With ALEX DAVIS, LORRAINE MARSDEN & MATTHEW SHAW
BRADFORD BULLS coach John Kear has said his sights are firmly set on 2021 after final confirmation that the proposed Autumn competition will not take place.
The Bulls were one of only four clubs keen to play in the tournament and it was that lack of interest that has seen the idea shelved. The RFL is, however, considering the possibility of a redesigned 1895 Cup competition starting on Boxing Day to launch the season around six weeks earlier than the usual February start date.
“I am disappointed the tournament isn’t happening, but I understand the decision,” said Kear.
“We really wanted to play, but we can’t now, so we just have to focus on our pre-season.
“Now that a decision has been made on the competition we have a bit more certainty about what we’re doing. I know there is talk of a competition in December and January, but we have scheduled our pre-season start day, so we know when we’re coming back in, and we know the amount of work we’ll need to do prior to the league campaign.
“If there is a pre-season competition it will be a welcome distraction for us, but our focus is now on preparing really well for the Championship season ahead.”
Elsewhere, the Bulls have added some extra strength to their pack after signing Brad England from League 1 club Doncaster, as well as re-signing Anthony England from last year’s squad.
In his four years with the South Yorkshire club, the Castleford Academy product became a key feature in Richard Horne’s side and won their Player of the Year Award in 2018.
“I was aware of Brad as a junior at Castleford, and he’s a great player,” added Kear.
“When we were in League 1 Brad had a great couple of games against us. He was hard-working, tough and carried the ball well and that fits the profile of my kind of player.
“I am delighted to welcome him on board and we have some quality players in the back row now, so we’re delighted with were we’re at.
“Everybody who saw Anthony play early season games saw he is very tough, no nonsense, works hard and sets a lead for the younger players around him.
“We are delighted he is staying for another two years.”
SHEFFIELD EAGLES continued their impressive recruitment for 2021 with the re-signing of star winger Rob Worrincy.
Worrincy has put pen to paper on a new one-year deal after joining the club ahead of the 2020 season from Yorkshire rivals Dewsbury Rams.
“It has been disappointing how the 2020 season ended so we have got unfinished business,” Worrincy told the Eagles’ website.
“It was a difficult start for us, as we had new players in and a new structure, which we had to get used to.
“As we started to get used to the system, and also getting some good results, everything came to a stop.
“I can’t wait to get back out there and repay some of the faith the Eagles have shown in me.”
The club also retained the talents of Frankie Mariano, Brad Knowles and Rory Dixon last week.
Dixon, a former York City Knights player, will enter his third season in South Yorkshire in 2021 after initially starting his career in the Academy system in Castleford.
“He has come from good stock, out of the Castleford system, and he is a pleasure to coach,” Eagles coach Mark Aston said.
“What we have seen this year is a different Rory Dixon. He had a tough pre-season in 2019 with injury but still played a number of games, but how he started 2020 was great.
“I certainly saw it in glimpses last year too, especially against Toulouse at the OLP. Playing against a full-time team and he was one of the best players on that pitch.
“He is part of the future of Sheffield Eagles and if we do our jobs right as coaches, he will be one of our players for the next few years and that is how we build the consistency to win.”
YORK CITY KNIGHTS have landed North Wales Crusaders centre Tyme Nikau for the 2021 season.
Nikau, who is the son of former New Zealand international Tawera Nikau, signed for the Crusaders only days before the lockdown was announced and so hasn’t yet featured in British Rugby League after starting his career in the development squads of both Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors in the NRL.
“Tyme is a big athletic outside back who has shown lots of skill and physical qualities in the footage I’ve seen,” Knights coach James Ford said of his new signing.
“I was very impressed with Tyme’s maturity, character and drive when we met and I’m excited to work with him and help him fulfil his ambitions. Tyme will face stiff competition for a slot in our 17, but I’m sure that will bring out the best in him.”
Elsewhere, York have also secured Wakefield duo Daniel Barcoe and Harry Dodd.
Both have featured for Trinity in their Academy and reserves side and Ford is looking forward to working with the stars.
“Dan is a very lively hooker or halfback who has come highly recommended to us from Mark Applegarth (Mash) at Wakefield Trinity,” Ford continued.
“Mash was particularly positive around his character and his drive to be the best version of himself. Danny will be one of three hookers and he’s excited to learn and compete for a spot in our seventeen.”
“Harry is a young man that I’m really excited about working with. He demonstrated a high level of potential in Wakefield’s reserve side and I was very impressed with his maturity, commitment and drive when I met him.
“Harry will be competing with some experienced forwards for an opportunity, and it will be exciting to watch him develop and compete for a starting spot.”
Meanwhile, the club also announced the re-signings of both Perry Whiteley and Liam Salter ahead of next year’s Championship campaign.
DEWSBURY RAMS have secured their first new recruit in the shape of New Zealand born Bayley Liu from West Wales Raiders.
“Bayley wanted to move up North and progress in the game in this country,” said Dewsbury coach Lee Greenwood.
“Having done some homework and speaking to him, I was more than happy to give him the opportunity to prove himself.
“He has the ability and size to do well for us and can play in a few positions. I look forward to working with him.”
Elsewhere, five players from the current squad have also re-signed.
Sam Day, Adam Ryder, Joe Martin, Andy Gabriel and James Thornton have committed themselves to the club once again.
“Sam has blossomed from playing regularly and takes pride in his physical fitness,” added Greenwood.
“It means a lot to him when he puts the shirt on and he has a lot of potential to improve too.
“Adam is a quality player for us and he seems to have improved season on season during his career. I believe that can continue into next year.
“Joe has been impressive since joining us. He has always had potential, but just needed to settle at one club and in one position.
“Gabes has proved himself to be a Championship player since signing two years ago. He had to be patient in 2019 but ended up being our first-choice winger.
“James had started to nudge himself up the pecking order with his performances before lockdown. With his work rate and attitude, he has every chance of forcing himself in to the 17 on a more regular basis.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS coach James Webster is fully behind Alec Susino’s decision to remain in Australia rather than return to the club for 2021.
The prop returned to Australia to be near his family as the country went into lockdown in March.
“I thought Alec was really good for us in the front row and he has a big future in the game, but I fully understand his decision to stay in Australia,” said Webster.
“His partner was at university over here as well, but that course has been killed off now, so she had nothing to come back over for and was able to continue her studies over there.
“It really wasn’t feasible for them to come back over here.
“It is a shame to lose him and he has said he wishes he could have stayed with us.
“But he can’t and we wish him all the best.”
Conor Carey, who also retuned to Australia at the start of lockdown, will also remain down under, while Brandan French, Jack Richardson, Bradley Wright and Nathan Wright will not have their contracts renewed by the club.
Martyn Ridyard has been confirmed as a SWINTON LIONS player in 2021 in a move first revealed in League Express.
Ridyard joins the Lions from Leigh Centurions, a club he first joined back in 2009. The halfback also had spells with both Huddersfield and Featherstone in recent years.
““I am absolutely delighted to be joining the Lions,” Ridyard.
“I get on really well with the coaching staff, and in fact I’ve known both Stuart Littler and Allan Coleman since I was a young lad.
“Every player I’ve spoken to has had nothing but great things to say about Swinton as a club. The Lions play an attractive style with the ball and under Stuart they have become a very good side. I’m really excited by the challenge that lies ahead and I feel that I’ve still got plenty to offer, so hopefully I can help the team progress further. I’m now looking forward to a big year ahead and to getting started with the boys.”
Littler knows how important the experience Ridyard provides could be for his team in 2021.
“Martyn has done everything that you can possibly do at this level, having won the League, the Championship Player of the Year, and the Man of the Match in a Grand Final,” he said.
“In addition to that he has also had a successful spell in Super League at Huddersfield, as well as becoming one of the all-time leading points scorers at Leigh. That experience will be absolutely massive for us as a club as we continue to drive standards and expectations within our organisation.
“I am personally delighted Martyn decided to join us over several of our rivals, particularly as he is a family friend. He progressed through the system at Leigh Miners Rangers, which of course is the same community club that our assistant coach Allan Coleman and I came from.
“Martyn is very knowledgeable regarding team structures and we feel he will fit straight into our organisation. His experience and knowledge will assist him in helping to lead our players around the park. Martyn also has a very competent kicking game, both from hand and off the kicking tee, which is such a vital component of today’s game.”
The Lions also landed the young talent of Luis Roberts, who joins the club from Salford Red Devils last week, and the club re-signed Paddy Jones for the 2021 campaign.
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE coach Sylvain Houles believes the new start they offer to English players is one of the reasons why they are able to attract domestic talent from the English leagues across the English Channel.
Toulouse are welcoming Ben Reynolds to the club for 2021 and also announced that former University player Matt Ross will join the side to play in the club’s Elite 1 team.
“We give them a new start and a new perspective on life with their families here,” Houles said.
“A lot of players are looking for that and enjoying the sunshine too.
“Since a few players arrived at Catalans, big players like Leon Pryce, and we have a few like Daniel Hulme who used to play for Widnes and Joe Bretherton, others have followed, so we have a contingent of English players.
“They really like the culture that we create.”
While Ross has been signed to play in the domestic French competition, Houles admits there’s a chance that Ross and others could progress to play in the first team.
“There’s a chance for him to progress into the first team just like any other player.
“If he performs on the field and is consistent with his performances then why not?
“It’s up to him and all the players that they practise the best they can and deliver the best they can.”
LONDON BRONCOS coach Danny Ward admits the wait on news regarding next year’s budget is starting to wear thin as he is still unable to start contract talks with his players.
The 2020 squad benefited from the parachute payment the Broncos received after being relegated from Super League, but with the distribution of RFL money still not confirmed for 2021, the Broncos still do not know what budget they are working to for the new season.
“It’s getting frustrating because I’m trying to start planning for next year, but everything is a bit out of my control,” said Ward.
“I am hoping that we’ll get an idea of the budget we can work to in the next couple of weeks, but I’m just having to take each day as it comes.
“I have a good relationship with all the lads and I am trying to keep them up to date as well as I can.
“I have a lot of guys out of contract who are wanting to try and get signed up, but we’re still waiting for the green light from the boss and CEO to try and do that.
“Hopefully we can get them some answers sooner rather than later.”
OLDHAM have taken their 2021 squad up to 13 players after re-signing both Jack Spencer and Liam Bent.
Spencer has impressed in his five years at the club so far and has earned himself a new contract as a loyal, hard-working and respected member of the squad, and at 29-years-old he will be one of the more senior players in coach Matt Diskin’s team next year.
Bent regularly tops 50 tackles a game and was named Supporters’ Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019. The prop has scored eight tries in 70 games for the club since making his debut as a 19-year-old in 2017.
“We are delighted to have Jack on board again,” said Diskin.
“He has a good, positive attitude and fits in really well with the rest of the squad. He’s good to have in the dressing room and has great leadership skills.
“He’ll also complement other members of the squad who are a similar age to him.”
“Liam is a fantastic player who genuinely enjoys tackling. His work rate is phenomenal; he’s got to be fit to work like that.
“We are delighted to have him back on board.”
The duo now join Tommy Brierley, Cameron Leeming, Lewis Charnock, Dave Hewitt, Tyler Dupree, Luke Nelmes, Martyn Reilly, Matty Wilkinson, Gareth Owen, Danny Langtree and Matthew Fletcher in committing to the club for next season.
WHITEHAVEN hooker James Newton has committed his long-term future to the club by signing a new three-year deal at the Recreation Ground.
The 29-year-old first joined the club from Hull FC in 2013 and, apart from spending a year at Workington Town in 2018, has been at the club ever since, racking up over 160 games, scoring 29 tries.
“I’m over the moon to sign,” said Newton.
“Obviously I have spent a long time at this club now, I feel settled, my family loves coming here. This will tide me over now until I am what you would call a grandad in Rugby League.
“I’m looking forward to next season with the squad we are putting together.”
Assistant coach Jonty Gorley added: “Newts is a good signing for us. He brings experience to the squad.
“At the start of this season we had a chat with him about his game and he took it on board. You could see a difference in his game and he played well.
“With three hookers there’s plenty of competition for places, which can only be good.”
Ryan Shaw has signed a new deal with LEIGH CENTURIONS, committing himself to the end of the 2021 season with the Leythers.
Shaw joined the Centurions briefly in 2012 on dual-registration from Warrington before re-joining the club ahead of 2020.
“Even in the short time I’ve been at the club, I’ve enjoyed my time here and it’s a really tight knit group, which I like,” said Shaw.
“I think we would have given the Championship a really good go this year in normal circumstances and with the quality of signings we’ve made already for 2021, there’s no reason we can’t do the same next season.
“A lot of clubs have strengthened well in the Championship and many of them will be pushing for promotion, so we know it’s important to make a good start and take our chances.”
HALIFAX coach Simon Grix has thanked the club’s fans for their support during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The majority of the club’s season-ticked holders and sponsors have pledged their commitment to the club by not asking for refunds.
“I’d just like to say a big thank you to our unwavering sponsors and fans who have stuck by us throughout this strange period,” said Grix.
“Forgoing their hard-earned for no return is an unbelievable commitment to the club.
“This allows us to look forward to 2021 with optimism, as we aim to get back out on the pitch and really enjoy what we have all missed.
“I’m looking forward to seeing all the fans, old and new, back at our home in the very near future.”
BATLEY BULLDOGS have had a strong week of recruitment capped off by the re-signing of Wayne Reittie yesterday (Sunday).
Reittie has been with the club since 2014 after a previous spell with the Bulldogs in 2011 and will join new signing Kieran Buchanan at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium next year after the Hull FC centre was announced as a Bulldogs player from 2021.
Elsewhere, popular winger Jonny Campbell was also confirmed as a Bulldogs squad member for next year.
The DCBL Stadium, the home of the WIDNES VIKINGS, was the starting point for a charity walk to mark World Suicide Prevention Day on Thursday.
Ninety-four volunteers, representing the number of men who commit suicide each week in the UK, walked from the Vikings’ home to The Old Market Square in Warrington via the Halliwell Jones, Warrington Wolves’ home venue, with the hope of ending the stigma surrounding conversations about suicide while increasing awareness of mental health.
The challenge was organised and undertaken by members of Warrington Cares, a group set up to help highlight local mental health and wellbeing in the area.
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.