Widnes Vikings chief executive Phil Finney says the club will look to hold its nerve again on recruitment for 2021 after seeing the benefit of that approach early this year.
The Vikings signed Super League duo Matty Smith and Logan Tomkins relatively late when assembling their squad under coach Tim Sheens.
The veteran Australia is already committed to 2021 along with around half-a-dozen players, and Finney insists the Vikings will take a measured approach to next year in difficult circumstances.
He explained: “With what happened in 2019 the majority of our players were on one-year contracts, and at the moment we’re in the process of establishing what our revenue streams will be next year.
“There’s uncertainty around the level of central funding we’ll receive, and from a club point of view we can’t be sure how much commercial and other revenue we’ll be able to generate.
“We’re communicating with players and agents and letting them know, but if I thought last year was tricky it was nothing compared to now.
“We’ve got about half-a-dozen players contracted for next year as it stands, and the priority for us is to make sure we have the pivotal positions covered so we’ve got something to build around.
“In the conversations we’ve been having with agents there’s a lot of uncertainty at Super League clubs over how they will cope with a reduced spend for next year, and what the fall out might be from a players point of view.
“Some agents think there could be 60 or 70 Super League players not retained next year with the reserves being suspended.
“If they become available there has to be an element of holding our nerve, and we benefited from that this year.
“Logan Tomkins and Matty Smith were signed quite late on. We could have recruited in those positions earlier but we held out to see if better quality became available, which it did.
“We won’t start to panic and commit to contracts too early, and will take our time to make sure we get it right.”
DEWSBURY RAMS coach Lee Greenwood says the club’s encouraging start to 2020 means that retaining his current squad is his priority when looking at next season.
The Rams won three of their opening four matches before the season was postponed, and Greenwood liked what he saw from his team until that point.
He said: “We had a bit of a culture change at the club and it looked like it was working, so there’s no real reason to be actively looking to bring a load of new players in.
“If we could keep the vast majority, if not all of the squad, then I’d be happy and that’s what we’d probably look to do.
“We were one of the lower spenders this year because of where we finished last year, so we weren’t spending huge amounts.
“There’s nothing to stop other clubs coming in if they were looking to stick their necks out and change their squads, but for me, I’d prefer to look in-house first and get those lads sorted.
“The hard thing is not knowing what the budget will be. Our original plan had been to try and finish above where we did last year and then look to bring extra players in or reward out current squad.
“We don’t know what we can and can’t spend yet and the last thing we would want is the club to be under threat because of contracts we can’t afford when it comes round to it.”
Greenwood has kept in touch with his squad over the situation.
He added: “I’ve spoken to them about what’s going on.
“Some of them have been on furlough, some haven’t stopped working and some weren’t working then went back.
“Like everyone else in the country they’re unsure what’s going on, and rugby usually gives them an outlet to come and train and play.
“They’ve not got that at the moment and are obviously missing it but we’ve no real news to give them yet.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS coach James Webster believes the club is in front of the vast majority of its peers in terms of squad planning for next year.
Webster says the club currently has 14 players already contracted for 2021, in direct contrast to almost every other club in the competition.
He explained: “Most of the players when I came had two-year deals.
“Traditionally we only run with a small squad so we’re probably only looking at six or seven more to add to that, with our Leeds connection helping to make up the rest.
“I’m not aware of anybody definitely leaving, and we’ve spoken to a couple of the younger people in our squad who wouldn’t affect the budget too much to stay.
“We’ll have to see what happens, but you have to feel for any player that’s off contract at the moment.
“It’s really hard for any club to work out what kind of budget they will have and that makes recruitment hard.
“There are players off contract that agents are throwing around at the moment, and there’s some quality about.
“But it’s very difficult when nobody knows what their budget will be or what the RFL distribution will be.”
SWINTON LIONS assistant coach Allan Coleman believes the help that he and captain Rhodri Lloyd have provided vulnerable people in the local area demonstrates the unity of the club.
Coleman initiated a scheme at the beginning of lockdown that offered to deliver food to any Lions supporters in Swinton and Sale, where they play their home games.
Coleman has a van that allows a passenger in at a safe social distance, and Lloyd has assisted him at times with the deliveries to fans.
Coleman explained: “I work in and around the Swinton and Salford area and when this started we put an appeal out to Swinton fans and people with a short media video, offering to do a few jobs to help.
“A lot of people haven’t got the family support that can be taken for granted, and the fans that we’ve done it for have been so appreciative.
“All we did really was buy some shopping for them and take it to them, but it meant a lot to them.
“Rugby is important to these people. Not everyone has got a lot of money but what they do have, they spend it on the enjoyment they get out of Rugby League.
“We have some real diehards at Swinton and this is the least we can do for them, given that they pay our wages, especially when they can’t see us play.
“Rhodri is a schoolteacher, so he had some free time available and he came out a few times with me to deliver some food.”
Coleman himself is eager to return to action once it is safe to do so.
He added: “I’ve missed it massively. I’m involved in the England Lions program as well and we should have been going to Italy for the Euros before it was postponed.
“The main thing is that everyone is safe, but I love Rugby League, I’m passionate about it and hopefully we can get back again.”
BATLEY BULLDOGS coach Craig Lingard expects the club to reduce its squad by up to five players next season as they look to reduce costs.
Chairman Kevin Nicholas has begun talks with existing players about new contracts at the Bulldogs, but Lingard knows there will be some difficult conversations at some stage.
He explained: “The Chairman has been ringing around players and working through that, but it’s difficult because nobody knows what the central distribution will be.
“Everybody seems to be mentioning 20 per cent, so we’ve been working loosely towards that, but there’s also the question of whether we’ll still have to be paying for testing next year to consider.
“We’re looking to get a core group of players together that we can get tied down and then hang fire on others for discussions at a later date.
“Nobody has said that they intend to retire or definitely leave the club, so there are going to have to be some difficult conversations because we will have to trim the squad.
“We’ve got 28 signed on players at the moment, and with less money next year I would think we’d run at 23 or 24.
“It’s inevitable that people will have to leave and move on. It’s professional sport and at some point we’re going to have to have those conversations.”
SHEFFIELD EAGLES Chairman Chris Noble has outlined the issues facing Championship clubs returning to play in 2020 in an open letter to supporters.
The club has a director on both working groups that have been looking into the possibility of restarting and they will have their findings discussed at a meeting of clubs and the RFL on Thursday.
Noble wrote: “The Championship has a multitude of challenges, some of which are not faced by the other divisions.
“We have a mixture of part and full-time teams and with that comes different trials and tribulations that we must overcome and unique and varying business models across the league.
“Several teams have invested significantly for promotion and I fully understand and sympathise with those clubs. Whilst we have face difficulties like all, I certainly do not envy their predicament.
“Government guidelines may change in the future but, as things stand, we would have to carry out a considerable amount of work at a substantial cost to the club for both returning to training and then subsequently playing matches.
“We remain open to all scenarios and continue to engage with the RFL, working groups meetings and other discussions as they occur. But our stance will be led by ensuring player and staff welfare is fully covered and a viable, secure future will be met for the club.”
HALIFAX are revamping the Squad Builder programme that has helped raise funds to sign players.
Fax are taking the initiative under their own control after supporters group Fax1 decided to close their account with membership falling significantly during the lockdown.
The move will also allow the club to involve local businesses in the scheme while offering a rewards system.
A Fax statement explained: “Halifax RLFC wish to put on record their appreciation for the work put into this by the three directors and the support Squad Builder received from the many members who supported it financially over the past two years.
“Their contributions have been significant to the club, supporting us and the coaching staff in our onfield recruitment, making the difference between signing and not signing players.
“The decision to bring Squad Builder into the club was the best solution for both parties, giving us a chance of a re-launch with increased marketing support, to try and drive the membership towards 1,000 and develop a rewards programme for members that gives them something back in return for their support.
“We are also going to extend the programme further into the commercial sector of Calderdale, giving businesses the opportunity to support Halifax RLFC directly as many of our sponsors currently do.
“All Squad Builder money will continue to be accounted for separately and ring fenced for the development of the playing squad.
“There is, of course, still a lot of work to do and with the financial challenges from the Covid-19 fallout, there is also a challenging financial gap to fill.
“We all want the best playing squad we can possibly have for Halifax RLFC.”
Further details on the scheme are expected in the coming weeks.
YORK CITY KNIGHTS Chairman Jon Flatman says the club has held dialogue with the developers of the new community stadium about the possibility of playing without crowds.
The facility needs to pass stadium safety tests, but some cannot be actioned when large gatherings are not permitted.
Flatman told the York Press: “We’re doing everything we can to ask questions around playing behind closed doors and when we can get in.
“This club and set of players and staff are excited, as fans are, about getting into that ground.
“We just want that to happen and everybody to have access to it as soon as possible.
“These are unprecedented times, so we need to respect that, but we’ve also got a real urge to get in there as soon as possible.”
LEIGH CENTURIONS captain Danny Addy says there is little point in restarting the Championship season unless promotion is at stake.
Addy told the Leigh Journal: “If there was no promotion or relegation it would be pretty pointless to start back.
“That is all we have wanted.
“I am not saying we don’t want to play, because all the lads are training hard; we take it every day as though we are going to start playing.
“From day one of pre-season we set ourselves a goal of promotion. We were only getting out of first gear when it all stopped, so it would be good to see where we could take ourselves.”
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE have continued their retention for 2021, with Lloyd White following Junior Vaivai in penning a new deal.
The 31-year-old Welsh international joined the French club ahead of the 2020 season after spending a year in Australia with Queensland Cup side Mackay Cutters
White said: “I’m happy to stay for at least another year.
“I love living in Toulouse; I cannot wait to discover more and improve my French.
“This season did not really go as planned, so if it were to stop I hope to catch up next year with promotion to Super League as our goal.”
OLDHAM Chairman Chris Hamilton has held talks with the club’s players over what could happen this year and next.
Hamilton said: “I’ve been in regular contact with them, and their main focus at the moment is wanting to know if we’re going to start again, which is totally understandable.
“Agents have started to get in touch, but we need to see what happens at this week’s meeting and if any decisions or indications come out of it.
“Everybody is second guessing figures at the moment, whether it’s central distribution, crowds or sponsorship.”
Meanwhile the club has launched a t-shirt that will see half of the profits donated to the NHS, with full details on their website.
LONDON BRONCOS have continued to offer unique fan-experience prizes to raise funds for the club during the lockdown.
The latest saw supporters given the chance to enter a draw where the winner spends a day playing against two Broncos players at mini-golf.
The prize includes food and drink and a special memento for the winner.
The draw costs £5 to enter and closed on Friday, and follows previous initiatives that included a day at training with Danny Ward’s squad.
WHITEHAVEN’S Vice Presidents’ Club has launched two more schemes to raise money for the club.
The first saw them produce facemasks with Haven’s crest on them, which sold out within a week, although they are going to contact suppliers about a repeat order.
They have also been selling A2 boards of Haven fans that are personalised and include supporters’ names in chocolate, blue and gold, which can act as a memento of the current season.
Full details of both products are available on the Vice Presidents’ Facebook page.