With ALEX DAVIS, LORRAINE MARSDEN & MATTHEW SHAW
LEIGH CENTURIONS have confirmed that they will take part in the RFL’s Autumn invitational tournament if it goes ahead.
The Centurions join Bradford as only the second club to officially enter the competition so far.
Leigh’s owner, Derek Beaumont, requested last week that all season ticket holders, who wished to have a refund, could contact the club. At the deadline on Friday, only 113 requests had been received.
“I am overwhelmed by the support of our fans and sponsors and this will be the making of the club and guarantees my continued investment,” Beaumont said.
“The club will now give the RFL the green light that Leigh Centurions wishes to take part in the Autumn competition and will also, with permission from the RFL, stream the games live to its season ticket holders that have not been refunded and also make available the games on a pay-per-view basis to non-season ticket holders.
“More importantly, I have today signed a Super League player and given John Duffy the green light to extend contracts of the existing squad along with confirmed offers for additional players to replace two we have lost and further strengthen the team.
“There are now exciting times ahead for Leigh Centurions and it is purely based on the support shown by the sponsors and season ticket holders that this is the route we will take.
“There won’t be much over at the end of the season with the draw down from costs but I will invest what I haven’t had to this season, along with what I would have done next season, giving us a boost to the playing budget. Quite simply I am leaving my money in, as the fans have chosen to for this year.
“There are some interesting players available at present and John is buzzing with the call he has just taken from me.
“Separate details in conjunction with the clubs concerned will be released in the coming days along with news of our signings of existing and new players as they happen.
“There’s never been a better time to be a Leyther.”
HALIFAX coach Simon Grix has assured his club’s supporters that their patience will be rewarded as its recruitment charge intensifies.
The club announced a string of departures last week, including long-standing fan favourites Scott Murrell and Steve Tyrer.
Tom Gilmore, Dan Fleming, Paul Brearley and Keegan Hirst were also confirmed to be leaving the club at the end of the year and the news has left a section of the fanbase concerned as they await official word on new recruits.
Halfbacks Connor Robinson and Liam Harris have both been heavily linked with a move to The Shay and, when questioned about their recruitment hopes, Grix said the club has several irons in the fire as he looks to assemble a strong squad for the 2021 campaign.
“If you want quality players they don’t just fall into your lap.
“The quality players have more suitors and more clubs chasing them, but they’re the players we want and it’s not just going to happen like that.
“But we’re working hard to get them and that’s what we’re aiming for, because there’s no point letting people leave if you’re going to get the same; we want to go out and get quality players.
“I can understand the furore with the departures, but we want to get them done and we’ll soon be putting out recruitment and retention information.
“With regards to retention, we’re well on the way. We’ll be keeping the vast majority of the squad we’ve currently got from the 2020 season.
“We’re doing plenty of work in the background and things are going well, so it’s just a case of having some patience, sticking with us, forgetting the doom and gloom and appreciating there’s a method behind what we’re doing, which is to put a team together that will be more than competitive next season.”
WIDNES VIKINGS have completed the signing of Halifax centre Steve Tyrer.
After being linked with Widnes several times during his career, the 31-year-old will finally make his move to the Vikings next season after nine seasons with Fax.
The West Yorkshire club confirmed his departure on Sunday. Tyrer enjoyed a superb career with Halifax in which he became their second-highest all-time points scorer.
Tyrer scored 1,984 points for Fax in 217 appearances, scoring 115 tries and 762 goals.
It appeared he would surpass the record held by Ronnie James, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented him chasing down his tally of 2,191 points.
Tyrer is the Vikings’ second capture in a week, after already confirming the signing of Castleford Tigers’ prop Matt Cook on Wednesday.
The 33-year-old opted to join Widnes after turning down interest from other Championship clubs, including Halifax and York City Knights.
However, his arrival was countered by the confirmed departures of Ted and Jay Chapelhow, who have both joined Ottawa Aces, alongside Widnes duo Sam Wilde and Pat Moran, who have also joined the Canadian club.
“One of the big reasons for me to sign at Widnes and not any other Championship club is that my dad is a born and bred Widnes lad,” Cook said.
“He’s chuffed to bits as well. He will be very proud when I finally make my debut for Widnes.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS coach James Webster has said an earlier start to next season could be a more suitable option for clubs than the proposed Autumn tournament.
Rovers have already confirmed they have pulled out of the Challenge Cup, but have yet to publicly state their intentions when it comes to the invitational tournament that could take place from October, subject to enough clubs agreeing to take part.
Only Leigh and Bradford have stated their intention to play in the ‘125th Anniversary Cup’ so far and if it doesn’t happen, Webster would not be opposed to starting next season before the turn of the year, rather than waiting until the usual February kick-off date.
“Is there enough appetite among clubs to play in that competition and is there enough prize money available to warrant bringing people off furlough, I’m not sure,” admitted Webster.
“If there isn’t, I’d like to see next season start early, maybe around Christmas time, and then finish a bit earlier. That might be a common-sense idea.
“There is no chance that Super League could do this, so if we did there is a real chance for the Championship to fill a real gap in the market and have some meaningful and competitive games over the festive period, rather than just friendlies.
“We all know how popular the Christmas period is for sport over here and if we had some big league games like Batley v Dewsbury and us playing Bradford or York, it would attract some big crowds, which would be a big help for clubs.
“It would also help clubs get some money in the coffers as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile Samoan international Fa’amanu Brown has agreed terms to sign with the club for 2021.
The 25-year-old initially agreed to sign for the club upon the resumption of the 2020 season, but with that now cancelled he will make the move next year instead.
LEVY Nzoungou is the latest player to commit to Bradford Bulls for 2021.
League Express can reveal the powerhouse prop has put pen to paper on a new contract with the club.
Nzoungou, who was born in Congo, joined the Bulls after a short spell in France with Albi.
A product of St Helens’ Academy, the 22-year-old earned a move to Melbourne Storm in 2017, but returned to Europe with Toulouse later that year. After spells with Salford and Hull FC, Nzoungou eventually made his way to Bradford ahead of this season and made six appearances before the lockdown and subsequent cancellation, scoring once.
He joins the likes of Joe Brown, Brandon Pickersgill and Sam Hallas in signing new contracts with the Bulls.
Rising star Brad Gallagher, who made his senior debut in 2019 and was an ever-present throughout the short-lived 2020 campaign, has also signed a new two-year deal.
“Brad is a really important signing for us and one of the youngsters who has emerged from the Academy to become an established first-team player,” coach John Kear said about the 20 year-old.
“He will become a very accomplished edge backrower and I am even happier that he has committed for two years, so we can help him develop further.
“He has been exceptional since coming into the first-team set up. He was given an opportunity and he has taken it, which is incredibly rewarding for the club and the Academy because he does not look out of place. That is credit to all involved.”
OLDHAM‘s recruitment is set to continue with the capture of Ben Heaton.
League Express understands the Roughyeds are close to completing a deal for the centre, who started his professional career with the club in 2009.
Heaton scored 20 tries in 48 games for the club before moving to Halifax, where he spent seven seasons and made over 130 appearances.
The 30-year-old moved to Hunslet in 2019 and crossed for eleven tries in 13 games.
But he is now set to return to Oldham as Matt Diskin continues to assemble a squad for next season.
Martyn Reilly is also on his way to the club next year from Dewsbury, as the Roughyeds look to make an early start on their recruitment drive.
“Players and agents are wanting to get deals done now so that everyone knows where they are,” said Oldham Chairman Chris Hamilton.
“That has been a big difference for us this year, because with not getting promoted until October we were left a little behind the eight-ball.
“A lot of the players we might have targeted for the Championship had already signed elsewhere, because they didn’t want to wait around in case we lost that game.
“That’s understandable, but this time we’re starting at the same time as everybody else, so recruitment will be the key for us.”
SHEFFIELD EAGLES have completed the signing of Batley Bulldogs forward Tyler Dickinson.
League Express can reveal that Eagles coach Mark Aston has made the move into the market to sign Dickinson, 23, a Huddersfield Giants Academy product.
With the Giants, Dickinson made 19 appearances before making the move to Batley ahead of the 2019 season.
He made 15 appearances for the Bulldogs last year, scoring twice.
The capture of Dickinson is Aston’s first known signing for next season.
DEWSBURY RAMS coach Lee Greenwood expects the club to make a decision this week on its involvement in the RFL’s proposed 125th Anniversary Cup invitational tournament this Autumn.
The club is still weighing up all the costs involved and whether it will be financially viable for them to take part. All clubs are required to declare their interest in taking part by Friday.
“We’re still just waiting to hear back on testing costs,” admitted Greenwood.
“We just want to play Rugby League, so we’re going to try and do that. Super League have shown it can be done, but we need to know what the testing costs are.
“If they’re affordable we’ll do it.
“If it’s going to be a huge financial loss for us, we’ll not enter, but if it only going to be a very small loss, or no loss at all, then we’ll enter.
“We still don’t even know the full financial breakdown though. So many teams have pulled out so if we can find out how the money will be broken down now, it might help us know what costs we can incur for testing.
“It all still a bit of an unknown and if we can’t give an answer by Friday, it’ll have to be negative.”
WHITEHAVEN coach Gary Charlton has said every option was looked at before the club decided not to take part in the 125th Anniversary Cup this autumn.
The costs involved and player welfare were behind the decision, but it still wasn’t one taken lightly for Charlton.
“I know the players want to play, but ultimately whatever decision we made had to be right for the club as well,” said Charlton.
“We’re not flushed with money and we had to look in every nook and cranny before making the decision.
“It is disappointing that we won’t play again this year, but at least we all know where we stand now and we can all look forward to 2021.”
LONDON BRONCOS coach Danny Ward has said he would not be opposed to any of his players temporarily leaving the club if they were handed opportunities to get some game time this season.
Many members of Ward’s current squad were at the club when they played in Super League last season, and the coach believes they could still do a job in the top-flight if any clubs were looking to bolster their numbers now that their season is up and running.
“I certainly wouldn’t stand in their way if a Super League club came and offered any of my players a loan opportunity,” said Ward.
“I have a fantastic squad and lads with Super League experience who could more than handle their own back at that level.
“If clubs were to come to talk to us about players, I wouldn’t want to stop them from gaining that experience. It would benefit them as players and us as a club in the long run.”
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE coach Sylvain Houles explained it was Mitch Garbutt’s big-game experience that drew him to signing the forward.
Garbutt joins the likes of Harrison Hansen in the south of France, arriving with Super League trophies and NRL games with teams such as Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos under his belt.
“Having someone with his experience is why we were interested,” Houles told League Express.
“He has played with big clubs in Australia and in England. To keep developing and to make sure we reach our goal to be in Super League, we’ll recruit players like Mitch who have been part of some winning teams. We started last year with Harrison Hansen and now we have Mitch.
“He was really keen to join us and we can’t wait to see how he fits in.”
Meanwhile, Toulouse have also signed Niue international Latrell Schaumkel from fellow French side Villeneuve.
The centre was the top scorer in the Elite 1 competition with 13 tries in eleven games, but will join the Championship club for 2021.
SWINTON LIONS centre Mitch Cox has become the latest to sign on the dotted line for next season.
Cox, who played in all five of the Lions’ games before the season was suspended, scored three tries in three consecutive games after his move from fellow Championship side Leigh Centurions and he is delighted to be staying in Greater Manchester.
“Despite the season being cut short, I enjoyed every minute of playing in a Lions’ shirt in 2020,” said Cox.
“I felt like we were coming into our stride as a team, and with the weather getting better we would have created real problems for opponents in our league.
“I’m now looking forward to carrying on in 2021 with the club this year, with the same ambition as when I started. I also want to keep improving myself as a player. The club has been really supportive over the last few months towards the squad, and I’m sure everyone is looking forward to getting back playing as much as I am and building on where we left off.”
Meanwhile, the Lions have also confirmed a new deal for winger Richard Lepori.
An Italian international player, Lepori joined Swinton midway through last year’s campaign.
“Richard is another player who has high goals and aims to achieve success at next year’s World Cup with Italy,” said Lions coach Stuart Littler.
“He pushes himself very hard every week and has a high energy output and work rate. He is consistently effective at enabling us to start our sets on the front foot. These energy levels should not be underestimated.”
BATELY BULLDOGS coach Craig Lingard isn’t confident that the RFL’s Autumn tournament for Championship and League 1 clubs will take place.
So far, only Leigh and Bradford have confirmed that they will take part, but Dewsbury and Featherstone are also considering entering.
A minimum number of eight clubs is required to make it viable with a round-robin set of fixtures to take place, but Lingard can’t see where those eight sides are coming from.
“They have said they need eight teams to make it a worthwhile competition and I am struggling now to see which eight teams are going to say yes,” Lingard told the Batley and Birstall News, before Leigh and Bradford confirmed their entry.
“Bradford and Leigh are in, potentially Dewsbury and maybe Featherstone and then ourselves but outside of them four teams, I can’t see any other teams who are likely to do it.
“The majority of teams have already made their decision and there are only a handful of teams who are yet to express what their thoughts are.
“It certainly looks unlikely that it is going to happen.”
YORK CITY KNIGHTS‘ foundation have set up a crowd funding page in order to raise funds for their new community room at the LNER community stadium.
While games can’t yet be played at the City Knights’ new stadium, the foundation is looking to raise £5,000 to kit out the new room, which will help them host their heritage collection, school tours of the ground, mental health programmes and Rugby League reminiscence sessions.
“2020 has been a difficult year for everyone and the Foundation is no different; the lockdown has meant we lost revenue from delivering sessions in schools, holiday clubs, FitKnight sessions and more,” their Facebook page says.
“This lost revenue is impacting our ability to kit out our community room at the new LNER community stadium, continuing the growth of the Foundation work over the last few years.
“Initially we would like to use funds raised through the 1868 club to fit out our community room at the new LNER Community stadium. This room will be used as the centre of activities for new and existing audiences of all ages to engage with physical activity, health & well being.”
Any donations can be made by visiting the website: https://localgiving.org/appeal/projectlegacy/
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