-knit group anyway, but this year there’s something different and everyone has really bonded.
“Everyone’s just desperate to play now and the hardest part will probably be when we let them off the leash again.”
LEIGH CENTURIONS owner Derek Beaumont says Championship clubs have to be taken into account in the discussions over promotion and relegation in any revamped 2020 season.
Hull KR Chairman Neil Hudgell last week said he would be “crazy” to put more money in if relegation remains in a skewed season.
Beaumont, whose backing helped Leigh to promotion in 2016, says he understands that position, but that clubs in the Championship would be equally reluctant to invest should the door this season be shut.
“Neil is an intelligent guy who has put a lot of money in at Hull KR,” Beaumont told last week’s edition of Back Chat.
“He’s been down and survived it. There are a lot of similarities to my story and I have empathy for his situation and he does mine.
“If you look at the situation, we’re both faced with a decision.
“If somebody said to me the season was void and no promotion, I’m left in a situation where I’ve invested in a team I think is going to give us a good chance of getting up.
“I wouldn’t have spent that money on a team that can’t get promoted because it’s pointless.
“Similarly, Neil is faced with a decision where if the plug is going to go, he might as well pull it now before putting a load more money in.
“I appreciate there’s no certainty with Covid and when it’s going to end, so what we have to do is put some certainty around things we can control.
“We can control saying nobody is going to get relegated and we can control saying somebody is still going to get promotion.”
Beaumont has rejected a suggestion from one Super League administrator that would see that scenario happen, but then two teams be relegated in 2021.
Beaumont added: “I’ve been approached by a Super League Chairman about it being a 13-team competition and two go down the following year.
“I wouldn’t be keen on that because staying in Super League is a tough gig as I’ve found out twice before.
“But trying to stay in there by beating two other teams is even more difficult.
“If they were going to 13 with a view to 14 the year after that might be something to look at.
“The most important part of that conversation is that the decision is solely made by the RFL.
“It’s not a Super League decision, but one for the RFL to decide.”
WIDNES VIKINGS chief executive Phil Finney has led the tributes to Liz Hindley, a founder of supporter group WISSL, who passed away last week.
Hindley was secretary of the group, which, during the Vikings’ administration of 2019, stepped forward with a cheque of over £6,000 to take the club past the £100,000 mark.
In addition, at the 2019 Championship and League One awards night, Liz was named the FSA Community Champion of the Year.
The award was in recognition of her commitment and dedication to supporter engagement, not only for Widnes Vikings, but nationally through her role on the Supporters Direct Rugby League National Council.
She also supported the club in recent times through player sponsorship at first-team level through Musical Allsorts, sponsoring Chris Dean, Owen Farnworth, Joe Lyons and MacGraff Leuluai over the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Finney said on Wednesday: “We are devastated to learn of the news of Liz’s passing this morning.
“Liz has been a supporter of our club for decades, and the club today has truly lost one of its most dedicated and passionate fans.
“Being involved with WISSL, Liz has been instrumental in raising money and helping to support the club’s goals, both on and off the field.
“During our hour of need in 2019, Liz stepped forward to help without hesitation, raising thousands of pounds with WISSL to help us towards our target.
“Words cannot express our gratitude and thanks to Liz.
“Liz was a selfless individual who always put her love of Widnes Vikings above most things, and the club will never forget her outstanding contribution to her club.”
BATLEY BULLDOGS have placed an order for a plaque to remember their former hooker Archie Bruce at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium.
Money from the virtual half-time draw made when the club streamed a replay of the 1998 Trans-Pennine Cup final on Sunday was set to go towards the plaque.
The club has also released initial details of a book that will chart the rich history of the club.
“From the Mountaintop” is due to be released once the current coronavirus situation eases, as part of a heritage lottery-funded project.
The book is written by John Wroe and based on hundreds of hours of research from Kenny Pearson, along with thousands of hand written articles by Terry Swift.
Bulldogs coach Craig Lingard, who is also the head of the Heritage Project, said: “I would like to place on record my sincere thanks to John, Ken and Terry for their massive efforts and contributions to see this book published.”
Details of the book’s publication will be released by the club initially via social media.
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS chief executive David Longo has reported that the club has successfully secured two elements of funding to help it through the current situation.
Longo said: “During the past few weeks our club focus has been on two successful applications, one for the small business grant and the other application to HMRC for the job retention scheme.
“These positive applications will ensure the players and staff at Featherstone Rovers will receive their usual salaries, so when we do return our club is prepared and ready to go to continue its great work across the local community.
“In all of this, our number one priority is the health and safety of our supporters and our employees.”
SHEFFIELD EAGLES prop Scott Wheeldon was among a host of players to send their condolences to the family of Jordan Cox following his death last week.
Frontrower Cox played nine matches for the Eagles, all as a substitute, alongside Wheeldon in 2017.
The pair also played together for Hull Kingston Rovers in 2011 and 2012.
Wheeldon tweeted: “Awful news, rest in peace mate – sending condolences to family.”
The Eagles added that the club was “saddened” to hear the news after it was announced on Thursday afternoon.
SWINTON LIONS’ Supporters Trust chairman Stephen Parker has paid tribute to the club for keeping fans informed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Parker, who is the Trust’s representative on the Lions board, said: “We exchange regular emails and WhatsApp messages normally daily and this means that we are at all times fully aware of current club matters and decisions to be made and are importantly aware of RFL updates as they happen.
“A massive thanks has to go to as ever to our ever-present Steve Wild, who during these testing times is ensuring that this club is running as smoothly as possible.
“His commitment to the club continues to be outstanding and with the support of those sorting the finances out and the other directors we are ensuring that this club is in the best possible position for the future.”
HALIFAX have begun selling tickets for a virtual weekend of sport, comedy and music that aims to raise £50,000 for the club.
Halifax-based marketing agency Snowflake Media is looking to raise £100,000, with half of all money brought in going to the Championship club.
The event will take place over the weekend of May 9 and 10, and will feature some of Halifax’s leading players of the last 30 years.
All proceeds will be split between Fax and a grants programme for junior sports clubs in the Halifax area.
Tickets are available at www.ticketsource.co.uk/halifaxsos and more information can be found by searching Halifax SoS on social media.
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE will continue to liaise with the local authorities over what a four-month ban on French sport means for the club.
French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe last week announced that no sport would take place in the country until September.
That has raised doubts over Toulouse’s ability to fulfil their Championship fixtures should the competition start before then.
A club statement read: “Toulouse Olympique will liaise with the local government representatives to obtain more information about its particular case.
“Until then, no further announcement will be made.”
YORK CITY KNIGHTS have announced a new weekly lottery to raise funds for the club and help support and develop the game in the area.
Initially through an online ticketing system only, players can be in with a chance to win a minimum jackpot of £500 which grows each week if not won, and additional guaranteed weekly prizes.
Knights general manager Neil Gulliver said: “This new lottery will provide an opportunity as not only a vital source of income to help us sustain the work of the foundation and club across the area, but it has the potential to make a step change in the way we work.
“We know our army of fantastic fans will support this new scheme and I would ask them to spread the word to colleagues, families and friends to help us reach our potential.”
LONDON BRONCOS marked the 21st anniversary of their only Challenge Cup final appearance last week.
The club reached Wembley on May 1 1999, when they lost 52-16 to a Leroy Rivett-inspired Leeds Rhinos.
The Broncos asked supporters to shared memories of the historic occasion across their social media platforms.
The club also screened the memorable semi-final win from that year on Thursday, which saw Steele Retchless’ late try seal a thrilling win over Castleford at Headingley.
WHITEHAVEN coach Gary Charlton has criticised players who accept defeat too readily when they come off the pitch.
“The one thing that has changed since I played was that when we came off a rugby field after we’d lost, I’d be devastated for days – my missus knew the result as soon as she saw my face,” Charlton told League Express.
“Nowadays I watch lads coming off laughing and joking after losing – I know you’re with your mates, but you’ve just been beaten.
“I think a lot comes down to winning and losing bonuses being different now, and if things were more incentive based you might see a different kind of Rugby League player again.”