London Broncos owner David Hughes has taken aim at the eleven current Super League teams as it was revealed that Leigh Centurions, who are set to replace Toronto Wolfpack in next season’s Super League, will receive a smaller cut of the distribution money for 2021.
In a criteria document, circulated to all clubs applying for the place, Super League confirmed that the successful side would be entitled to £1m of central funding while the other eleven clubs would receive almost double that amount.
“They’ve invited one team in, and they’re not prepared to give them the same money,” Hughes told Sky Sports.
“It’s not a fair competition – it’s completely against what the Super League is about.
“It’s greed with a capital ‘G’ from the other 11 Super League teams.”
The Broncos were one of the sides who applied for the place and while Hughes and his club were unsuccessful, it didn’t come as a shock.
“I wasn’t surprised by the decision – Derek Beaumont has assembled a great big squad at Leigh and I’m sure that’s been taken into account.
“Leigh should be a Super League team; they’re a famous club and I wish them the best. I’m a Swinton man and was born only five miles from Leigh – so good luck to them.
“For different reasons, I’m not disheartened, I’m a rugby league man through and through. When I lay awake this morning wondering who might be chosen, I had a feeling they would pick Leigh.”
“I’m saddened that they’ve not expanded the league again and put London back in – particularly after the wonderful year we had in 2019 where we smacked most of the Super League teams’ academies.
“It was a fair process, but good luck to Leigh – with the lack of generosity from the other Super League clubs they only have half the distribution money to work with and I think that’s disgraceful and disgusting.
“If they can manage on half of the money, then God bless Leigh!”.
NEWCASTLE THUNDER coach Eamon O’Carroll is hoping that this week will bring more answers as to how the 2021 season will take shape.
The new man in charge has yet to meet his squad in person but is hoping they can get a return to train date before Christmas.
The RFL met with clubs on Friday to try and finalise when the 2021 season will start, and in what format.
Once both of these factors are in place, O’Carroll is confident he will be ready to kick on with his pre-season preparations.
“There is a lot of hard work being done to make sure we can get back into training safely and that once we’re back, we stay back and don’t have any disruptions due to Covid,” said O’Carroll.
“There is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing at the moment and I just can’t wait to get my hands on the team and meet everyone.
“I have spoken to each one of them on the phone, but that’s quite impersonal, so I can’t wait.
“We haven’t got a date for starting back yet, but it is getting close and I’m hoping we’ll get a decision this week and can let the lads know, which would be great.
“They just want to get back and I don’t think they’ll be bothered if they have to spend longer at training. That’s not through more work time, just due to the fact that we might have to take longer doing weights so we can clean them between uses, or change the balls we’re using every 15 minutes to wipe them down. But if that’s what we need to do to get the game back, that’s what we’ll do. They’ll just be happy to be back after so long.
“We’ll hopefully know a start date soon and, from a coach’s point of view, when you know that, you can work back from it.
“At this time of year the players are usually looking to see who they play first, but we’re way past that this year; they just want to know when they can get back out on the training pitch.”
When the players do eventually return to training, one new face that will be joining them is Samy Kibula, who has signed for the club on a season-long loan from Warrington Wolves.
Having previously made his Super League debut with Wigan Warriors in 2018, the 21-year-old joined Warrington ahead of the 2020 season and made two appearances once the season resumed.
Kibula, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has also enjoyed successful loan spells with Swinton Lions and Dewsbury Rams.
“Samy is a young and enthusiastic player with Super League and Championship experience and a real desire to perform,” said Thunder director of rugby Denis Betts.
“He is very quick for such a big man and has great hands and skills. He wants to be a Super League player and we want him to perform to that level so that we can both achieve our goals and develop together.”
Dixon signs with Toulouse
By ALEX DAVIS and STEVE BRADY
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE have signed Andrew Dixon on a two-year contract from Toronto Wolfpack.
The Wolfpack were denied a place in Super League for 2021 leaving Dixon available for clubs and the French side have snapped up the second-row forward.
“I am honoured to join such a great club as Toulouse Olympique XIII, with a great history and looking to the future.
“The club’s project for our sport is very exciting and I fully support it. Having played against them several times, I could see that the team had a taste for effort and work, which I have always admired about them.
“For me, everything depends on the people present within a club and after having spoken with Sylvain (Houles) and Cédric (Garcia), I had the confirmation of the quality of TO XIII.”
Meanwhile, Garcia, the club’s chief executive, is hoping they can continue to increase its support base, despite its unsuccessful bid to join Super League in 2021.
The French rugby union champions, Stade Toulousain, based in Toulouse, regularly attract 20,000 supporters to their games and Garcia believes there is also the potential to increase Olympique’s attendances, now that they are sharing the rugby union club’s Stade Ernest Wallon home ground.
“Toulouse Olympique has always had a strong identity in this city,” he said.
“We’ve been here since 1937 and, when you speak to people, they may not come to the ground at the moment but they all know about us, so the challenge is to give them a winning team in the top-flight and they will support us.
“The fan base was cited as a problem for our bid, but when you look at last year, without any away fans, we drew 6,100 supporters against Toronto. The difference now is that we have an outstanding stadium and facilities, so the potential is huge.”
Potential inclusion in next year’s Super League has passed, but Garcia said the selection process had been beneficial for the club, adding: “We thought we were ready and going through the application process confirmed to us that we really are. It proved to us that in all aspects, on and off the pitch, our facilities are second to none and our commercial department is thriving.
“Like any organisation there are always areas in which you can improve, so we will keep on working to get better and better to be in the best shape possible if we make promotion for 2022.”
BRADFORD BULLS hooker George Flanagan has said minds have already switched away from the disappointment of missing out on promotion to Super League.
Instead, there is now an even bigger determination to get back to the top flight through their performances on the pitch.
The Bulls’s application to replace Toronto Wolfpack in Super League was beaten by Leigh Centurions.
“Although we were disappointed not to make it, we weren’t there in the first place so it’s not really been taken away from us,” Flanagan told League Express.
“It’s a shame we’ve not got Bradford, as a club, back to where it should be, but full credit to Leigh, they’re doing a great job on and off the field and were deemed the best choice.
“After speaking to some of lads after the announcement was made, we just want to go out there now and do it the right way.
“Everyone is buying into what John (Kear) wants from the team and what he has brought to the club.
“After having that sense of nearly getting to Super League, everyone is really motivated to get the job done now. And if we can do that on the field of play the feeling afterwards will be really sweet.”
HALIFAX PANTHERS Commercial Director Steve Lambert believes the club’s rebrand will have a real impact on the commercial side of the club.
The West Yorkshire club has already seen record merchandise sales in the wake of the announcement a few weeks ago and Lambert believes that’s just the beginning.
“There is a real buzz around at the moment, not only from our loyal supporters but from the people of Calderdale in general who perhaps see a new beginning for the club,” he said.
“The new Panthers brand has already created excitement amongst our existing and potential commercial partners with increased exposure locally, regionally and nationally.
“Our partners are successful in their own businesses and want to be associated with success, whether that be on the field or a major rebrand of their chosen partner.
“This is just the beginning for the Panthers, we have much to do, including growing our commercial incomes and customer base, it won’t be easy but will be well worth the efforts being put in.
“We have to be happy with the results so far, record merchandise sales, season tickets ahead of 2020 and our commercial partners committing themselves again in support of the club.
“It’s amazing that a month or two ago they were helping the club with significant financial support in the form of non-refunds and now they are back positively getting behind the Panthers.
“Add to all this the superb PR and media exposure enjoyed by the club, it really has been a fantastic time to be involved with all the success.”
THE LNER Community Stadium has now been officially completed as York City Knights prepare to move in ahead of the 2021 Championship season.
The final safety checks, postponed for months due to Covid, have been completed and so the council and operators GLL took formal control of the building on Friday and began by hosting a media event on the day.
“The new stadium and wider complex will provide excellent facilities for sports fans and local residents alike,” Keith Aspden, Leader of the City of York Council, said.
“There is no doubt that it will be an incredible home for both York City Football Club and York City Knights, and an important destination for the wider city.
“With a new leisure centre, pool, library and NHS Services, the complex is providing a timely and very welcome boost to the whole city.
”These are strange and difficult times to open new buildings and services, but we are working with every partner to make sure residents can enjoy them safely, and as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, Knights Chairman Jon Flatman spoke of his excitement for the future of the club despite missing out on promotion to Super League last Monday.
“There was clearly initial disappointment but caveated with it is huge excitement for the future,” he explained.
“The exercise and process has been a very positive one and I’ve learned even more about the club and even more about the city and its region. We’ve come out of this with a very positive outlook on the future and a positive outlook for Rugby League in York and North Yorkshire.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS coach James Webster certainly did his research before getting the squad back in for training in recent weeks.
After not training together since March, Webster knew he would have to take things slowly at first to build the players back up. But he also examined how other sports had reacted to their return, to ensure the players did not do too much too soon.
“We got a lot of background information from the NRL, Super League, football, and some American sports about what happened after their layoff in terms of how many injuries they had and what type of injuries they were,” said Webster.
“We’re a bit more unique though, in that we’re coming back from a longer break, but with longer to prepare for the new season. Those sports had a shorter break but they had to get straight back into it when they started again.
“To start with, we’ve been concentrating on improving their bodies so they are ready and prepared for a tough year ahead. We’ll then slowly build from there.
“We’re working to a well-prepared programme by our conditioner and slowly going to progress as pre-season develops.”
Elsewhere, chief executive Davide Longo has said the club will learn from the disappointment of losing out on a spot in Super League.
“Despite being overlooked, we believe that Featherstone Rovers are heading in the right direction,” he said in a statement.
“Putting together the application allowed us to analyse the club as a whole and see where we can improve further heading forward.
“I know a lot of fans will have been disappointed about the Super League decision, but we are a resilient club, and we won’t dwell on this. Rovers have unfinished business in the Betfred Championship, we are in a strong position and I am sure we can achieve our goals.”
SWINTON LIONS have signed New Zealander Geronimo Doyle from Otahuhu Leopards, who play in the Fox Memorial Premiership, the senior league in Auckland.
The 23-year-old, who has featured for the Maori Residents side, can play in a variety of positions in the backline and is an experienced goalkicker.
“We are delighted to have been able to secure Geronimo’s signature after competing with other Championship clubs to get this deal done,” Swinton coach Stuart Littler said.
“Geronimo trained with us as a guest pre-Covid and he looked very accomplished within our set-up.
“He is certainly an exciting talent who I feel can add real value to our squad and substantially increase competition for places. Geronimo can cover a whole host of positions in the backs and he tells me he is really excited by the potential and future we can offer.”
The player himself spoke of his excitement in anticipation of the move.
“I’m really excited to be joining Swinton Lions for the 2021 season,” Doyle said.
“I’ve heard a lot about the club’s strong tradition and history in the sport. I’ve also heard about the team’s loyal supporters, and I can’t wait to meet the entire Lions family.”
Meanwhile, the club has allowed Brandon Wood to concentrate on his business commitments away from the game, meaning he won’t be available to train or play for the foreseeable future.
The door, however, is being left open by the Lions if those situations change after he appeared in all five of the Lions’ games in 2020.
DEWSBURY RAMS coach Lee Greenwood has said he will give everyone in his squad the chance to show what they can do before deciding if he needs to bring in any new recruits ahead of the new season.
“That is us done with the squad for now, but there are funds available to bring more in if needs be,” confirmed Greenwood.
“We’re happy with where we’re at for now. We’ve got the numbers and a capable enough team if we were to play tomorrow, so we’re alright where we are.
“We’ve kept the majority of the squad that started the season strongly, but we did lose a few for different reasons.
“We have brought in some potentially very good players though, so if they step up to the mark in training and performances then we might not need to bring anyone else in.
“So there is no mad rush or panic; we’ll just be patient and see what comes up if we feel we need add anyone.”
SHEFFIELD EAGLES winger Rob Worrincy believes a successful pre-season will be essential to the success of his side in 2021.
The Eagles and the other Championship sides haven’t played a competitive game since March and so pre-season will be an important time to get their players back to their fighting weight and blow away any cobwebs.
“Pre-season is going to be essential,” Worrincy said.
“It gives us an opportunity to continue the bonds that we made last year and it gives us an opportunity to learn more about the way Tubby (Coach Mark Aston) wants us to play, especially for players who haven’t been at the club before.
“It’s going to be key for getting our bodies ready for the upcoming season, by the time we get back to playing some of us won’t have played a game for 18 months.
“It’s a physical game and there’s a lot of collisions, a lot of trauma on the body, so it’s going to be important that we prepare for that so it’s not too much of a shock to the system.
“We’ve been in lockdown for six months plus now and in that time there’s been no contact, no field sessions, so the pre-season is going to be key in terms of how we go forward into next year.”
WIDNES VIKINGS coach Simon Finnigan has confirmed that his players will get the same time off over Christmas as normal, despite the start to pre-season training being later than usual.
In more normal years, clubs will have had around six-weeks of training before the festive break, but in a Covid-hit 2020, Widnes have had only around half of that. But that makes no difference to Finngan, who knows how important this time of year is to many people.
“The players will all still get time off over Christmas,” said Finnigan.
“They work hard enough throughout the year and Christmas is a time to spend with family, certainly this year.
“I wouldn’t want to keep them away from their family to train over Christmas.”
Meanwhile the club have confirmed that the logistical and financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, on top of a decreased amount of funding after going into administration, has forced them into making the decision to cease the operation of its Academy.
OLDHAM forward Ed Smith has announced his retirement from the game after playing just three games for the club.
The former York City Knights captain joined Oldham in January 2019 as he was recovering from a second knee reconstruction in as many years.
After nearly six months of working with the Roughyeds’ medical team, Smith was finally able to make his debut against London Skolars in July 2019. Two more appearances followed that season and he impressed enough to be offered terms for the curtailed 2020 season as well as 2021.
He had hoped that he knee would get stronger again, but after doing a lot of solo running while away from the club he has been forced to admit defeat and accept that his playing days are over.
“My knee didn’t feel right and when I spoke to the surgeon he said the reconstruction graft looked thin and there was a high risk of arthritis in later life or the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) failing for a third time,” explained Smith.
“It was still a tough decision for me to make, but I’m sure it’s the right one. I have tried desperately hard to get to a position where I could play for a while longer, but it wasn’t to be.
“Things haven’t worked out, but it wasn’t for want of trying. I did all I ever could do and the club was fantastic. I can’t thank the club enough for taking a chance on me and backing me when they invited me up nearly two years ago. I will forever be appreciative of that and I’m just sad that things haven’t worked out as we had hoped.
“You reach a stage where you have to admit defeat.
“I will seriously miss being part of the Roughyeds and I will be there next season urging on the boys as a fan.”
WHITEHAVEN have announced the next phase of their plans to upgrade facilities at the Recreation Ground, following improvements already made to the boardroom.
With the funding secured, the club is submitting a planning application to build an extension to the Garry Purdham Suite, which will in turn join onto the popular JJ McKeown Bar.
The improvements will not only increase the matchday capacity of the suite, but will also enable the club to hold larger functions in the JJ McKeown Bar.
“The Board firmly believe that this is another step towards providing the right sustainable model that will enable the club to compete in the Betfred Championship,” said a club statement.
BATLEY BULLDOGS have praised the support for their charitable work, helping to create hampers as part of the Jo Cox Foundation’s winter campaign “The Great Winter Get Together” and running in a toy drive in conjunction with the community team at the club.
55 hampers have been distributed to those in need in the area and more than 250 toy donations have been received.
“The toys have been distributed through local schools and voluntary organisations to children of families hardest hit by the financial effects of the pandemic,” the club said.
“A huge heartfelt thank you to everyone who helped by donating! We couldn’t have done it without you!”
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