York City Knights coach James Ford did not expect his role with England Academy to continue in 2020, even before the coronavirus lockdown.
Ford and London Broncos number two Jamie Langley were assistants to Dave Elliott as England beat their Australian counterparts in a two-match series in 2018.
But a combination of Championship commitments and a desire to rotate the backroom staff meant that the pair would have remained with their clubs.
Ford has hailed the experience he had with Elliott’s squad though and highlighted what he learned from his Broncos counterpart.
Ford explained: “Going to Australia in the middle of the season would have been difficult for me and Jamie, and Dave wanted to rotate his coaches, which is fine.
“I had a great experience though and hopefully the next coach that gets a chance will be the same.
“It was a great thing to be involved in.
“I absolutely love England versus Australia stuff, whether it’s cricket, rugby or anything else.
“Danny Wilson, the head of youth at Hull, had spoken to Dave Elliott, and he recommended me and Jamie Langley for the job.
“Dave sent Paul Anderson along to watch a couple of sessions at York, we had a chat and I was appointed after that.
“I took a lot from it in terms of building strong relationships with staff and players.
“One example is with Callum McLelland, who was in the squad.
“I was coaching against him when we played Featherstone and we had a certain plan for him, with some detail, which wasn’t that pretty and you can imagine what it might entail.
“I ended up being really proud of how he stood up to it, even though it was against us, and that epitomised the relationships we had in that squad.
“I’ll also take a lot from working with Jamie Langley.
“We roomed together and would stay up late at night chatting about certain things.
“Before, I was very focused on my Rugby League content, in my sessions everything was about the ball.
“Jamie is a smart and well-read guy and he knew a lot about coaching behaviour and management, things like that, and suggested a few things for me to read as a follow-up.
“That has been a massive help and I wouldn’t have done that if it wasn’t for those late night chats with Jamie.”
SHEFFIELD EAGLES coach Mark Aston says that American international Corey Makelim would be welcomed back at the club “with open arms” after confirming he will return to Australia later this month.
The utility player joined Aston’s squad in 2018 and played a key role in last year’s historic 1895 Cup win over Widnes at Wembley.
That led to him penning a new two-year deal at the club, but a series of factors, including homesickness, has resulted in him and partner Lani deciding to return Down Under.
Aston said: “Of course we are deeply saddened to be losing Corey, but we are fully behind his decision.
“We’ve spoken at length about this over the past few weeks and it’s been a difficult time for him, so we completely understand why he’s chosen to head home.
“His partner is now out of work, they are missing their families back home and we can’t give a definitive date when lockdown will end, so we have no real idea when training and playing will recommence.
“I’ve no doubt this was a tough decision for him; he is a great bloke and excellent character to have around the place and he will leave a hole that will be difficult to fill.
“However, he must do what’s best for him and his own health and wellbeing and we support his move, albeit tinged with sadness that we’re losing him.
“He would be welcome back with open arms and hopefully, if he wishes to do so, he can carry on playing Rugby League to a good standard back in Australia and on the international stage for America.”
Makelim himself explained: “My partner and I had to make the difficult decision to go home due to a number of reasons that we’re out of our control and also feeling homesick through this time.
“Wembley was certainly my highlight, an unreal experience that I will cherish forever.
“I feel very grateful that I was able to experience this with everyone that was involved. “Thanks again, stay safe everyone and we’ll miss you all.”
DEWSBURY RAMS Chairman Mark Sawyer has welcomed confirmation that the club has secured support from Barclays Bank through the Government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).
The loan will help to secure the future of the club, providing flexible funding to meet fixed costs, so that the stadium and its facilities will still be there for players and fans once normality returns.
The funds will be used to help temporarily replace the cash flow lost from non-rugby-related facilities at the club, such as the 3G pitches, function rooms, non-rugby-stadium facility hire and other ancillary facilities.
Sawyer explained: “We were devastated to learn about the lockdown and the impact it would have on our historic club.
“We knew that we would still need to pay for utilities, insurance, maintenance, repairs, and contractual costs associated with running our own stadium and the many facilities we have available for use, and with no ticket income realised this would be a herculean challenge.
“Barclays stepped into the breach and we’re hugely grateful that they have been able to provide a CBIL facility which will support the club over the coming months.”
Dewsbury MP Mark Eastwood also hailed the news, adding: “I know how busy banks have been dealing with unprecedented high volumes of loan applications.
“So it’s great to see funding coming through for our local businesses and sports clubs, such as Dewsbury Rams, to help them get through this extremely challenging period.”
LEIGH CENTURIONS have donated £10,000 to help Wigan Borough’s COVID-19 response efforts.
The club last week handed over £10,000 to the Leigh hub, which will go towards supplying food and other essential items.
Centurions owner Derek Beaumont said: “The club is dependent on the community and I have always said we are just custodians of the club helping to steer it, so it’s important to ensure we help those most in need during these times.
“I’m delighted the club has made this pledge for a fantastic support system in Leigh’s community hub.
“The real champions are the staff and volunteers that are engaging with the public and transforming the money into something that makes a huge difference to people.”
The Council has received many contributions in recent weeks as the community rallies together to help those in need.
The leader of Wigan Council, David Molyneux, said the wide-ranging contributions have been a significant help to the borough’s community hubs and wider public services.
Molyneux said: “As with the volunteer effort across the borough, it is humbling to see so many people across many sectors offer time and support.
“The response we have seen from all sections of the community across the borough has been fantastic and we continue to be extremely grateful to every single business and organisation that has offered help in any way they can.”
SWINTON LIONS have issued a statement to supporters outlining the importance of good mental health and wellbeing.
Written by director and players welfare lead Stuart Fletcher, it urges fans to “treat wellbeing seriously”, stresses that supporters are not alone and explains the support that has been put in place for Stuart Littler’s squad.
Fletcher wrote: “A community feel and support is ingrained in the fabric of the club.
“The players and coaching staff that are used to training and playing together throughout the season are suddenly thrust into isolation, so it is crucial that support is established to maintain that team spirit ethos.
“This is maintained through social media, such as WhatsApp groups.
“Head coach Stuart Littler contacts all the players regularly to check on wellbeing and maintaining that close bond, so when the season resumes, from a playing perspective, the players are in the right frame of mind.
“The RFL as the governing body places players’ welfare at the forefront of the sport and I am proud to be the players’ welfare lead, which requires attendance at conferences and seminars plus accredited training courses.
“Using my experience of wellbeing from outside the sport, the players have access to many professional bodies and have a channel to raise any subject in confidence.
“Wellbeing is important to all Lions’ family and friends and I use a phrase that I emphasise: ‘It’s okay not to be okay and reach out for support’.
“I wish everyone connected to the Lions’ family to be safe, maintain government instructions and treat wellbeing seriously; you are not alone.”
OLDHAM Chairman Chris Hamilton says it’s “premature” and “not right” for people to be writing off promotion and relegation in 2020 before they know how the season will be concluded.
The debate over whether clubs will move between divisions has picked up pace in public in recent weeks, but Hamilton says more certainty is needed over the coming weeks before any decisions are made.
Speaking ahead of Boris Johnson’s Sunday night update, Hamilton said: “Inevitably with the disruption, that discussion point was always going to come up and nobody was surprised by that.
“But there has to be a sensible discussion that takes place once people in the relevant divisions know when and if and how we can start again.
“If there is a full competition taking place, why would you not have promotion and relegation?
“If there is a truncated season, then you’ve got a different proposition.
“But to just arbitrarily say it’s not fair we have relegation this season in my opinion is not right and is premature.”
BATEY BULLDOGS coach Craig Lingard says the plaque to remember former player Archie Bruce is a fitting tribute and a typical of the club’s approach.
Lingard said: “With any player that sadly passes away the club is keen to continue their memory – I remember them naming part of the terracing after Roy Powell.
“The club, Kevin Nicholas and the board are really conscious about the part the club plays in the local community and Archie was a young kid from the local area who played for Batley.
“It’s great to see what they’ve done and everyone in the local community bought into it. The ticket sales for the half-time draw that contributed to it doubled in sales from the week before.
“It’s a nice way to honour his memory.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS have raised £950 for the NHS charities through the sale of a specially designed training shirt.
The uniquely designed shirt was available to pre-order last week and Rovers sold 95 in total, with £10 from each sale going to the NHS Charities Together Campaign.
A Rovers statement read: “The club would like to thank the Rovers fans for their fantastic support around the NHS training shirt; your support means we can contribute to all the fantastic NHS staff who are working tirelessly across the country.
“We are looking forward to seeing you sporting your shirt when we can return to the Millennium Stadium.”
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE remain in “regular contact” with local authorities on the prospect of being able to play again this year.
Spectator sport in France has been banned until September, but there are hopes for both Toulouse and Catalans that they could yet stage matches behind closed doors in August.
A Toulouse spokesman said: “We should know more in the next couple of weeks.
“Our CEO is in regular contact with the local authorities and will get the information as soon as it is released.”
WIDNES VIKINGS have received a timely financial boost to the club’s foundation.
The Co-op last week donated £4,535.38 to support the work it does in the local community.
A club statement read: “We would like to say a huge thank you to the Co-op for their donation.
“The money raised by Co-op members through the Local Community Fund will help us continue to deliver life-changing programmes.”
HALIFAX saw a host of their most popular past players take part in a virtual weekend of sport, comedy and music that aimed to raise £50,000 for the club.
Halifax-based marketing agency Snowflake Media staged the event at the weekend, with all the proceeds to be split between Fax and a grants programme for junior sports clubs in the Halifax area.
Among the former Fax favourites taking part in web chats were Damian Gibson, Martin Moana, Jim Gannon and Gary Mercer.
Paralympian Hannah Cockcroft and performer Lizzie Jones also appeared in the event.
WHITEHAVEN coach Gary Charlton says any discussions about how the season will play out are pointless until government guidelines for sport become clearer.
Charlton said: “I know we have to be proactive and I know if you asked any Rugby League player if they wanted to get back out there they’d say yes.
“But it has to be safe and until we know that’s the case there’s nothing we can do.
“With Rugby League being the close-contact sport it is, we need to be certain that it’s safe to play again before talking about anything else.”