With Alex Davis, Lorraine Marsden and Matthew Shaw
WIDNES‘ hunt for a new head coach has begun after the shock resignation of Tim Sheens.
The World Cup winning coach resigned on Tuesday after less than a year in charge.
Sheens, 69, guided the club to five wins from seven games but has now departed, leaving the Vikings searching for a new head coach heading into 2021.
Early speculation has linked Sean Long with the role after his departure from rugby union side Harlequins.
League Express understands the former Great Britain international is pursuing a return to the 13-man game and has applied for a number of jobs in recent weeks.
However, suggestions that Long has taken the role are premature. The club are in the process of receiving applications and are set to consider their options before making an appointment.
The next person at the helm will be the fifth in just over two years. Denis Betts, Francis Cummings, Keiron Purtill and Sheens have all taken the vacancy in recent years.
The Vikings have done the majority of their recruitment for the 2021 season, with Paul Clough, Matt Cook, Lee Jewitt and Steve Tyrer all set to join the club.
The Vikings are due to return to training on November 2nd.
As for Sheens, he is expected to remain in the UK and pursue opportunities in the game.
LEIGH CENTURIONS are understood to be lining up several further recruits after confirming the capture of Matty Gee.
The forward became the fourth player to join the Leythers ahead of 2021, following Blake Wallace, Jamie Ellis and Adam Walker to the club next season.
League Express understands Leigh’s focus is predominantly in the outside fullbacks, as well as the back-row.
Derek Beaumont has promised a strong recruitment drive with talks currently taking place with several players in Super League.
Upon joining the club, Gee said: “I know a lot of the players at Leigh who were at London with me like Mark Ioane, Ben Hellewell and Nathan Mason and they all love it there. I’m a Billinge lad and I’ve been looking to move closer to home so when the chance came to come to Leigh, it was a no-brainer for me.
“Leigh had a really good team this year and having listened to John Duffy, I’m impressed with his plans for next season. He has a clear vision of what he wants to do and the role he sees me playing. Leigh are a club with a big fanbase and a great stadium and I’m looking forward to helping them push for Super League.”
SHEFFIELD EAGLES have signed Batley Bulldogs forward Tyler Dickinson on a one-year deal for 2021.
Dickinson started his Rugby League career with Huddersfield Giants in Super League before signing with the Bulldogs in the Championship and Eagles Head Coach, Mark Aston, is excited to work with a player with Super League experience.
“He has played 20-odd Super League games so he has the potential,” Aston said.
“He may have lost his way for whatever reason but the opportunity we have to work with Tyler, after meeting him and finding what he’s about, is something that appeals to me.
“He could be a revelation for us. When some of our more experienced forwards decide to retire, it’s players like Tyler that need to move on to the next level and become senior players.”
Meanwhile Dickinson himself is looking forward to the move to South Yorkshire after previously turning down a move to the Steel city.
“He (Aston) has asked a couple of times now, first when I left the Giants and now this year too.
“It’s always been the travel that has deterred me from it but sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone to get what you want.
“I’ve always been interested due to the record of the team and how Tubbs (Aston) is as a coach.
“I am best mates with Oliver Roberts, who has played for the Eagles before and Ireland under Tubbs, and he said he is a cracking coach who’ll get the best out of me.
“I’ve not had the best couple of years, even when I was playing Super League with Huddersfield, and also not winning consistently.
“I wanted to come to a successful club that has a proven winning record.
“With experienced blokes like Scott Wheeldon in the squad, I am looking forward to learning from those sort of players and getting back to how I used to be.
“The competition will bring the best out of me, that is for sure.”
Meanwhile, the Eagles last week returned to training under the Stage 1 – Return to Train (RTT) guidelines.
Players carried our various strength and fitness tests as well as medical screenings ahead of pre-season in November.
The training does not require testing for Covid-19 but players only train in small groups with no physical contact.
“It’s great we’ve been able to get the players back in,” said Eagles General Manager, Liam Claffey.
“It’s something Mark (Aston) and the backroom staff were very keen on carrying out.
“Whilst we have kept in dialogue with the squad and they’ve carried out training on their own away from the club, the staff wanted to see were they we at ahead of November’s return.”
“Speaking with the RFL I believe we are the first club outside of the Super League to return to train and whilst this is only Stage 1 Training it has taken a lot of work to get to this point.”
“Credit goes to the players and staff who quickly retuned all the paperwork required from them along with sitting the RFL’s education module about Covid-19.”
BRADFORD BULLS back Rhys Evans believes linking back up with Wales national coach John Kear will be beneficial to him ahead of next Autumn’s World Cup.
Evans will be hoping to star for Wales as they face Tonga, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands in the initial group stages of the tournament.
“Getting regular feedback and time to work with John at Bradford is definitely a bonus,” said Evans.
“But it’s also important that I am getting game time on a regular basis.
“I think every player who wants to be representing their country in the World Cup wants to, and needs to, be playing regularly to put their best foot forward for selection.
“With everything with Covid it’s been difficult for every player, but with a World Cup coming up you want to be playing every week. So hopefully if I stay fit and an available I can play every week for Bradford.
“When it’s a World Cup year, everyone wants to perform well for their team.
“And coming off the back on a year when players haven’t been able to play and fans haven’t been able to watch, next year should be a really exciting one across all leagues, purely because the game is back.”
Meanwhile, the club have announced that 19 year-old Reserve grade fullback or half back Matty Race will remain at the club in 2021.
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS coach James Webster has confirmed overseas recruit Nu Brown is all set for his move to West Yorkshire – as soon as the club know when pre-season training can commence.
The New Zealand-born Samoan international initially agreed to sign for the club upon the resumption of the 2020 season, but once the RFL made the decision to cancel the season in July, a new deal was struck that sees him make the move in 2021 instead.
The former Cronulla Sharks and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs player, who has 37 NRL appearances to his name, can play in a number of positions, including half back, hooker and full back.
“Nu is ready to go and will be coming over as soon as we have a date to start training,” said Webster.
“If its going to be a later start for every one so the start of the season is in line with crowds returning then he can spend a bit more time in Australia. But if it’s an earlier start than that he has his bags packed and ready to come.
“We’re just waiting for a call because if he can’t do any training over here then there is no point in him coming.
“If we’re going to bring someone over by himself, there has to be a reason. We can’t bring him over if he can’t work properly.
“But once we have a date we’ll get him a flight booked.”
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE Head Coach Sylvain Houles has revealed that the club have moved back their pre-season start date due to the continuing uncertainty regarding the start of the 2021 Championship campaign.
The French side were initially set to start pre-season in mid-October, instead of competing in the RFL’s proposed Autumn Invitational tournament, which won’t proceed, but things are now set to be pushed back in the south of France.
“Initially we talked about starting again on 19th October but after the last meeting with the RFL and the lack of clarity of when things are going to start again, we will push it back,” Houles told League Express.
“We’re going to push it back to maybe mid-November but we’re just waiting for a few things. It will be nice to know but we understand that it’s very hard for the RFL to see clearly what is going to happen in the next few months.”
BATLEY BULLDOGS‘ 2021 signing Keegan Hirst has announced his retirement from the sport.
The current Halifax star was set to rejoin the Bulldogs next year but has decided to call time on his career at the age of 32.
“So, I’ve decided to retire from Rugby League, the game that has been part of my life for the last 20 years,” Hirst wrote on Twitter.
“It’s with a touch of sadness, a hell of a lot of memories…and a hell of a lot of gratitude that I say farewell to RL.
“I speak a lot about living according to your values and doing what’s important to you.
“That changes over time for everyone, and myself I have come to that point.
“I’m moving onto the new chapter of my life, having taken so much and given so much (both ankles and a front tooth, to name a few things) to the game that has been a constant in my life for over two decades.
“Do what you love for as long as you can, but don’t do it because of a sense of obligation or pleasing someone else. Nobody benefits from that.”
HALIFAX have handed new deals to Kevin Larroyer and Fraser Stroud ahead of the 2021 season.
Larroyer, 31, was a Challenge Cup finalist with Hull KR in 2015 and will stay with the club for a third season.
Meanwhile, Welsh halfback Stroud has also extended his deal by one year after previously impressing for the club’s reserve grade outfit.
“Kevin is great for our group, he’s a real character who wears his heart on his sleeve,” said head coach Simon Grix.
“He is a solid professional, very strong on both sides of the ball and a developing leader within our group. He is happy at the club and I’m looking forward to seeing him at his best in 2021.
“Fraser has shown some promise in recent seasons and earned a crack at another pre season where his main focus is physical development. He is a natural ball player with a handy skill set. I am looking forward to helping him improve his understanding of the game throughout pre-season as he gets after the more senior players in his position.”
WHITEHAVEN have seen two more players commit to the club for 2021 with Glenn Riley am Dave Thompson both signing new deals at the Recreation Ground.
Riley, who has signed a two-year deal, rejoined the club ahead of the curtailed 2020 campaign but appeared in only two friendlies before damaging his knee against Workington.
Thompson, who has scored 31 tries in 67 games for the club since 2017, has put pen to paper on a new 12-month contract.
“It’s great to have Glenn for another two years,” said Haven assistant coach Scott McAvoy.
“He is an excellent trainer and very important to the team’s go forward with his strong, no nonsense carries.
“Dave is an important signing for the club. He’s an excellent finisher and one of the strongest ball carriers in the league.”
OLDHAM have re-signed former Wigan and St Helens youngster John Hutchings on a one-year deal.
After his release from both giants of the game, Hutchings made a big impact for the Roughyeds before the Championship season was called to a halt due to Covid-19.
“He came to us from Saints as a winger and we tried to make him into a utility player which was foreign to him,” said Oldham Head Coach, Matt Diskin.
“We’ve had a good chat and he’ll be given every opportunity to win a wing spot if he works hard and does what’s required of him.
“He’s a very talented kid who’s good with the ball, but he’s also a big lad who needs to work hard on his own physical condition. If he does that and shows up in good shape he’ll get every chance to win a wing spot.
“He knows the score. The ball is very much in his court.”
Although his Head Coach is looking to use him on the wing, the player is very much open to playing anywhere on the field to gain a spot in the team.
“I think Disco is going to use me on the wing next year,” Hutchings said.
“Over the years I’ve played everywhere. I played a lot at Saints on the wing and, to be honest, I’ll do my best wherever I’m asked to play.
“The main thing I need is a run free of injuries. I never really got going at the start of this season because of the hamstring injury I picked up at Rochdale in my second game. Six weeks later I thought I was okay and I played at centre at Widnes in the Cup only to pick up a recurrence of the same injury.
“I missed the next two games at home against Bradford and Dewsbury and we haven’t played since.
“At least, I’ve had seven months to get it right and I’m feeling good now. I’ve been in the gym every day since it re-opened and I’m really looking forward to getting cracking again and, hopefully, enjoying an injury-free campaign.”
SWINTON LIONS Head Coach Stuart Littler has revealed the club are awaiting a start date for the competition before finalising pre-season training plans.
The club are due to start training in November but with the situation changing weekly, nothing is set in stone.
“We’re waiting for a start date of the competition,” Littler told League Express.
“We just need to know what we’re running with and when we’re aiming to start now.
“We’ve got our own starts and we’re sending our home sessions for our lads. We’ll be back in training maybe earlier November time. We’ve just got to wait on a few things to be cleared regarding the virus and what’s acceptable and what’s not.
“We’ve got to make sure things are safe in a part-time environment.”
YORK CITY KNIGHTS have signed Australian halfback Brendan O’Hagan for the 2021 season.
O’Hagan, 21, who has represented New South Wales at u16, u18 and u20s level, joins the club from Wests Tigers after spells with both Newcastle Knights and Canberra Raiders in the NRL.
“I’ve been speaking to John Bateman a fair bit, as we were teammates at Canberra Raiders, trying to get what it’s like over there and he had some great things to say about the place of York and the club as well so he helped me make the decision,” O’Hagan said.
“I’m pumped to get over there, start ripping in and get ready to win a comp over there,” he added. “I heard great things and obviously the new facilities we have at York are awesome.
“The club’s got a real professional feel and it looks like it’s going to be a good year.”
The Knights’ Head Coach, James Ford, spoke of what the York fans can expect from their new playmaker.
“He is clearly a running threat, works very hard off the ball, and has been around some elite coaches and environments, but I was mostly drawn to Brendan’s hunger to continue improving and his drive to be the best version of himself.
“I’m looking forward to working with Brendan, and I’m excited to see what he can bring to our group. His pedigree is first-rate and from the footage I’ve seen I’m very confident he’ll be a key player in our team.”
DEWSBURY RAMS have been forced to keep their car boot sales suspended until the end of October.
The club have been in consultation with Kirklees Council, who are currently imposing a local lockdown on the area, and the club say while they remain disappointed they “must respect their wishes and instructions.”
Elsewhere, in sad news, the club reported the death of former club photographer Steve Horsfall.
“Steve had been the club photographer and supporter for many years,” a statement on the club’s website read.
“He was also a talented musician playing the guitar, keyboards and piano. Steve played in music bands over the years, his latest was a tribute band called Ain’t Skynard.
“He will be remembered fondly by many at Dewsbury Rams.
“The club’s deepest condolences go to Steve’s wife Sue, his family & friends.”
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