With ALEX DAVIS, LORRAINE MARSDEN & MATTHEW SHAW
YORK CITY KNIGHTS have completed new deals for Jordan Baldwinson, Jack Teanby, Kriss Brining, Jason Bass and Sam Scott, and they have also announced the signing of Challenge Cup winner Ryan Atkins, as first revealed in League Express.
Atkins will join the club in 2021 from Wakefield Trinity after playing more than 300 Super League games and winning the Challenge Cup twice with Warrington Wolves. The veteran centre is looking forward to helping the Knights move forward.
“I want to help develop the club’s culture with the players, make that a winning culture and make winning a habit,” he explained.
“I think my role will be to pass on my knowledge of what I know has worked at successful, winning teams at Warrington and lead by example.”
Atkins was also impressed with the facilities that will be at the club’s disposal at its new home.
“It’s one of the best facilities I’ve had a walk around and that’s even involving Super League clubs,” added Atkins.
“It’s next level and it’d only be fitting if we got the club promoted and we were playing Super League in there.
“I’m looking forward to playing in the new stadium in front of the fans when we get in there. I know the attendances at Bootham Crescent have been great and going up over the years, so let’s hope that continues.”
The club’s squad for next season now numbers 17 players, with the latest wave of signings having plenty of Super League experience.
“The squad has got a great balance. There’s youth and excitement, a desire to prove they’re Championship players and can kick on into Super League, and then we’ve got some old heads there like myself who are there as the calming bodies, able to offer advice.
“I plan on going out with a bang and there’ll be nothing left in the tank.
“Every game you’ll see strong carries, some big hits and some tries – and my tongue sticking out in my try celebration!
“Winning or losing becomes a habit, so I want to make sure we can kick on with a winning habit.
“I’ll certainly be giving it my all, I’m not ready to go out or hang the boots up yet.
“I want to help York City Knights get promoted into Super League, where I feel they’re capable of playing and, with the facilities, it’s where they deserve to be.”
BRADFORD BULLS coach John Kear believes it may well be a case of quality over quantity next year as his 2021 squad continues to take shape.
The latest confirmed name in Kear’s squad is George Flanagan, who has signed a new one-year deal at his boyhood club.
As well as a number of the current squad already committing themselves to the club next year, Kear has also recruited Super League experience in Danny Brough and Aaron Murphy, while Brad England comes in from Doncaster and adds extra firepower to the pack.
“It will be a smaller squad next year, but some might argue it will be a higher quality squad,” said Kear.
“I’m not so sure about that, as I felt we were going pretty well this year and we don’t know where we’d have ended up.
“But what we do know is that we are very confident about what we have got for next season. We feel we will be strong and among the frontrunners in the league.
“George is a part of our group that adds something on and off the field. He has been tremendous regarding his leadership and on the field of play he offers a great deal.
“We have very good hookers and are blessed in this position.
“We have a nice blend of experienced established players, young established players and young emerging players. It is a good mix; we need to get it right and I am sure we have.”
LONDON BRONCOS coach Danny Ward admits the club could rethink its participation in the 1895 Cup in 2021, if it meant they could restart next season earlier than normal.
The Broncos were in Super League when the new Cup was launched in 2019, but decided not to partake in the competition this year once they had returned to the Championship.
But with the RFL now proposing that the 2021 season would get underway with that tournament kicking off over the festive period, it may be an option the club considers.
“We’d play tomorrow if we could,” admitted Ward.
“Everyone just wants to get back training and playing, but I don’t know how that is going to look next year.
“We weren’t down to enter the 1895 Cup this year so I don’t know where the club will stand on entering it next season.
“It’s a difficult one, because if you are playing competitive games in December it does affect your pre-season and how you’d normally plan for it. Then if you’re playing right through until September or October it makes for a really long season.
“It would be great to get some competitive games in as soon as possible, but we will have to weigh everything up. It makes for a long season and disrupts what you’d normally be used to, but these aren’t normal times so we have to adapt and find new ways for what works best.”
OLDHAM fans’ favourite Phil Joy could be in line to celebrate a testimonial campaign with the club after signing a new two-year deal with the Roughyeds.
The new contract will run until the end of the 2022 season, which will also be the 29-year-old’s tenth straight season at senior level with the club.
“Phil is a Roughyeds stalwart,” said Oldham coach Matt Diskin.
“He’s pretty close to a testimonial and he deserves it. He’s a cornerstone of the club and in my short time in charge in the early part of this year I would say he was our stand-out forward in terms of metres made and strength in contact.
“We’ve made no secret of our plans to go for a big, strong, robust pack in 2021 and Phil will be a massive part of that.”
Dan Abram has also committed himself to the club for next season.
“We were delighted to sign Dan last year and the fact that we were keen to keep him says a lot about him,” added Diskin.
“He’s a talented kid who can play equally well at fullback and at halfback, so he gives us options when we’re looking for someone who can use the ball coming out of the back.
“Competition for places will bring out the best in him. He has loads and loads of potential and I’m delighted to have him on board again.”
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE coach Sylvain Houles revealed that the club has set a date for the return of the club’s players to pre-season.
The French side stated from the beginning of lockdown that they would prefer to bring the players back into training earlier, rather than partake in the proposed autumn invitational tournament, which has since been cancelled.
The Toulouse players are set to head back into training on 19th October, but Houles admits that is open to change.
“There are a lot of unknowns and uncertainty that distracts us a bit and that’s why we want to put a date on it,” Houles told League Express.
“We have talked about it within the club to give us the best option and the best performance for 2021.
“Whatever happens, we will be flexible on that, and we aim for the 19th October. But when the RFL gives us the date of the start of the season, we might adjust that date.”
JUNIOR SA’U will represent LEIGH CENTURIONS in 2021 after signing a contract extension with the club.
The dual-international centre signed with the Centurions from Salford last year after featuring for Newcastle Knights and Melbourne Storm in the NRL.
“I feel like I’ve got unfinished business at Leigh,” said Sa’u.
“I was so looking forward to 2020 after a good pre-season and the group we had was very tight and everyone got along.
“This is a chance to make up for lost time and we will all be working hard to reach our ultimate goal, which is promotion to Super League. I’m looking forward to returning to pre-season training so much and giving it another crack again. The main thing I love about being at Leigh is how everyone gets along, because we all want to achieve the same things.”
Leigh coach John Duffy is especially looking forward to working with one of the stars of his squad.
“Junior is a real good professional and great to have around the place. He’s a massive help to the younger players,” said Duffy.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing him get a full season with us, because he’s not had that opportunity yet. He has great experience and played in some big matches during his career.
“During lockdown, Junior has got himself into the shape of his life – it’s like he’s become addicted to training! I’m really excited to see him play again and he is another big signing for us.”
Elsewhere, the club’s weekly draw, SuperLeigh, returned on Friday after the Covid-19 pandemic forced its suspension in March.
BATLEY BULLDOGS have signed Workington Town winger Elliot Hall for 2021.
Hall started his Rugby League career at the age of 18 when he began attending Loughborough University.
As well as featuring for both the South of England University Origin side and the English University team, Hall played for both London Skolars and Coventry Bears in League 1, racking up 17 tries for the Bears in only 20 appearances before moving north to Cumbria.
“He’s a very exciting player, with bags of pace and skill and a fantastic attitude. A fantastic addition to the group,” Batley Bulldogs coach, Craig Lingard said after capturing his man, who scored six tries in 2020 before play was suspended.
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS coach James Webster has confirmed that most of his business is now complete and there will be very few, if any changes, to his squad ahead of the 2021 season getting underway.
As well re-signing a number of their out-of-contract players, the Rovers have brought in some new faces in Nu Brown, Frankie Halton, Callum Field, Joe Summers, Jacob Doyle, Loui McConnell and Liam Whitton.
“There is not much more to do for us now,” said Webster.
“Maybe there is just one or two more to add, but we’re more or less there now and I’m pretty sure we’re reasonably close to what we’ll have at the start of 2021.
“A lot of players were here on two-year deals, so we already had a lot more signed on for 2021 than a lot of other clubs.
“I am really happy with how the squad is looking. We’re looking younger and hungrier for next year and I always believe you’ve got to have people who want to prove a point and make it in whatever field they’re in. We’re in a highly competitive field, so we were keen to have a look at any young and hungry players.
“We’ve done some good business, so we now just have to wait and see how they all go.”
DEWSBURY RAMS have continued to build their 2021 squad with seven more players signing new deals.
The only new face among them is prop forward Jordan Schofield, who steps into the Championship after having played in the Wakefield Academy for the last four years.
“Jordan comes with some good recommendations,” said Rams coach Lee Greenwood.
“He has time on his side to establish himself as a Championship frontrower, but he has the attributes to do well next season.
“Pre-season is important for him, where he will be training and playing against men. From what I have seen and heard I think he will fit in well here at Dewsbury.”
In addition, Michael Knowles, Rhys Davies, Jon Magrin, Matty Fleming, Liam Finn and Paul Sykes will all be back at the Tetley’s Stadium next season after agreeing new deals.
WHITEHAVEN have added a second overseas signing to their ranks for 2021, having signed New Zealander Nikau Williams from Newtown Jets.
The 20-year-old scrum-half, who has signed a one-year deal at the Recreation Ground, started playing Rugby League in Auckland before his family moved to Melbourne and he worked his way up the Victoria State system. He played for the Under-20s sides at Canterbury Bulldogs and Melbourne Storm, before joining the Jets.
“Nikau is a good fit for us,” said coach Gary Charlton.
“Everyone knows we’ve been looking for a scrum-half that can lead us round the field.
“He’s got a good kicking game and he fits in with what we were looking for. I’m delighted we were able to get his signature.”
The club has also beaten off competition from elsewhere to retain the services of halfback Karl Dixon, who joined the club ahead of this year from Wath Brow Hornets.
WIDNES VIKINGS have confirmed that season-ticket refunds will be processed over the course of the coming weeks.
The club had received a number of emails enquiring about refunds over the last few weeks but have moved to reassure supporters.
A statement said they “would like to ensure supporters that we have been working hard to complete this process, despite having a significantly reduced level of staff due to furlough.
“Thanks to all season-ticket holders for their patience during this period, as we are aware that some of our supporters have been affected financially during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Those who have sent their refund form via post or handed it in to our club shop will receive their payment in the coming weeks, and are advised to check their bank account during this period for their refund.”
Elsewhere, the club will be hosting an OffloadRL session on the first Tuesday of October at the Vikings stadium.
OffloadRL is a men’s mental fitness programme delivered by professional Rugby League players.
AFTER a spree of re-signings at SHEFFIELD EAGLES, fans will have to wait until the end of the month for more news, League Express understands
The Eagles made several impressive retention moves in recent weeks, with Anthony Thackeray and Rob Worrincy amongst those to commit to the club next season.
But with the season still months away, the Eagles aren’t rushing their business.
Worrincy, meanwhile, who signed a new deal with the Eagles earlier on in the month, believes that 2021 will be a big year for both the sport and the Eagles themselves.
“2021 is going to be a big season for the sport with the Rugby League World Cup and a big one for the Eagles too with their involvement and the other developments off the field, so I’m delighted to be involved with the club,” he told the club’s official Twitter account.
SWINTON LIONS coach Stuart Littler has revealed how he kept his squad’s team spirit going during the height of lockdown.
The Lions had played just a handful of games before lockdown was announced in March and, as the players continued to train with a potential restart of play on the horizon, the club set the players a number of challenges, both physical and fun-based, to keep them in the best shape and to keep team spirit high.
“We missed that camaraderie but we had a challenge every week. Sometimes a fitness challenge or something else,” Littler told League Express.
“We challenged the boys to all make a cake on our group chat and picked a winner. I was really impressed with the cakes. I said we need to set up a cake stall. There were some great efforts.”
TWINS Connor and Curtis Davies have signed new deals with HALIFAX.
The Wales internationals have put pen to paper on one-year contracts.
Halifax coach Simon Grix said: “Curtis is a pleasure to coach. He strives to get better and puts a lot of time into his game, often first in and last out with his brother and very competitive in all areas.
“He has improved steadily over the last few years to where he is now physically ready and his understanding for the game and his role are improving. I expect him to be pushing every week for a spot in the 17.
“Connor, like his brother, leaves no stone unturned in an effort to better himself, which makes him relatively easy to coach as he is always asking for feedback. He is a mobile, skilful middle who I feel may benefit from the rule changes. Connor, like Curt, now has forced his way into weekly contention in 2021 and I look forward to seeing the contest as he certainly won’t be beaten on effort.”
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