With ALEX DAVIS, LORRAINE MARSDEN & MATTHEW SHAW
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE have completed the signing of St Helens forward Joseph Paulo.
League Express can reveal the Samoa international has put pen to paper on a deal with the French side after reaching a settlement with the Super League champions.
The 32-year-old was under contract with Saints next year but has come to terms on his release from the club after struggling to make his way into Kristian Woolf’s plans.
Signed by Justin Holbrook in 2019, Paulo has made just six appearances for the club this season and not played once post-lockdown.
He is now set to make the trip across the channel to join Sylvain Houles’ side who are chasing promotion to Super League next year.
Toulouse have already made a string of impressive signings including Hull KR forward Mitch Garbutt and Leigh halfback Ben Reynolds.
An NRL champion with Cronulla, Paulo made 167 NRL appearances during an 11-year career in Australia.
Internationally he has played for USA and Samoa, making 17 international appearances in total.
His departure opens up an additional quota spot for St Helens. They had filled their two previously unallocated spots with Joel Thompson, whose signing they confirmed this week, and Agnatius Paasi, who they have yet to announce.
WIDNES VIKINGS will take the next step in their pursuit to appoint a new head coach this week.
The deadline for applications expires today (Monday), and the club is currently considering around 20 applications from both this country and overseas.
Tim Sheens left the Vikings unexpectedly earlier this month. As a result, the club began a prompt search for the next person to take the helm.
The club will assess its options this week before drawing up a shortlist and starting an interview process in the coming weeks.
“There have been surprising applications and some outstanding ones,” CEO Phil Finney said.
“We’re going to be doing the shortlisting tomorrow night and interviews the next couple of weeks.
“We’re trying to keep it as open as possible, Kieron Purtill didn’t have a great deal of experience as a head coach then the year after we had arguably one of the most successful coaches of all time but neither of those have worked for us or for them.
“We’re being nice and broad to see what comes out of it. This might sound basic this but the job is to make the players better individually and the team better collectively. That’s what we’re looking for in the constraints we are all working under.”
The club has made several high-profile signings for 2021 including Paul Clough and Matt Cook.
They add experience to a young squad that the successful candidate will inherit.
“We still believe it’s one of the biggest jobs out there, especially at Championship level. The facilities are fantastic and at this level we’re still well resourced, for somebody it’s a fantastic job.
“Given Tim’s stature everyone knows the job is available and we’ve been contacted by some agents.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS have completed the signing of centre Kris Welham.
As first revealed by League Express, the Salford star has joined the Championship club on a one-year deal, with an option for a second year.
He joins Featherstone off the back of two major final appearances in a year, having featured in the Grand Final and Challenge Cup Final.
The 33-year-old, regarded by Salford coach Ian Watson as one of his favourite ever Salford players, is another high-profile recruit by the Rovers.
“His try scoring record over a career that has spanned close to 15 years shows the quality he possesses,” said head coach James Webster.
“Even when highlighting his fantastic try scoring record, it is his attitude and effort within the clubs that he has represented that will always be his biggest asset. He is a fantastic club man that will always play his heart out for the shirt and those that come and spend their hard-earned cash every week to watch the sport.”
Welham added: “I’m excited to get started, it’s going to be a new challenge for me and it’s going to be something different, but I’m really looking forward to getting going in 2021.
“My main goal for the rest of this year is to give my all to Salford until my contract ends there and once my contract starts at Featherstone my sole focus will be on doing my best for this club.”
DEWSBURY RAMS hooker Sam Day was so moved by the recent Rob Burrow documentary “My Year with MND” that he decided to raise funds by running a marathon with less than a week’s preparation time.
Saturday’s 26-mile route, which he completed in three hours 38 minutes, saw him set off from Ossett and take in Horbury, Denby Dale, Middlestown, Tingley and Wakefield en route and raise £1,700 for the MND Association in the process.
He was joined on the second half of the run by friends and former players Matty Wildie and Matthew Tebb.
“I think everyone watched and was moved by the Rob Burrow programme and it just made me want to do something to raise some money,” said Day.
“I didn’t really know anything about the disease until it happened to Rob and to see what he’s like now from where he was it’s awful.
“I ran a marathon during lockdown so I woke up last Monday and decided I would run another one at the weekend.
“It didn’t give me much time to prepare for it but I have been keeping myself fit ready for pre-season so I knew I should be ok.
“I thought if I gave people the chance to win something back it might be more of an incentive to give to the cause.
“So I held a raffle where people bought a number for £2.50 each. The original idea was to sell 300 numbers and give a £100 prize to the winner of the raffle and the remaining £650 to the MND Association.
“I though I might struggle to sell them all, but it just went huge and I ended up selling over 750 numbers. Because I sold more than double the original aim, I gave away a £200 prize with the rest going to charity.
“I decided to do it this week following the programme, but seeing how it went I maybe should have done it in a couple of weeks time and raised more. But it would have been hard to do that and then go back for pre-season.
“In the end, whatever I was able to give to the charity was going to be great. I would have been happy to run it and raise just £500 for charity, never mind £1,200 so I am very happy with what I did.”
BRADFORD BULLS coach John Kear has admitted the reasons for bringing his players back to training next month is two fold.
With the season looking likely to kick off later than it’s usual February date, the Bulls will still return to training around the same time as normal.
“We’re taking the approach of looking at the worse-case scenario and that at some stage we’ll lose some guys either through having Covid-19, or needing to self isolate because of it,” said Kear.
“We will need to have a bit of conditioning and skills work in the bank to be able to manage that situation.
“Usually players come back after only being away for a couple of months, so we will need to ease them back in a lot more gently this year.
“”We’re looking at getting them back in in early November and I’m happy to get them back in and have a longer period of time in pre-season.
“One reason is to anticipate some players having to miss sessions because of the virus. Another is that we will have to be very careful to make sure that we are very gradual in returning to any sort of contact work in order to prevent any injuries.
“It’ll be the strangest pre-season I’ve ever had and I have been involved in quite a few.
“We will have to pre-plan it, but also allow for constant evaluation while you’re in there as well. We’ll have to modify and adapt, but we’re happy to do that because the big plus point is actually having the players interacting with each other again.
“It’s not just them getting back on the field with the ball in hand, it’s about the interaction side as well.
“Rugby League players by nature are usually quite extrovert people who like each other’s company, so it will be good for their mental health to get them back into that club environment as well.”
Meanwhile Sam Smith and Murphy Smith have become the latest members of the Reserves squad to remain with the club next year.
SHEFFIELD EAGLES have added a further three names to their 2021 squad.
London Broncos academy graduate, Chris Ball, winger Travis Corion and former Castleford and Featherstone back Jack Render will all join the club on one-year deals.
Render played 22 times for the Rovers in 2019 after notching 38 tries in his final two academy years with the Tigers and so adds plenty of strike to the Eagles’ attack.
“Jack is a good kid and has come out of a good Castleford system,” Eagles Head Coach, Mark Aston, said.
“He has got some potential after playing 20-odd games for Featherstone last year.
“It’s good that he can cover a number of positions too; full-back, wing and centre.
“He has an attitude to develop and be the best he can be.”
“We want to fetch these kids into the club, into our culture, with the aim to develop them and be around us for a long time,” he added.
“Of course it’s about competition for places but we have got the likes of Rob Worrincy who is great to learn from, as well as Keith Senior on our coaching staff.
“I remember when we got Rob from Castleford Tigers when he was 21-years-old.
“This is the same sort of thing with Jack, who has the same sort of potential that Rob had back then.”
Meanwhile, Corion heads to South Yorkshire from the Huddersfield Academy system and brings utility value to Aston’s side as he can also feature in the back-row as well as on the edge.
“I am delighted to bring in Travis as he has got huge potential,” Aston continued.
“He is quick, strong and still only young.
“He’s at that age where we like to get them and he understands what he needs to do to get where he wants.
“We know the likes of Rob Worrincy won’t go forever so we will be needing guys to pick up from the older guard at some point, and that’s what we’re hoping Travis can do.”
Broncos Academy graduate Ball joins Sheffield after studying at Coventry University.
“Not many people will know much about him but he is explosive and will certainly be one for the future, although he’ll be pushing to get in the side this year too,” Aston said.
“Chris can play in the centre as well as back-row and we’re looking forward to seeing where he is at.
“The only way we can do that is by playing him so he will get game time, and how he handles that – who knows?”
BATLEY BULLDOGS are in the market for an experienced halfback.
The Bulldogs believe an old head will help compliment young talents like Ben White who re-signed with the club only last week.
“We’re looking for an experienced halfback to add to the other halfbacks we’ve got,” club Chairman, Kevin Nicholas, revealed.
“We’ve made some progress this week. We’ve got four people in the frame but we’re a long way off finalising any deal.”
The club are also looking to bring in another prop forward after the retirement of Keegan Hirst who was set to join the club ahead of next year.
Meanwhile, the club’s gym has been completed. The Bulldogs are hoping to welcome back the players into some sort of training come November as the clubs come together to meet with the RFL on November 5th to try and sort the fixture schedule out.
HALIFAX coach Simon Grix admits a March start to next season could suit his side well.
The RFL last week announced that they have started modelling fixture options for 2021, which could see the new season start a month later than the usual early-February kick-off.
“Discussions are still ongoing and it’s a mooted idea,” Grix told Fax TV.
“In terms of benefit, this year we had a couple (of games) cancelled because of bad weather. I know it’s not like that every February, but it’s still aways pretty wet and damp.
“So starting a little bit later probably would be a good thing full stop, regardless of the circumstances.
“It’s just whether we can schedule that into our calendar.
“But the way I’d like to play, with having it drier and a bit firmer under foot certainly suits the players we’ve brought in and the style of play we want to play.”
OLDHAM have taken their squad to 21 players after adding an eighth new signing to their ranks.
Following on from the signing of Wigan youngster Ben Holcroft, they have signed his Warriors Academy team mate Max Roberts on a one-year deal.
Roberts started playing the game at Leigh Miners as a boy and then moved on to Blackbrook Royals in St Helens before signing for Wigan on scholarship forms at the age of 15.
He will fulfil his new commitments with Oldham alongside studying for a degree in coaching and physical development and a part-time job.
“Max is a very talented young player with a great attitude,” said coach Matt Diskin.
“He is itching to get started with us and we are looking forward to working with him.
“He’ll be pushing for a spot in the back-row or at centre.”
WHITEHAVEN have brought some good Rugby League pedigree to the Recreation Ground with the signing of Australian Dylan Morris.
The 22-year-old is the son of former New South Wales and Australia half back or winger Steve Morris, who played for St George Dragons and Eastern Suburbs as well as having a season with Leeds in 1987/88. He is also the half brother of Sydney Roosters’ twins Josh and Brett Morris, who themselves have represented both New South Wales and Australia.
Dylan Morris, who can play full back and half back, came through the ranks at St George-Illawarra Dragons and spent six years there before returning to his junior club, Kiama Knights in 2020 due to there being no reserve grade rugby because of Covid-19.
“Dylan looks an exceptional talent,” said Haven head coach Gary Charlton.
“He has plenty of pace, good footwork and is an exciting player. He knows how to score a try and that is always a bonus.
“We think he will complement what we have and are looking forward to seeing him at the Rec.”
Morris will be joined in next year’s squad by back rower Ellis Gillam, who has penned a new deal at the club.
The 23 year-old former Warrington Wolves junior initially joined Haven for 2018, before spending part of the following season at Rochdale Hornets.
He returned to Whitehaven midway through the 2019 season and has scored eight tries in 37 appearances across his two spells with the club.
“Ellis is a good, young, talented player that we see having a bright future,” added Charlton.
“Last year, in the games he played I thought he produced his best performances for us so hopefully he can kick on and be a great asset to the team.”
SWINTON LIONS have added St Helens youngster Paul Nash to their 2021 squad.
The Lions hadn’t updated their roster since early September with Head Coach, Stuart Littler, biding his time in the market. However, he is pleased to add another dummy half to his side, creating even more competition within the Lions setup.
“I am confident we now have three (hookers) within our squad who will compete weekly to be in our starting line-up. Paul is similar to a good few of our players in that he can competently cover other positions too, so his arrival also adds that utility value.
“Paul is an exciting young prospect. If anyone gets to see his highlights reel, you’ll see that he is electric out of dummy half in a very established St Helens reserve team.
“After meeting up with Paul and his father I quickly became sure that he will fit straight into our exciting squad. With the recent changes brought into the game and the set restarts, a good nine can cause all sorts of issues.”
Meanwhile, the player himself is ready to help the Lions move forward.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to be a part of a Championship club like Swinton Lions that’s going in the right direction, and I can’t wait for the challenge ahead,” he said.
YORK CITY KNIGHTS‘ new Australian halfback has arrived in the UK ahead of the 2021 season.
Brendan O’Hagan has signed for the Knights from Wests Tigers and travelled from Sydney last week.
Elsewhere, the city’s football club, York City, have come in for a backlash from a city councillor after they satirically tweeted about the apparent lack of progress on the stadium front.
Two weeks ago, the building company behind the project, which will house both City and the City Knights, pushed the opening back to Christmas after they were met with drainage issues drawing further criticism within the city.
City of York councillor, Nigel Ayre, condemned the tweet as “disgraceful” as the football club mirrored the trend of posting a picture of how a situations started and how it is currently going by crossing out the phrase “new facilities for 2016” before crossing out eight more timeframes (pictured).
Meanwhile, both club Head Coach James Ford and captain Tim Spears helped support Heworth ARLFC on their opening evening as part of the York City Foundations’ YCK Supporting series on Thursday night.
LONDON BRONCOS are hoping to start announcing some positive news on the player front from next month.
The club have so far kept a low profile on the retention and recruitment front, but that does not mean work has not been getting done.
And now with a potential 2021 kick-off date planned for March, preparations for next year can start to step up a gear.
“The first team squad will return to training in November with the intention of playing again around the beginning of March 2021,” read a club statement to supporters.
“To know that the players are returning has given a boost to everyone at the club and we hope that the fans will also share this too.
“We know there has been criticism from some parts on the lack of players signed by the club in recent months. In fact there have been negotiations and agreements with several players, as well as staff, but sometimes it is just not possible to release this information for a variety of reasons.
“It is also worth remembering that during a normal year we would only just have finished our season and often player retention is sorted out around this time anyway.
“2021 is likely to be a difficult year, even with a return to ‘normality’ and the long term future of the club has to be the number one priority.
“We are looking forward to bringing you further updates from Danny, the Coaching Staff, the players and the Club throughout November.”
Former LEIGH CENTURIONS prop forward Lachlan Burr has signed a two-year deal with North Queensland Cowboys in the NRL.
Burr, who spent the Super League season in 2017 with the club, will leave New Zealand Warriors to join the Queensland outfit after spending the last two years with the Warriors.
The forward has held down a regular spot within New Zealand’s NRL side during the last two years, making 37 appearances.
“We’re really excited to bring Lachlan to North Queensland,” Cowboys Head Coach, Todd Payten said.
“He’s a big body, he’s got a good motor and he’s physical.
“On top of those on-field attributes, he’s a dedicated professional and a really good person.”
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