With ALEX DAVIS, LORRAINE MARSDEN & MATTHEW SHAW
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS chief executive Davide Longo has said the club has got two weeks of hard work ahead of them in order to make the best Super League application possible.
After receiving the full criteria for the application process from the RFL last week, the club announced that they would be making a bid to become the 12th team in Super League in 2021.
“There is pretty comprehensive criteria to fit to apply, but we are confident that everything we have done in the last 10 years or so with the stadium and the team, that we meet most of what is being asked of us,” said Longo.
“We’ll be working hard over the next couple of weeks and put together a very strong application and then leave it to the panel to judge which team is best for Super League going forward.
“The club’s ambition and vision has always been to play in the top flight and we were even showing that ambition when Super League was licensed. We were still winning the league and getting to Grand Finals, even though we weren’t allowed to be promoted into Super League.
“Every year we talk about getting the team in place that is going to initially get us into the play-offs and then be good enough to get promotion.
“We’ve always just missed out on promotion, but arguably we have been the most consistent side over the last decade.
“The developments to the ground, the off-field infrastructure changes we’ve made and a lot of our digital output is second to none, so we are confident we are ready for this.”
BATLEY BULLDOGS are closing in on the signing of halfback Tom Gilmore.
League Express understands the former Widnes playmaker is set to join the Championship club this week.
Chairman Kevin Nicholas confirmed in a club statement over the weekend that they expected to have a deal completed for an ‘experienced halfback’ by Wednesday at the latest.
That player is understood to be Gilmore, who has been left without a club following the deferral of Ottawa Aces.
Gilmore had signed for the Canadian club for next season following a year at Halifax but their withdrawal left him on the lookout for a club.
Batley, who have worked tirelessly in their quest for a halfback for months, swooped to finally get hold of their man.
Head coach Craig Lingard has overseen an ambitious recruitment drive that has seen them narrowly miss out on several high-profile players.
But with Gilmore heading to Mount Pleasant to play alongside the likes of winger Jodie Broughton, the Bulldogs will be confident of a strong 2021 campaign.
Gilmore ended the season with Salford after being signed on a short-term loan deal. He made two appearances for the Red Devils, scoring one try.
He had previously played 58 times for the Vikings.
“We’ve agreed terms with a new experienced and established halfback to help the halfbacks we already have at the club,” Nicholas said.
“He was going to come over an sign on Friday but we hope to announce that signing early next week when he comes over by Wednesday at the latest. We’re confident that it is an excellent signing.
“That leaves us with one more position to fill. We’ve made significant progress there this week so hopefully in the next week, we might get that sorted or we might not. That’s the replacement for Keegan (Hirst). It’ll be either a direct replacement or Craig will do things a bit differently and it’ll be another position.”
YORK CITY KNIGHTS‘ new signing Ryan Atkins has been suspended from all Rugby League activity for three months after he admitted a one-off bet placed on the outcome of Wakefield’s Super League fixture with Wigan in September.
Atkins was in breach of the RFL’s Betting and Related Activity Code of Conduct having been registered with Trinity within 12 months of the bet.
The RFL have seen fit only to suspend the player for three months owing to the fact he wasn’t a Wakefield player at the time of the bet and his cooperation throughout the investigation and so Atkins should be ready to return to the field come the proposed start of the Championship in Spring 2021.
“I regret placing the bet, and if I could wind back the clock, I would not have done so,” Atkins said.
“I’d like to thank the RFL for the fair decision and York City Knights for their support and standing by me during this difficult time.
“I look forward to meeting up with the squad early February and paying back that support.”
WIDNES VIKINGS coach Simon Finnigan has said he will not have to make many changes to his squad after inheriting a strong group from previous boss Tim Sheens.
Sheens had done all of the club’s recruitment for 2021 before resigning last month.
“I am very happy with what I am coming in to work with,” said Finnigan.
“Tim recruited in the areas that needed recruiting, he’s brought some experience in, certainly in the forwards that was important.
“The rest of the squad is very good and there are some young and exciting players in their too.
“I haven’t had the luxury of working with the squad yet on the training field, but looking at it on paper it looks like a very exciting squad and I can’t wait to start working with them.
“Sometime when you jump into a job in the middle of a season or aren’t there for the start of it, there can be a worry there that you might not have what you need and that you have to fix that along the way.
“But I have certainly got a great team to work with.
“A lot of them have played with each other for many years and the ones that haven’t have got a lot of experience so I’m quite lucky in that respect.
“Now it’s just a case of getting out on to the training field and working with them and finding the combinations that fit how I want to play, but that’s the fun part.”
BRADFORD BULLS have signed prop Dan Fleming.
League Express understands the Wales international has linked up with his international coach John Kear for a second spell with the Bulls.
Fleming had spent the last three seasons with hometown club Halifax before taking up a trial with Super League side Castleford Tigers during the post-lockdown Super League season.
He played one game for the Tigers but will now return to the Championship with Bradford, where he spent two seasons between 2015 and 2016.
He left Bradford to join Toronto Wolfpack for their inaugural season before moving to Fax.
The 28-year-old will become the Bulls’ seventh signing ahead of 2021, joining the likes of Danny Brough and Aaron Murphy at the club next season.
He will join Elliot Wallis in the squad, after the 20-year-old winger agreed a season-long loan move from Super League club Hull KR.
Wallis spent the early part of this season on loan at York City Knights, but later returned to the Robins and made six appearance in the first team once the Super League season resumed.
The signing of Wallis, along with that of Reece Hamlett earlier this month, gives Kear some exciting options in the backs next year.
“The reason we signed Elliot and Reece was to provide extra competition for places,” said Kear.
“They are two young men who are very eager and have a point to prove.
“We have now got 11 backs for next year and both will get opportunities.
“Elliot is a really big, strong, strapping wingman who I am looking forward to seeing take his opportunities in games.”
SHEFFIELD EAGLES have become the second Championship club to announce their 2021 squad numbers.
After the Dewsbury Rams revealed their numbers earlier in the autumn, the Eagles have followed suit but the crucial number six is currently unoccupied with Harry Tyson-Wilson (23) and Izaac Farrell (22) set to battle it out to partner experienced number seven Anthony Thackeray.
The rest of the starting 13 is occupied by seasoned Eagles stars although Connor Bower has received a promotion into the number three shirt.
New singing Tyler Dicksinson will wear 18 while Ryan Johnson (24), Chris Ball (26), Travis Corion (27), Jack Render (28) and Mike Adlard (29) are also named in the Eagles’ squad after signing in South Yorkshire during 2020.
Sheffield Eagles’ 2021 full squad: 1 Josh Guzdek, 2 Rob Worrincy ,3 Connor Bower, 4 James Glover, 5 Ryan Millar, 7 Anthony Thackeray, 8 Scott Wheeldon, 9 James Davey, 10 Matt James, 11 Brad Knowles, 12 Joel Farrell, 13 Aaron Brown, 14 Greg Burns, 15 Oliver Davies, 16 Robbie Ward, 17 Frankie Mariano, 18 Tyler Dickinson, 19 Blake Broadbent, 20 Paddy Burns, 21 Rory Dixon, 22 Izaac Farrell, 23 Harry Tyson-Wilson, 24 Ryan Johnson, 25 Jordan Bull, 26 Chris Ball, 27 Travis Corion, 28 Jack Render, 29 Mike Adlard
WHITEHAVEN‘S 2021 recruit Dean Zammit has admitted a friend and fellow countryman has helped increase his excitement over the move.
Having come through the same Penrith Panthers junior ranks, and playing alongside Jarrod Sammut at international level for Malta, the two have become close friends.
Sammut has used his experience of playing for Workington Town to give Zammit an idea of what to expect.
“He’s told me they’re a passionate bunch of fans up there,” said Zammit.
“He’s said that the local derby is always an event people mark on calendars and I’d love the chance to play in one of those.
“Jarrod has done really well in semi-pro ranks and has told me the rugby at that level is awesome.
“He’s been here almost 10 years now and he loves it. So in a similar vein I can see myself being here for a while myself.
“The future does look pretty bright and I’m happy to be at Whitehaven.”
SWINTON LIONS Head Coach Stuart Littler revealed his admiration for the clubs who have fought their way through the Super League season this year.
Positive Covid-19 tests have come but the game at the top level has continued with the hope of Championship and League 1 returning next year and Littler is hoping every team can make it to the start line.
“The big thing is getting all the teams to the start line next year all in a good position and can compete with each other,” Littler told League Express.
“I care about Swinton Lions but I also care about Rugby League, it’s a game I love. We want as many teams to prosper as we can and as long as everyone gets to that line next year.
“Full credit to all the teams who have really bought in and delivered. These are testing and challenging times for some clubs with players isolating and positive tests. The biggest thing this year has been getting that product on the field, meeting contracts and making sure people have livelihoods going forward.”
Meanwhile, the club have appointed a qualified psychotherapist, Paula Kenny, to a non-executive director role to expand their well-being and management structure.
As first revealed in League Express, TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE have signed dual-international Joseph Paulo from St Helens.
The 32-year-old signed with St Helens ahead of the 2019 season and while he featured heavily in his first campaign in the northern hemisphere, he has played a smaller role this year as the Saints head into the playoffs.
Paulo enjoyed a solid NRL career, appearing with Penrith, Parramatta and Cronulla over eleven seasons and has represented both Samoa and the USA in Rugby League World Cups.
“I am really grateful to Sylvain (Houles), President Sarrazain and the TO XIII club for giving me this opportunity to join the club and take part in this special project,” Paulo said after OLympique announced their intentions to apply for the 12th Super League position earlier this month.
“I played in Toulouse in 2006 with the Australian Schoolboys then in 2013 with the USA and today, I will be able to say that Toulouse is my home.
“This story shows my age but also that I have the chance to live this career which brings me back to the Pink City. My wife and daughters are thrilled to discover French culture and life, and it’s something we will remember for a long time.
“I can’t wait to meet the team, I already had the chance to play with Frankie (Winterstein) and Harrison (Hansen) and I can’t wait to start working with the guys and start the new season.”
HALIFAX have signed Super League prop forward Daniel Murray on a two-year contract.
The 24-year-old returns to the Shay after two loan spells with Fax in previous years and joins after a spell with Hull KR in the top division.
“I see Dan as a real coup for us,” said Fax coach Simon Grix.
“We have had him before on loan where he was impressive on and off the pitch. He is maturing as a player and a person bringing Super League experience and high standards.”
“He is a hard working player who will provide some punch for us in the middle of the field. We look forward to him joining us.”
The player himself is looking forward to joining a familiar club for the next two years.
“Having two brief stints at the club in 2017 & 2018, I loved every minute playing and loved what the club is about.”
“Grixy (Simon Grix) has and is making some really exciting signings for next year. I’m really looking forward to meeting all the boys and seeing where it takes us for next year.”
Meanwhile, after expressing interest in the 12th Super League spot for 2021, Halifax have failed to meet the criteria which required the club to have an average attendance in regular season games of over 2,000 in either 2018 or 2019.
Joe Mellor has become the latest quality signing to join LEIGH CENTURIONS‘ squad for 2021.
Mellor was part of Toronto Wolfpack’s team in Super League at the start of the season but with the Wolfpack denied access to the top division next year, the Centurions have snapped up the former Widnes halfback.
“It was a great feeling to get this over the line,” Centurions coach John Duffy said.
“Joe’s a player who is out and out Super League quality. I’m really looking forward to working with him on the training field.
“He’s racked up a lot of games in a short time and there’s something about him which really excites me. Joe has got real leadership qualities and his arrival gives us plenty of competition for places in the halves, but it’s a nice headache to have.
“We have been in conversation with Joe’s agent all along as a key part of what we want to build but respected the need to wait and see what was happening with his previous position. He was a player, along with Matty Russell, we wanted to keep our spots open for, on the off chance they became available.”
OLDHAM coach Matt Diskin is delighted with the strength in depth available within his squad after signing his 25th player for 2021.
Winger Kyran Johnson is the latest member of Diskin’s squad to commit to the club for next year and has already scored 12 tries in 35 appearances for the club since joining them ahead of the 2018 season.
“Kyran is a really good lad,” said Diskin.
“He’s got a great attitude and a great work ethic. He didn’t enjoy the best of starts this year, but he hadn’t fully recovered from an ankle injury he sustained in the Promotion Final at the end of the 2019 season and, because we had other players injured, he was also asked to play out of position at times.
“Like everyone else in 2021 he’ll be competing for a spot, but knowing him as I do, I’m sure he’ll be better prepared this time, both physically and mentally.
“We’ve got quality, depth and competition across the board. I’m really happy. And I’m certainly a lot more confident about our prospects than I was this time last year. Things are going well.
“The boys are itching to get back in for training. This latest lockdown has come as another setback but, fingers crossed, we’re hoping to start again in December.”
LONDON BRONCOS coach Danny Ward has confirmed a large number of his squad have committed themselves to the club again for 2021.
“Our priority was to get a lot of our off-contract lads sorted out and we’re pleased we have been able to do that,” said Ward.
“From the outset we wanted to get those that were already part of the squad tied down so I am happy that we’ve got that in place.
“We’ve sorted out some of the young lads as well, as we always do, so that puts us on decent numbers already ahead of pre-season.
“We will then recruit as and when we know what’s happening next season and which league we’ll be in.”
DEWSBURY RAMS‘ recent signing Lewis Carr believes the Tetley’s Stadium is the place to be as he looks to make a name for himself at first team level.
The youngster has joined the club from Castleford Tigers’ Academy side and is excited by the new challenges he faces in 2021.
“I felt that this club would be the best place for my development as the competition would be good and would mean I’d have to always keep working hard,” Carr told the Rams’ website.
“I had a great experience with Cas, I enjoyed my time there, I had three good years with the academy and two good years with the first team.
“I got the 18th man squad place against Wigan Warriors for the first team.
“I also played two games on Dual-Reg for York last year and played a friendly for Cas’s first team against Widnes and found the step up quite interesting from the academy games at Cas.
“I thought I played ok, but I feel it’s a real test for me and a test I’m looking forward to taking on.
“I just want to prove that by working hard and putting that extra work in, it will help me perform to the best I can be and hopefully get me a starting shirt.”
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