With ALEX DAVIS, LORRAINE MARSDEN & MATTHEW SHAW
BRADFORD BULLS coach John Kear has said he and his players are remaining focussed on training, rather than what might be ahead of them next season.
The Bulls are one of a number of clubs applying to become the 12th team in Super League in 2021 following the demise of Toronto Wolfpack. But with a decision on that not due until mid-December the Bulls, and others are playing a waiting game.
“We’ve looked at the process that’s required, and we’re adhering to that,” said Kear.
“We’re trying to put our best foot forward. We’re aware of our weaknesses, but we’re also aware of our strengths. That is our player production and Academy, which is something only London and ourselves have got.
“I think we can put a very compelling argument forward for being in Super League, but we have to abide by the process and we’re happy to do that.
“Should we get into Super League we’ll be delighted, should we not, we’ll also be delighted to start playing again in the Championship and try and earn our way up that way.
“As a coach my job is planning, preparation and organisation, so I’d love to know what’s happening next year for that.
“But there are times as well when you just have to live in the moment and this is one of those times.
“When we do get some finality and some decisions as to a starting date and which division we’re in, then we’ll start looking ahead. But for now we’re living in the moment and concentrating on training and we’re enjoying it.”
THE Mayor of Toulouse, Jean-Luc Moudenc, has personally endorsed TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE‘s ambition to join Super League in 2021.
The French side are one of the lower league clubs who are set to apply for the place, vacated by the Wolfpack in next year’s competition and Moudenc believes that Toulouse is the perfect city to host the 12th team in Super League.
“Toulouse Olympique has a long-standing ambition to join the Super League,” he said.
“I endorse this ambition which is supported through good and steady scores, within such a sport-friendly city in Toulouse.
“Toulouse has a long tradition as an athletic city that hosted some of the latest world-famous sporting events.
“Toulouse boasts an enjoyable atmosphere, typical of Southwestern France. The city benefits from great regional surroundings with the best combination of landscapes, architectural heritage and gastronomy.
“For all these reasons, we endorse, and I personally endorse, Toulouse’ legitimate ambition join Super League.
“In doing so, our club will catch up with the only other French team within this European elite for now, Catalans Dragons.”
Toulouse also announced the signing of Dominique Peyroux until the end of 2022 from Super League club St Helens, first revealed in League Express.
WIDNES VIKINGS chief executive Phil Finney has said now is not the time for the club to be seeking promotion to the Super League.
Finney confirmed in an interview with BBC Radio Merseyside last week that the club would not be submitting an application to replace Toronto Wolfpack in Super League in 2021.
“We received the information from the RFL and as a club we did look at it,” said Finney.
“Whilst as a club we certainly have aspirations to be a Super League club, but the timing just isn’t right at this moment.
“What you have to remember is, whilst we’re an historic, traditional and successful club of 125 years, we’re only 20 months old as a business.
“We’ve looked at where we are. We spent 2019 dealing with the consequences of administration, which was difficult for not only those at the club, but the supporters and sponsors.
“That was a huge hurdle to overcome and then this year, like everyone else in the world of sport, we’re dealing with the consequences of Covid.
“We’ve not even had a full season yet. We haven’t been through a full pre-season, a full playing season and a review cycle since the new business was started in March 2019.
“To attempt to return to Super League for 2021, it would be contrary to our aims and objectives of becoming a sustainable and successful club for many generations to come.”
SWINTON LIONS have stepped up their plans to launch a women’s team by appointing Martina Greenwood as the club’s first coach.
Greenwood joins the club from Halifax Women’s RLFC and she is thrilled to be continuing her career with the Lionesses.
“I am now thrilled to be taking on this brand new role at Swinton Lions with the Lionesses,” she said.
“I look forward to the new challenges ahead, and to developing the game of Rugby League for women and girls in the Swinton and Manchester area.”
The club have also announced that the Lionesses alongside their community club partner, Folly Lane, will be based at Blue Ribbon Field in Pendlebury meaning that a Swinton side will be playing in the town after a 28-year absence.
“I’m delighted that the Lionesses will be based in our traditional home town,” Greenwood continued.
“Folly is a fantastic club and one that I have a special affinity for, particularly as both my son and brother are playing members. I’d encourage all prospective players, regardless of ability or experience, to come down and give our great sport a try. Aside from keeping fit and learning new skills, you’ll be sure to make lots of friends.”
The club’s first engagement will take place on Sunday, January 17th at Folly Lane ARLFC with all prospective players welcome.
LONDON BRONCOS have announced the first two members of the squad that have re-signed for the club for 2021.
Club Captain Will Lovell and promising homegrown forward Sadiq Adebiyi have both put pen to paper on new deals and coach Danny Ward is delighted to keep the key duo on board.
“It’s great news for the club that Will has extended his contract for 2021,” said Ward.
“Will is yet another academy product who has been at the club a long time now, an influential member of the squad and brings plenty of experience at the top level.
“We’ve seen Sid develop all the way from our scholarship program into a Super League player.
“He transitioned well from prop to back row last season and came up with some fantastic performances at the top level.
“We are really looking forward to seeing that progression again next season. Sid will once again head up the energy and enthusiasm department for the team.”
OLDHAM will once again welcome Ryan Ince back into the squad next season after a permanent deal was struck for the winger.
After developing through the ranks at Widnes, Ince joined Leigh ahead of the 2020 season and featured in warm-up games against Salford Red Devils and Wigan Warriors. But having failed to make the first team, the 24-year-old joined Oldham on a month’s loan shortly before the season ground to a halt.
Oldham coach Matt Diskin was impressed by what he saw from Ince in his brief time with the club so is happy to welcome him back for the upcoming season.
“Ryan has real quality and I’m genuinely excited by his capture,” said Diskin.
“We were very impressed with his performances when he played on loan for us against Bradford Bulls and Dewsbury Rams in March.
“He has plenty of pedigree and plenty of experience and he’s a good person too, as we learned when he was with us last Spring.
“On top of all that, he can play centre as well, so he gives us options. Whichever way you look at this, Ryan is a big signing for us.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS chief executive Davide Longo has said there could be more new faces join the board in the coming months as the club looks to fulfil it’s potential as one of the game’s top clubs.
Steven Clough, CEO at the club’s main partner Millennium Support, recently joined the club’s board as a non-executive director and brings with him vital experience that will help move the club forward.
“Steven and I have bonded well and speak on a daily basis,” explained Longo.
“He has got a lot of business acumen, a lot of skills and a lot of connections so he will be very very useful for the club moving forward.
“He’s the first of a few we’re going to recruit in that area. We’re a very serious club that are taking ourselves seriously and we have looked at the area of the board that we feel we can improve.
“We want people on there with different skill sets that can not only finance the club, but also offer the skills that can support the clubs moving forward.”
LEIGH CENTURIONS have added experienced prop forward Adam Sidlow to their squad for 2021.
Sidlow, will link up with fellow former Toronto Wolfpack stars Matty Russell, Joe Mellor and Blake Wallace as well as Ryan Brierley who have all joined the Centurions ahead of next year.
The prop, who has played nearly 300 games in his career to date made his first professional appearance back in 2006 for Widnes Vikings before having notable spells for Bradford and Salford.
“Adam is a consistent performer who has always impressed me throughout his career,” said Centurions coach, John Duffy.
“Not many front rowers can play big minutes like Adam and he’s going to fit right in at Leigh Centurions.
“He’s based locally and knows a lot of our players already and after a bad year with Toronto he’s looking forward to playing again and is excited by the challenge.”
The club have also moved to sign Craig Mullen permanently after his loan spell with Leigh this year.
“Craig is someone with a big future in the game,” Duffy continued.
“We saw him develop so well in a short period of time last season and we’ve only seen glimpses of what I believe he is capable of. He is so versatile, able to play in a number of positions, and that’s something we will need during the course of the season.
“Craig is a nice kid and very popular within our group. During pre-season he was consistently the fittest in the group and I’m expecting him to push on again next year.”
DEWSBURY RAMS have signed Reece Chapman-Smith from Halifax.
The 22-year-old, who can play at full back or half back, is following in his dad Chris Chapman’s footsteps by making the move as he also represented the Rams during his professional career.
“I rate Reece highly and he is someone I have followed for a while,” said Rams coach Lee Greenwood.
“When we saw he was available we moved quickly to get him.
“He will provide good competition at full back for us but can play anywhere in the back positions. He seems to play well in any game I’ve watched him in, including against us last year for Halifax.”
The club have also confirmed the departure of Sam Moorhouse.
WHITEHAVEN have secured the services of former Scotland international Brett Carter for the 2021 season.
The 32-year-old joined Haven from Barrow Raiders last winter and played three games for his new club before the Coronavirus pandemic ended the season in March.
“We know what we get with Brett,” said coach Gary Charlton.
“He’s a good utility back that can play a number of positions in the backs which gives us great cover.
“He’s experienced, returns the ball strongly and is a good player. Happy to have him back on board.”
YORK CITY KNIGHTS have made yet another eye-catching signing ahead of their bid to join Super League in 2021 with former London and Hull KR speedster, Kieran Dixon, joining the North Yorkshire club.
The 28-year-old has made 170 career appearance with both the Rovers and the Broncos, scoring 123 tries and kicking 190 goals and has also made three appearances for the England Knights.
“I’m delighted that we’ve been able to sign Kieran,” Knights coach, James Ford, said.
“We’ve patiently been looking for an additional outside back for a while and we believe Kieran is exactly what we’re after. He has ample Super League experience, an outstanding try to game ratio, electric pace and he is a handful on early plays.
“I’m confident Kieran will fit in with our culture and add to it in places.”
AS first revealed in League Express, BATLEY BULLDOGS have completed the signing of former Widnes star Tom Gilmore.
Gilmore was set to be part of Ottawa Aces’ first-ever team next year, after a short spell on loan with Salford Red Devils, but with their entry deferred for a year, the Bulldogs have snapped up the halfback, after a long search for an experienced pivot.
“Tom will be a great fit for us,” Bulldogs coach, Craig Lingard, said.
“He brings a wealth of experience at the highest level, and a strong knowledge of Championship Rugby League as well. We’re looking forward to working with him, he’ll be a massive asset to the squad.”
Gilmore, meanwhile, still has his sights set on the highest level of Rugby League but is excited to get a full season under his belt in West Yorkshire.
“Long term that’s where I want to be and that’s where I’ve always wanted to be. Different events have happened throughout my career and I’m here to play games and play a full season and after that, we’ll soon see, I think it’ll work out well for both of us.
“Craig (Lingard) knows what I am. I’m an old school seven. He’ll let me direct the team around. We’ve got a lot of big lads here and hopefully we can get them on the front foot and start winning a lot of games.”
HALIFAX have added two further players to their 2021 squad with the addition of both Liam Harris from Hull FC and Ben Tibbs from Huddersfield Giants.
Harris had made 11 Super League appearances for the Airlie Birds but has also played for both Doncaster and York City Knights, amassing 23 tries in only 40 competitive appearances and will link up once again with Connor Robinson who has also joined Fax ahead of next year.
“Liam is a very confident, exciting young player with bags of potential,” Halifax coach, Simon Grix, said.
“Unfortunately, due to the obvious we didn’t get to see him this year but the appeal of him as an individual, his age, high skill level and the fact he has had successful partnership with Connor (Robinson) previously makes him a good fit for us.”
“He has aspirations of getting back to Super League, which is great for him and us, as to earn that opportunity he will have to be great for us.”
Meanwhile, Tibbs joins from the Giants having yet to make his breakthrough at the highest level.
“Ben joins us from Huddersfield Giants as a result of the cancellation of the reserves competition,” Grix continued.
“He has his admirers at Huddersfield but a first team contract was a little out of reach. He is a well rounded player, playing anywhere in the backs.
“Physically he has some work to do to compete with men on a weekly basis, as most young players do, but given time he certainly has the potential to be a good championship player.”
SHEFFIELD EAGLES Strength and Conditioning coach, Simon Vardy, has explained the challenges of organising training sessions given the current Covid-19 restrictions.
Championship clubs are classed as elite sporting sides and so training can continue but the Eagles have still had to adapt to the scenario.
“We knew how we were going to approach this second lockdown due to how we dealt with the first one,” Vardy told the club website.
“Getting the fitness and strength testing done first of all has made it easier to get straight into some of the pre-season training we’d be doing usually.”
The Championship is still aiming to begin in early April with Cup competitions potentially beginning before that and Vardy knows how important a goal is to their pre-season.
“It’s really important to have that goal to aim at and we are going for an early mid-March start from the conversations that have taken place.
“We have that little bit longer to prepare due to the early start to pre-season and having that goal means we can target it.
“I highly doubt that the season will start earlier but if we end up coming back later, we have that longer, gradual pre-season in the bag already and we can add extra bits into it.”
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