FEATHERSTONE ROVERS coach James Webster was set to take his first look at amateur international Gareth Gale against York on Sunday.
Winger or centre Gale was included in the squad after having previously trialled for the club in recent years before deciding to retain his amateur status.
Webster explained: “He’s come in from Fev Lions, after having just toured New Zealand.
“He can play wing or centre and is a big fast thing who’s done really well in the pre-season.
“He’s the same kind of frame and speed as Tom Johnstone is – I’m not saying he’s another Tom Johnstone, but that’s his build and he has electrifying pace.
“He trialled with the club when John Duffy was coach, I believe, but decided to stay in the amateur game as he wanted to tour with BARLA.”
Webster had six young Leeds players at his disposal for the York game, alongside season-long loan signing Wellington Albert.
The other Rhinos youngsters in the squad were Daniel Waite-Pullan, Tyler Dupree, Jarrod O’Connor, Louis McConnell, Liam Whitton and Harvey Spence.
League Express understands that prop Tom Holroyd, who featured three times in Super League last season, is also set to feature for them in 2020.
Hooker Dean Parata, meanwhile, could feature in the pre-season game with Hull Kingston Rovers later this month after undergoing minor ankle surgery.
Webster reported: “He’s started straight line running again now.
“We’re hoping he can play against Hull KR, but if not then the following week against Leeds.”
Rovers this week travel to Spain to take on Los Hurracanes on Saturday, with Brett Ferres, Craig Hall and Paul March going a day early to do promotional work in local schools.
SWINTON LIONS’ board of directors have called for unity among supporters as the club moves into a new era in 2020.
In a New Year’s message to fans, the club outlined the difficulties it has faced in recent months as well as praising the work of the last board led by Andy Mazey, four members of which are now at Rochdale.
It also explained the progress that has been made since their exit, with the overriding message being one for supporters to ensure there is no more division in the club moving forward.
The board statement read: “Over the last three and a half months, we have been working towards the future quietly, respectfully and diligently, alongside key partners such as our sponsors and the RFL.
“We have also begun to assemble a new board, through the efforts of which we have already been successful in meeting our immediate commercial and administrative targets.
“We will continue to expand our Board if persons of the right calibre and shared ambition come to the fore.
“Whilst we are not the best supported team in the Championship, we are far from the worst.
“In fact pound for pound we probably have the most loyal, innovative and ingenious fans in the entire Rugby League.
“The fact that we are still here, fighting, is testimony to that fact. We have a tremendously successful Supporters’ Trust, who provide all manner of financial and practical assistance, and added to this has been PrideBuilder, an incredibly successful venture and the envy of many clubs across the RFL.
“We also boast a dedicated group of media, administrative, and match day volunteers, too numerous to mention everyone here, but without whom our club could not function.
“An enormous thank you goes out to you all.
“But probably the most important part of this New Year message, is an appeal for unity.
“Our supporter base is simply not currently large enough to maintain division.
“Whatever your opinion regarding the proposed re-brand, for the sake of our great club and its future, please park those views and get behind Stuart (Littler) and his players and his backroom team.
“Surely these lads (and ladies) deserve that respect and your support.
“They are doing everything to bring success on the field, as is your Board of Directors, so please concentrate solely on getting behind the club that you love.”
OLDHAM have signed experienced forward Daniel Igbinedion to boost Matt Diskin’s pack ahead of the 2020 season.
The former Castleford, Featherstone, Sheffield and Dewsbury player featured 27 times for the Rams at Championship level in 2019.
That also saw him play alongside current Roughyeds Jode Sheriffe and Cameron Leeming,
Coach Diskin said: “He’s a good addition to the squad.
“He’s a big, strong lad, very athletic and a player who can give us additional power and go-forward.
“He’s also got a good offload.
“He’s got lots of Championship experience and I see him as a middle-channel man, who will complement the talents of our other forwards.”
Igbinedion himself added: “I’ll be 25 next month and I’ve got a fair bit of Championship experience, so I’m looking forward to a fresh start at Oldham.”
Igbinedion’s arrival was announced after the club’s 2020 squad numbers were revealed, which sees new signings Dan Abram, James Worthington and Lewis Charnock all handed starting 13 shirts.
Diskin said: “You can’t read too much into the numbers, but I have to say they’ve got them because they deserve them, based either on what they did last season or what they’ve done in pre-season training.
“They know, though, that they have to work hard week in and week out to keep hold of the positions that the numbers represent.”
Oldham 2020 squad numbers: 1 Dan Abram 2 Declan Kay, 3 James Worthington, 4 Cameron Leeming, 5 Kyran Johnson, 6 Lewis Charnock, 7 Dave Hewitt, 8 Phil Joy 9 Gareth Owen (capt), 10 Jack Spencer, 11 Danny Langtree, 12 Danny Bridge, 13 Liam Bent, 14 Matty Wilkinson, 15 Ben Davies, 16 Jode Sheriffe, 17 Ed Smith, 18 Adam Brook, 19 John Hutchings, 20 Harry Aaronson.
SHEFFIELD EAGLES had four players past or present in the RFL’s official Championship Team of the Decade announced last week.
Long serving Menzie Yere was named at centre with current halfback Anthony Thackeray securing a place on the bench.
Former Eagles frontrower duo Mitch Stringer and Eddie Battye were also included, with the latter among the substitutes.
The team in full was: Gregg McNally; Will Sharp, Steve Tyrer, Menzie Yere, Liam Kay; Scott Murrell, Martyn Ridyard; Mitch Stringer, Micky Higham, Steve Crossley, Tim Spears, Dane Manning, James Brown. Subs: Ryan Brierley, Andy Bostock, Eddie Battye, Anthony Thackeray.
WHITEHAVEN’S bid to bring an overseas halfback to the club for 2020 could have hit a stumbling block.
The club has been waiting for a visa for the unnamed player, but League Express understands his current club has offered him an increased contract to stay where he is, putting the deal into doubt.
Meanwhile the club has confirmed the kick-off time for the Ike Southward Memorial trophy clash with rivals Workington on January 19.
The match will now have a 2pm kick-off, an hour earlier than has been advertised in some places.
Coach Gary Charlton will have a strong squad for this week’s opening pre-season game against Newcastle, with just a handful of players unavailable through either work or holidays.
YORK CITY KNIGHTS coach James Ford was named both coach and at centre in the club’s Team of the Decade poll run on Twitter.
Ford was picked alongside current Hull KR threequarter Greg Minikin and also comprehensively topped the votes for the Knights’ coach of the last ten years.
Of his current side, Matty Marsh, Connor Robinson, Kriss Brining, Sam Scott and Tim Spears were also selected.
The Knights Team of the Decade in full – which attracted over 1,000 votes in 24 hours – was: Matty Marsh; Tom Lineham, Greg Minikin, James Ford, Tom Saxton; Connor Robinson, Chris Thorman, Graeme Horne, Kriss Brining, Jack Aldous, Joe Batchelor, Sam Scott, Tom Spears.
DEWSBURY RAMS have signed utility forward Rhys Davies for the 2020 season.
Coach Lee Greenwood said: “Rhys fully deserves to be rewarded after working hard and impressing in training.
“Through a combination of playing for us, Coventry Bears on dual-registration or for Hull KR reserves, he will get plenty of game time, which will see him develop.
“I’m looking forward to seeing him play at Keighley in our next friendly and he will be competing for a shirt in the 17 like everyone else.
“He has the potential to play at Championship level if he really wants it.”
BATLEY BULLDOGS are set to field their four triallists in Sunday’s pre-season clash with Hunslet.
Prop Nyle Flynn is poised to face his former club after having impressed as a late call up on Boxing Day against Dewsbury, along with centre Dom Horn.
Former Newcastle Thunder player Sam Bowring and Castleford Academy product Kain Riley have also been training with Craig Lingard’s squad in recent weeks.
Flynn was a late replacement for fellow prop Jo Taira against the Rams, with the latter missing the festive fixture after being forced to sit out training for a week through illness.
Fijian frontrower Taira should also come in against Hunslet, having now recovered to be back in good health.
WIDNES VIKINGS coach Tim Sheens says close-season signing Shane Grady is making progress in his recovery from a serious knee injury.
Sheens said: “Shane is still coming off his knee reconstruction but he’s doing good things in training.
“He’s not into contact yet, but we’re hoping he’ll be close by the start of the season.”
Sheens handed opportunities to a host of young and triallist players in Sunday’s pre-season game at Rochdale, having been impressed with their performance when they took on their Salford counterparts in a ‘bodies-in-front’ game over the Christmas period.
HALIFAX will be the latest Championship club to launch a new website following the conclusion of the deal between clubs and the RFL.
A Fax statement read: “This will mean there will be some disruption and lack of access to the website and online shop facilities whilst this change over takes place.
“There will be further amendments and changes to the new website as we progress into 2020, which is natural, but we trust you will find the new product better than the old one.”
Fax had Huddersfield duo Alfie Copley and Travis Corion in their squad to face Hull FC on dual-registration on Sunday as part of the new link-up between the clubs for 2020.
LEIGH CENTURIONS stepped up their pre-season preparations with a training away day at the weekend.
John Duffy’s squad visited the Anderton Centre near Chorley for a series of team building exercises.
The Centurions stayed overnight at the venue, which is regularly used by other sporting teams around the region.
They were also put through physical tests ahead of their opening pre-season match of the year at Salford this weekend.
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE coach Sylvain Houles has just two injury concerns in his squad ahead of the new season.
Winger Ilias Bergal and hooker Anthony Marion are both still unable to train fully following injuries sustained at the end of last season.
Both players are expected to miss the opening matches of the Championship season.
Houles is set to name his 2020 squad numbers in the next couple of weeks.