With ALEX DAVIS, LORRAINE MARSDEN & MATTHEW SHAW
Leigh Centurions owner Derek Beaumont is ready to pull the trigger on FIVE major signings – but only if the RFL formalise plans for the 2021 season.
Beaumont has been overseeing a high-profile recruitment drive as the Centurions plot a return to Super League next year.
As a result, Beaumont is ready to sign off deals for five players – of which four are currently in Super League and potentially a fifth, though that will be determined by their pursuit of a player currently plying their trade in the NRL.
However, Beaumont says he isn’t in a position to finalise deals while the status of next year’s competition is unclear.
The RFL has proposed a potential March restart and clubs were recently surveyed on the options ahead of a 2021 restart.
However, with uncertainty at large, clubs aren’t in a position to launch season ticket sales or other revenue streams, leaving Beaumont reluctant to further invest in his squad until things are more clear.
“We don’t want to be stuck paying people for nothing,” he told League Express.
“As it stands we don’t know when the season is going to start, they’ve been talking about a March restart but the sooner we get going the better.
“It looks like it will be behind closed doors at first and will return to being socially distanced at smaller numbers. But season ticket holders are going to be given a priority so there hasn’t ever really been a more important time to get one.
“We’re hoping to launch details by the end of the week as well as some direct debit details. But we need to announce a season even if it is later than we hoped, then we can press the button and get the rest of my players in place, especially if the season ticket holders buy like they did last year.”
Leigh have already signed Blake Wallace, Jamie Ellis, Adam Walker and Matty Gee for 2021 and retained the vast majority of their key players.
Danny Addy is set to join Salford but Leigh look destined to boast a stronger squad next year.
They’ve been shrouded in secrecy and deafening in their silence.
While other clubs have been busy and public heading into 2021, LONDON BRONCOS have been glaringly quiet over the last few months.
The only club yet to make a signing and whispers of a potential move to part-time status have left many asking concerned questions about the Broncos and their future.
In reality, the club has had many difficult decisions to make.
In the space of 12 months, London have gone from receiving £1.8m in central funding to just £300,000 next season. Relegation from the top flight saw them receiving around £800,000 this year but with that now gone, London’s distribution is a sixth of what it was when they were in Super League.
That, inevitably, has resulted in the club having to make tough decisions and consider many facets of their business.
But after great deliberation, long-serving owner David Hughes has opted to keep the Broncos squad full-time next season as they plot their attack on the Championship, and a potential return to Super League.
“I wasn’t the best at maths in school but I could work out that drop in distribution doesn’t look great,” admitted head coach Danny Ward, who is now in the planning process ahead of a pre-season return next month.
“If you asked me to put a fiver in I’d be kicking and screaming so fair play to David for all the money he’s put in over the years and continues to put in. He’s Mr London Broncos so fair play to him.
“Looking at the bigger picture of the world and the financial markets beyond Rugby League you can see why it needed to be a considered decision.
“It took time and it has been a frustrating time. But we’re all healthy and being paid on time so there are a lot of people worse off than us.”
Ward accepts that he is now behind many of the other clubs in building his squad for next season, though that isn’t something that concerns him.
“Other clubs have been making signing after signing while we’ve not been making much noise. I can imagine questions have been getting asked.
“Currently I’m trying to re-sign the lads out of contract. The priority is promoting lads from reserves and Academy grade this week, we like being a group of homegrown lads.
“Once we’ve done that it will take us up to 75% of our squad being Academy grown which is something we’re pretty proud of.
“Then we’ll look back and see where we need to strengthen. It’s been a slow process but we’re not panicking, lads will be falling out of Super League systems, clubs will be shaking up their squad and making changes and we’ll see what’s about. I don’t like to rush or panic, players will become available and we’ll be in a good position to recruit them as others have recruited early.
“We won’t be panic buying like it’s Christmas Eve. Not being full-time means there isn’t as much financial strain on other clubs and with the furlough system they’ve been in a decent position.”
After a summer of uncertainty, Ward is now desperate to return to the training field.
“I’ve forgotten what to do so I’ll have to test the kids out and beast them!
“We’ve been chatting with the staff the last few weeks for some ideas with pre-season. It gets you fired up and the Mrs will be glad to see the back of me. If it falls in line with when we’d normally come back so it works out perfect, pre-season will be a bit longer, the season will maybe put back a month so it will be a bit longer, which is another reason we’re not quite panicking about signings.
BRADFORD BULLS have recently switched their recruitment focus to the younger players at the club, with Cameron Berry and Bradley Ho the latest reserves stars to agree new deals.
The duo join Matthew Race in remaining at the club next year, despite there being no specific Reserves competition in place for 2021.
However, coach John Kear knows this generation are the future stars of the club, which is why he’s keeping as many on board as he can.
“There is some exciting talent coming through,” said Kear.
“If you were to ask me for my starting 13 for next year, I probably could, but we have to make sure we have some youngsters or loan players that can challenge and put a marker down and make me question if that is the best 13.
“It’s also about planning ahead as well as giving competition in the first team. Just as we’ll look at the loan market, teams below us in League 1 will be doing the same and we won’t be averse to loaning some of these younger guys out in order for them to get some vital experience.
“But a big plus point is that we will have them for pre-season and can work with them as we see fit in order to maximise their development.
“Our medium-term objective is to get back into Super League, but the longer term goal is to stay there. The best way of doing that isn’t by chopping and changing the squad constantly, but having a conveyor-belt of young players coming through that we have complete trust in, that you can add in with some top quality players you can bring in.
“Signings like these are part of our long term vision of building a Super League club.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS coach James Webster has said focus has switched from squad building to making sure his players have a safe environment to return to once training can resume.
And he believes his other job as assistant coach at Leeds Rhinos could help make this process a much smoother one.
“The key thing for us recently has been making sure we meet the requirements of the RFL for their Covid return to training,” said Webster.
“I have been assured by the club that everything is in place and given that we were hoping we could play this year, we got most of that organised a long time ago.
“We’re pretty much ready to go for training once furlough finishes and we can get the boys back in. How exactly that is going to look is still a bit unknown so we’ll wait for a bit more discussion with the RFL for that and a start date.
“Furlough ends at the end of this month so we have told the players to be prepared to be back in from November, but depending how the virus is going, that’s still pretty fluid at the minute.
“The situation changes daily so we just need to keep rolling with the punches.
“Every club is different but the amount of detail that has gone in to making sure we have a safe training environment at Leeds has been huge. We have a very safe environment and I have seen what they have had to do to get that. It has been a lot of work and it will be a challenge for some Championship clubs.
“Thanks to what I do at Leeds I have an idea what the players like and don’t like about the new systems and what we need to have as coaches and admin to make sure everyone stays safe.”
SHEFFIELD EAGLES‘ restarted recruitment drive is now in full swing after three more names arrived in South Yorkshire last week.
The club already moved to bring in Tyler Dickinson from Batley in the previous week but have now added centre Ryan Johnson, back-row forward Jordan Bull and former Doncaster and York star Harry Tyson-Wilson.
Tyson-Wilson joins the Eagles after a spell out of the game but Eagles Head Coach Mark Aston is excited to have a player with Super League experience joining his team.
“Harry was at Hull and came through the system there. He did play a Super League game for them and was rated highly,” Aston said.
“He was released from Hull but he has all the ability and maybe didn’t get the chances that he needed.
“We’re delighted as he is a young half-back with an old head on his shoulders.
“He has a sweet left peg and is an old-fashioned playmaker who has come from good stock; his Dad – Rob – also played for Hull.
“We now have two young lads in Harry and Izaac Farrell that could be the future of the club.
“He has work to do and it’s not a quick fix but both Harry and Izaac have potential.”
Meanwhile Bull is rejoining the Eagles after initially starting his career with the Eagles’ scholarship before moving to Castleford Tigers.
“We have been keeping tabs on him, I had a chat with him, and he is a good kid who wants to progress,” Aston continued.
“He wants an opportunity and we’re happy to give him that.
“It’s all about his development and where he’ll be in years to come, it’s not all about right now.
“He has the right attitude and we’ve jumped on him after he was released from Castleford.
“People find a way (to succeed) when they’re good enough and that’s what we’re hoping Jordan can do.”
Centre, Johnson joins the club after spending time with the City of Hull Academy and Aston believes he can learn from the senior players and coaches the club possess.
“Having the likes of Rob Worrincy and Keith Senior around the place will be great for him and it reminds me of the time when Ryan Millar came into the squad for the first time, and how he progressed.
“He isn’t the finished article but the main ingredient is that he wants to work hard, which is something that we as a club love.”
SWINTON LIONS Head Coach Stuart Littler believes his side are ready for anything that the pandemic can throw at them.
The situation is constantly changing but Littler knows his squad are resilient enough to deal with the changing situation and be ready for the Championship campaign in 2021 if and when it begins.
“We’ve got to get our guys ready to play or as ready as we can be,” Littler said.
“Whether that means training or from home and isolation again. We can’t control that, we can only control our attitude to whatever gets thrown at us.
“I like to think we’re pretty resilient and together as a group. We have some new players coming in and I like to think they’ll buy into that.
The Lions are due to start training in November and Littler and his troops are looking forward to restarting but knows anything could still happen.
“We’re looking forward to getting back into some sort of normality but with the situation as it is, its very fluid. We’ve got to be able to adapt and change to it.
The opening of YORK CITY KNIGHTS‘ new stadium, the LNER Community Stadium, has been pushed back to Christmas due to drainage issues.
The opening of the stadium has been delayed serval times during the pandemic but with the Championship season not set to restart until 2021, the Knights should still be on course to welcome crowds into their new ground when it is safe to do so.
“We have been working with our building contractor, Buckingham Group, to complete the Community Stadium & Leisure Complex,” a spokesperson for the building company, GLL, said.
“The vast majority of the complex is finished, but as part of the sign off process, a number of issues with the drainage system have been identified. The building contractor will need to put these right before the complex can be handed over to GLL.
“It is envisaged that these works and commissioning the final building will take us up to the Christmas period; the building contractors are working hard to minimise this timeframe.
“We apologise for what is a further delay to the opening programme.
“We, like the community of York, desperately want to see the Stadium and Leisure Complex open and providing the sport, physical activity and wellbeing programmes that it has been designed for.”
HALIFAX centre or second rower Ed Barber had a mixed week last week after been found guilty of breaches of the RFL’s Operational Rules, Social Media Code of Conduct and the Respect Policy, just days before signing a new deal with the club.
“Ed has been with the club a while now and has proved his value to the team on many an occasion,” said coach Simon Grix.
“Ed is a team first player, a really important trait for me, performing in numerous positions over the years. Having been a utility player for a time myself, I understand Ed’s frustration at times. But from that experience, I know how important Ed can be for us through his versatility.
“However, if there is one spot he wants then that’s his job to make sure he gets it.”
The 30 year-old was fined £1,000, with £750 of it suspended until the end of 2021, in relation to a tweet posted on July 30, which was found by an Operational Rules Tribunal to have contained Unacceptable Behaviour and Language, which by implication targeted individuals or groups on the grounds of ethnic origin and/or religion.
A reprimand has been entered on his Disciplinary Record, but the punishment has however been mitigated by his contrition, which included volunteering for educational courses on Inclusion and Diversity.
OLDHAM have added two new faces to their squad for next year, with both players arriving at the club at different stages of their career.
Former Featherstone, Toronto, Sheffield and Batley forward Shaun Pick will bring vast experience to the club, while 19-year-old winger Ben Holcroft joins from Wigan Warriors intent on making the step up to the next stage of his career.
“Shaun is a great signing for us,” said head coach Matt Diskin.
“He is a big, athletic lad with lots of experience. He’s talented with a good offload and he’ll be a great addition to the squad.
“He’ll be committed week in and week out and he’ll be pushing for any position in the back-row of the pack.
“Ben is a big lad for an outside back and he’ll be pushing for a wing spot. Occupancy of the wing positions is still up in the air at the moment and Ben will have just as much chance as anybody else.
“He’s very strong with the ball coming out of backfield and that’s essential for a winger in the modern game.
“If he works hard, adapts to the change and strives hard to reach personal goals as well as those of the team and the club he’ll do well, of that I have no doubt.”
WHITEHAVEN‘S squad for 2021 now stands at 24 players after Scottish international forward Brett Phillips and centre or winger Connor Holliday both signed new deals with the club.
Phillips joined to the club in 2019 after a year out of the game and has since made 22 appearances, scoring four tries, while Holliday has scored 19 tries and 52 goals in 110 games since his debut in 2015.
“It’s great to have Brett on board again for next season,” said assistant coach Jonty Gorley.
“He brings a wealth of experience and is a leader. He talks well and is someone who helps steady us on the pitch.
“Add to that his size, and how he plays the game, Brett is a massive asset for us.”
“Connor is a great re-signing for us. He always does a job for us and as coaches we’re confident in his ability wherever he plays.
“He just gets on with anything that’s put in front of him, whilst giving 100 percent.
“He’s the type of player you want to be coaching.”
DEWSBURY RAMS‘ returning favourite Nathan Graham has said it was an easy decision to return to the club as assistant coach to Lee Greenwood.
Graham, who also coaches the Scotland National side, re-joined the club last month.
“I was looking to get back into week to week coaching and when I saw the advertisement it was a no brainer for me to apply,” said Graham.
“I have a great affinity with the club having spent the best part of ten years playing here.
“Dewsbury Rams is where I made my debut and I have had some great times here. The set up of the place has changed massively for the better and the facilities for players are really great.
“I’d heard some really good reports about Lee and I can’t wait to get started.”
BATLEY BULLDOGS Head Coach Craig Lingard has laid out his frustrations regarding the inconsistency of the government’s lockdown restrictions.
Rugby League and most other sports are still unable to welcome fans into their grounds which has prompted widespread criticism and Lingard can see why.
“Like everybody else, I am just really confused by the inconsistencies,” he told the Yorkshire Post.
“I could go to Pizza Hut, Starbucks and Krispy Kreme and be around a lot of people but cannot sit in an open, outside venue.
“You can track and trace and social distance easily and have designated entrances and exits. You can do it as safely as going to McDonalds or going to a coffee shop.
“I don’t think the people in power understand the severity for clubs who could go out of business.
Lingard even has own suggestions for a plan to allow crowds to return gradually.
“You could start with 10 per cent capacity and increase it by five per cent every week, if it is safe, up to 25 per cent capacity. To say you can’t have fans in at an outside venue full stop, I just think it is ludicrous.”
“Having 25 per cent capacity would be bigger than what our average crowd is anyway.
“Even if they said we could have 10 per cent capacity, we could get 750 people in. That would cover most of our games apart from when teams like Featherstone, Leigh and Bradford visit because they have a big away following.”
Lingard, however, knows it’s not just the Bulldogs who are suffering, not even the whole sport but it is a case of people’s mental wellbeing.
“It is wider than sport and the club itself, it is about people’s mental health and getting them out. For the wider community that is a big issue.”
New TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE signing Latrell Shaumkel has his sights set on Super League after joining the club earlier this year from fellow French side Villeneuve for whom he scored 13 tries in only eleven appearances.
Schamkel, a Kiwi-born Niue international has enjoyed spells with both North Sydney Bears and Newtown Jets in the Southern Hemisphere.
“I’ve got a lot of goals this season. For me it is to play the best football I can and for the team is to make Super League is a big goal for all of us,” he said upon his arrival in the South of France.
“I’m extremely grateful to get this opportunity to play for Toulouse to further my footy as I have ambitions to play at the highest level possible. I’ve already met some of the boys here in Toulouse and they’ve made me feel right at home.
Former Super League star Lee Jewitt delivered two sessions for the OffloadRL Men’s Mental Fitness programme in WIDNES last week.
The former Castleford and Hull KR prop forward, who runs his own Sports Counselling and Welfare business, ran both sessions back to back due to the local restrictions.
“Thankyou @Offload_RL for having me at @WidnesRL to present a fantastic programme. I saw first hand the positive impact these sessions have on individuals being able to OFFLOAD,” Jewitt tweeted.
If you want to take part in any of the sessions at the Vikings in the future, head to https://widnesvikings.co.uk/offload-returns-to-dcbl-stadium/”
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