With ALEX DAVIS, LORRAINE MARSDEN & MATTHEW SHAW
Batley Bulldogs coach Craig Lingard has finally got his man after signing former Halifax hooker Ben Kaye, who was currently unattached.
The 31-year-old will be a more than suitable replacement for former Super League hooker Shaun Lunt, who has left the club to join Barrow Raiders.
“When we knew we were losing Shaun we knew we needed to bring another hooker in,” said Lingard.
“We’d tried to bring Ben in before but it didn’t work out, but thankfully we’ve managed to get him tied down this time around.
“He’s a real competitor and whenever you see him play he has that aggression and desire to win. That competitive nature makes him a horrible player to play against and defensively his line speed is good, he’s tough and aggressive in contact. He is also smart around the ruck.
“He’ll bring us a bit of leadership that we’ve lacked at times in the centre of the park.
“Ben has always played for top four or five Championship clubs, so he is used to playing in a winning team and always had the winning attributes. We’re now hoping he brings them to us.”
The club has also re-signed Alistair Leak, Jack Blagbrough, George Senior, Toby Everett and Michael Ward, while League Express understands the club has also struck a deal with former Hull FC youngster Kieran Buchanan.
The outside back has been released from the Super League club.
BRADFORD BULLS have confirmed the signing of Aaron Murphy from Huddersfield Giants, a move first reported in League Express last week.
Alongside fellow new recruit Danny Brough, Murphy was a member of the Giants’ squad that claimed the 2013 League Leaders Shield and he moves to Bradford on the back of a 13-year Super League career.
Murphy has played over 250 games for Wakefield Trinity and the Giants and the Bulls’ coach John Kear is delighted to get a major signing over the line.
“I feel he is one of biggest signings the club has made since I came in,” said Kear.
“He will add greatly to the group, because he is a real team before self player and he is the type of person we want to join the group.
“He is a warrior and leaves nothing at all on the pitch. He is key in the dressing room.
“He is very honest, hard working, tough and gives his all week in, week out. You don’t worry about him because he is consistently good.
“He has played in every position except halves and hooker, so not only is he a warrior, he is very versatile.
“It is another sign that the club is getting a reputation as a well-run club and he believes in the project, which is a very good sign. I feel there is absolutely no negative in the signing.”
OLDHAM have signed more Championship experience in the form of Shaun Pick, League Express understands.
The 26 year-old forward had spent time at Featherstone, Toronto and Sheffield before joining Batley Bulldogs at the start of the ill-fated 2020 season.
If the move is confirmed, Pick will join an ever-expanding squad at Oldham, which last week saw both Cameron Leeming and Gareth Owen both sign new one-year deals.
Centre Leeming joined the club mid-way through last season and went on to score five tries in ten games as they won promotion to the Championship.
Owen has captained the side for the last five seasons and, unless injured, has been the club’s first choice hooker since he joined in July 2014.
“We are delighted to have Cam back,” said Oldham coach Matt Diskin.
“He’s excellent for us across the back line, whether it be at centre or wing. He’s a big, athletic back who can quickly get us on the front foot.
“Gareth is captain of the club and very important to the squad and to the team.
“He’s genuinely passionate about the club, the team and the town and when a local lad cares like that and also has the experience and the ability that Gaz has, then he is naturally a very important member of the team and the club.
“We are delighted to have him on board again.”
SWINTON LIONS had a busy week on the signing front, bringing in centre Liam Forsyth from Leigh Centurions, as well as re-signing Jose Kenga and Ben Hayes.
24 year-old Forsyth previously made 24 appearances for the Lions whilst on dual-registration from Wigan between 2017 and 2019, scoring twelve tries.
The former Bath RUFC player also made 14 Super League appearances for Wigan, before joining the Centurions earlier this year.
“The signing of Liam Forsyth is an outstanding capture for our club,” said Lions coach Stuart Littler.
“He is an exceptional strike centre who has a very high try scoring ratio per games played, both whilst he was with us previously on dual-registration from Wigan and throughout his time at Leigh. He is at the right age and has a very bright future ahead of him.
“Liam has been involved in full-time and high-class environments throughout his career so far. He is another player who has played at Super League level and that experience will be a real bonus within our playing group.
“The re-signing of Jose Kenga is another great bit of recruitment news.
“He has been with us for two years now and has consistently asked for feedback about areas of his development. His knowledge base and understanding of the game has really developed throughout his time with us and he is becoming a bit of a student of the game.
“We are expecting further continued development over the course of his new contract and we know that Jose will be doing everything in his power in order to impress.
“Ben is an exciting talent who really does have the potential to have a big impact on our team.
“He came to us from the successful Thatto Heath club, having represented England at amateur level against the New Zealand Test team.
“He has been on a bit of a learning curve with us as he transitions into the professional game, but what he does possess is natural pace and that cannot be manufactured.
“He’s gaining confidence in both his position and his standing within our environment. He continues to strive to become the best he can be and we fully intend to support him in achieving all of his aims and goals.”
LEIGH CENTURIONS are pursuing Hull Kingston Rovers halfback Jamie Ellis.
The Centurions, who are planning a high-profile recruitment drive ahead of the 2021 season, have been in extensive talks with the halfback with a view to securing his talents next year.
Ellis is off-contract with the Robins at the end of the season and it appears a move to Leigh Sports Village next year is likely.
The 30-year-old, who played for Rovers as they were promoted from the Championship in 2017, had a one-year spell as a Leyther back in 2011.
Since then he has played in Super League for Castleford, Hull FC and Huddersfield before returning to the Robins this year.
Leigh have already confirmed the signing of Scotland international Adam Walker for next season and owner Derek Beaumont is gearing up for a significant Super League push next year.
Blake Wallace, the Toronto Wolfpack halfback, has also been linked with a move to the club and more could yet follow.
FEATHERSTONE have commended the loyalty of their supporters after 97 per cent decided against asking for refunds on 2020 season tickets.
Rovers’ CEO Davide Longo said: “It has been an extremely challenging time for everyone; the Coronavirus pandemic has caused heartache in many ways, but our loyal supporters have demonstrated what Featherstone Rovers means to them by donating their funds back to the club.
“On behalf of Featherstone Rovers, I thank you all for the generosity shown to the club and look forward to seeing you all back very soon in what will be the clubs centenary year in 2021.”
On the pitch, it’s understood Callum Field has completed a move to the Rovers next year from Leigh Centurions.
He’ll be joined at the club by Frankie Halton, who has completed a move to Featherstone from Swinton.
WIDNES VIKINGS have added more Super League experience to their ranks with the signing of Paul Clough from Huddersfield Giants, while on the opposite end of the scale 21-year-old Lloyd Roby has committed his future to the club with a new one year-deal.
Clough, 32, has made over 250 appearances in the top-flight, with 14 of those coming for Widnes while on loan from St Helens in 2014. He also has Championship experience with Bradford Bulls.
Following an early release from his Giants’ contract, Clough is excited to link back up with the Vikings and their coach Tim Sheens ahead of pre-season.
“Having spoken to Tim he seems like a really good bloke and he mapped out where he wants to take the club, along with his plans for me personally, which really appealed to me,” said Clough.
“I had a few bits of interest from elsewhere, but after one chat with Tim, who was pretty clear and precise with what he wanted and the vision he has, it was an easy decision in the end.
“There was a real good set of lads at Widnes during my loan spell, and some of them are still there now. The fans are very passionate and have supported them through thick and thin, while the facilities are up there with some Super League clubs, never mind Championship. The set-up is really good and the fans are really good, so it was an easy decision to come back.
“I’m really looking forward to getting started now and getting to know everyone.”
Elsewhere, Academy-product Roby is eager to keep learning from the former coach of the Kangaroos.
“Working with Tim was something I was really looking forward to when I signed my contract last season, and I’m excited to continue learning from one of the best coaches in the sport,” Roby said.
“Now that everything is signed and confirmed, I can’t wait to get back out there and pull on the Widnes colours in front of our supporters.”
LONDON BRONCOS coach Danny Ward is wanting some clarity over next season’s RFL Distribution money so that he can start finalising his squad for 2021.
The Broncos already have around 14 contracted next year, but the same number again are off-contract and Ward wants to move quickly to re-sign them before he loses too many more.
Matty Fozard and Olly Ashall-Bott have already left and taken up contracts with Ottawa Aces.
“We can’t do much until we know about the funding for next year,” said Ward.
“Everything is on pause, which is quite frustrating.
“We had a pretty good squad this year, so we’d like to keep hold of the majority of those that are out of contract.
“It is disappointing to lose Fozzy and Olly, but I totally understand their reasoning. I was in conversation with them throughout and told them that I wanted to keep them for next year, but we weren’t able to offer them anything at that time.
“That’s just the game and if other clubs come in for them in the meantime, they have to look after their own future.
“I totally get that, but it’s frustrating that we still don’t know what offers we can make. The longer it drags on the more it puts players in a position where they have to look at their future elsewhere.”
HALIFAX‘s retention policy has continued with the re-signings of James Saltonstall and James Woodburn-Hall.
Both players have signed new deals as Fax coach Simon Grix continues to shape his squad for the upcoming season.
Italy international Saltonstall has become a regular at The Shay and impressed at centre this season.
Woodburn-Hall, meanwhile, has played in a variety of positions and memorably played a crucial role in Fax’s quarter-final victory against Bradford in last year’s Challenge Cup, scoring the try that sent the club into the final four for the first time since 1988.
“A little less than 12 months ago, James (Saltonstall) and I had a conversation about the need for him to start looking after himself for the betterment of himself and the team,” Grix said.
“He took it on board and came back with a great attitude throughout pre-season, leading to a couple of great performances early in 2020. He loves playing for this club and I’m looking forward to seeing the same commitment in 2021.”
Fax are thought to be on the lookout for some middles to beef up their squad.
YORK CITY KNIGHTS hooker Will Jubb admits the excitement is rising over the prospect of finally playing at the new LNER Community Stadium.
The Knights had been hoping to be in the new stadium this season, but with the pandemic putting paid to that, they are now aiming to be in there for the start of the 2021 season, as long as the necessary test events have taken place.
“I’m really excited to play there,” Jubb told the club website.
“It looks absolutely magnificent and the facilities are fantastic. It’s another way the club is growing and expanding and it’s a testament to the club that we are able to have something like that built.
“It’s a really positive move and to be able to play in a stadium like that regularly will be a real privilege.”
BASTIEN Ader will head into his tenth season with Toulouse Olympique in 2021 after signing a new deal with the club.
The French international centre arrived at the club in 2011 and has since made more than 150 first-team appearances.
Now the 29-year-old is looking to celebrate his decade at the club in the best way possible.
“I am happy to continue the adventure with the TO for the tenth consecutive year,” he said.
“With the disappointment of last season, we are all the more motivated to return to competition and achieve our goal – the Super League.”
WHITEHAVEN could find themselves with one of the best pitches in the league next season thanks to the efforts of die-hard supporter Shaun Drinkwater.
The fan has been an active fundraiser for the club for many years and his efforts during the Covid-19 lockdown has raised enough cash to purchase a new tractor for the club’s ground staff.
“On behalf of myself and the groundstaff I would like to put on record my appreciation for the support and gratitude to the fundraisers who have enabled us to upgrade our machinery,” said groundsman Tommy Johnson.
DEWSBURY are mourning the death of former player Greg Ashcroft, who passed away last week.
Ashcroft was part of the 1973 Championship winning side, playing a prominent role on the wing.
On the recruitment front the Rams are one of just a few clubs yet to confirm a signing for next season.
Luke Nelmes and Tommy Brierley are both departing, but few changes are expected within Lee Greenwood’s squad next season.
SHEFFIELD EAGLES‘ retention for next season has started with forward Blake Broadbent.
The local forward has been a regular since debuting in 2018 and has now signed a new one-year deal with the club.
The son of former Eagles captain Paul Broadbent, he will now continue his development under Mark Aston.
“His attitude and commitment, without a shadow of a doubt, is the key to his success,” said head coach Mark Aston.
“It’s no different to when Paul came through the system with me and he went on to be a Great Britain international.
“Blake played seven games in his first year, played 20-odd last year and with the way he started this season I’m sure he’d have got up to that mark again.
“He is one of our own like a few others, and it’s something we are immensely proud of.”
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