With ALEX DAVIS, LORRAINE MARSDEN & MATTHEW SHAW
LONDON BRONCOS had a busy festive season as they announced the signings of Jarrod Sammut, Abbas Miski from Manly Sea Eagles, and Chris Hankinson on a season-long loan from Wigan Warriors.
Sammut returns to the capital after helping the Broncos gain promotion from the Championship back in 2018.
“I’m buzzing to be back with the Broncos for next season,” Sammut said.
“After achieving what was deemed the impossible it’s hard not to have a special place in my heart for this club. The raw feeling and emotions from that season and leading up to that moment of gaining promotion still resonates deep within me to this day and leaves me with a feeling I’m constantly chasing.
“A special mention to David Hughes who has always made me feel welcomed and part of the club along with Wardy (Coach, Danny Ward) and the staff. 2021 – here’s to repaying their faith and recreating more magical moments.”
Meanwhile, Miski joins the club from his native Australia, subject to a visa being granted.
Miski faced England in the 2017 World Cup, playing for Lebanon on the wing and and comes recommended by the Sea Eagles assistant and former Bronco, Chad Randall.
“I’m very pleased to have signed with the club, from speaking with coach Danny Ward and seeing the recent signings I know the club is looking to have a successful season and I want to be a part of that,” Miski said.
“I’m eager to get over and meet my teammates and coaches and get stuck into a good pre season before round one. Can’t wait!”
Hankinson heads south after two years with Wigan Warriors in Super League, playing 20 times for the Cherry and Whites. He has also played for Leigh, Barrow and Swinton.
“It’s an exciting opportunity to go and play for the Broncos, it will be the first time I’ve left my home town and experience something new,” Hankinson said.
“I’m looking forward to moving down to the capital, meeting the lads and getting stuck in. It’s going to be a big year for the club and I will do everything I can to help them get back into Super League. ”
“I’d like to thank London for the opportunity, Wigan for allowing me to leave and get some much needed game time and finally a shout for Dave Peet for helping make this happen.”
BRADFORD BULLS hooker George Flanagan has not ruled out one day playing alongside his teenage son at the club.
15-year-old George junior, is part of the club’s Scholarship programme and both father and son are hoping for extended spells with the club now that they look to resume playing after almost a year out of action.
“There were four clubs in for George and me and my wife looked around them all with him and sat down with him and said we wouldn’t push him into a corner and he could go wherever he wanted to go,” explained George senior.
“I could tell him from experience that Bradford is a good club and a good environment to be in, but the choice was all his and so I was buzzing when he chose Bradford.
“He’s missed a year of his development now so we’ll see how this year goes and see if he can get signed on by the club past that.
“It’s a strange one for us because it doesn’t happen that often that a dad and a son are at the same club at the same time, but we’re enjoying it.
“A lot of people joke about us playing together but that is still some way down the line. He’s still young and developing as a player. I help him out and give him tips as much as I can.
“It could happen though, my body still feels really good and I’ve never really had any really serious injuries.
“I’m 34 now and having missed a year it’s given me a good breathing space and I still feel young, fit and as hungry as ever before.
“So long may that continue.”
HALIFAX PANTHERS‘ rebrand has exceeded all expectations according to the club’s Media and Marketing Director, Lee Kenny.
The Panthers rebranded back in December, launching all new merchandise which has proved very popular with the fans as the club head into their next chapter under a new name.
“The breathing space that our enforced layoff provided has meant that we could create and implement a comprehensive rebrand which has exceeded all expectations in terms of feedback and exposure,” Kenny said.
“This includes a new website and retail offering and is simply the next chapter in this great clubs history. Seeing queues for the new shirt and merchandise was a real bright spot in the calendar.
“The squad that has been put together by Simon and Ian has caught the eye of many a chairman around the country and pound for pound is looking very strong. A consequence of the challenging times has been the availability of players who may not have considered Halifax their original home.
“What the new players will soon realise is that Halifax knows how to treat their players well and fans will take them to their hearts when they get out on to the pitch.”
OLDHAM centre Cameron Leeming believes Oldham should be aiming high this year, as they finally look ahead to having a decent run in the Championship.
Having won promotion from League 1 in October 2019, Oldham managed only five league games in the Championship before the season was cancelled amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
But now, with more time to prepare for the upcoming season, Leeming is confident they can give it a good go.
“When we go promoted it was around a month or so after the season had finished for other clubs so a lot of the Championship-quality players we might have looked at were signed up elsewhere,” said Leeming.
“Knowing that we were going to be staying in the league this year means things have been a bit different for us and we have brought some great players in.
“I honestly believe we will be looking up, not down this year.
“Last year, realistically our aim was probably to finish third bottom and just hoping to survive, but now we can be aiming higher than that. With the squad we have got in place and with Disko (Matt Diskin) in charge we can aim to be one of the higher part-time teams.
“We’re starting on much more of a level playing field with everyone else this, so it will come down to the hard work people are willing to put in this pre-season.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS ended the year with two more impressive signing ahead of the 2021 campaign.
Fullback Louis Sheriff has joined the club from Keighley Cougars, while former Rovers favourite Tom Holmes has returned to the club following a spell with Super League side Huddersfield Giants.
Sheriff began his career with Hull KR in Super League, before enjoying spells with Redcliffe Dolphins in Australia, Dewsbury Rams, Gateshead Thunder, Doncaster, Hemel Stags, Sheffield Eagles, and the Cougars.
24-year-old Holmes scored five tries in 18 games for Rovers in 2018 before leaving for the Giants, and then a further three touchdown in seven loan appearances the following year.
“Louis spoke to me sometime ago about wanting to test himself in a good professional environment,” said Webster.
“I liked his drive and determination regarding wanting a shot to prove himself.
“He has good experience in a variety of positions and has done really well in his time training with us so far.
“Tom is a quality player that is local and familiar with Featherstone. I had the chance to watch him play many times this year at Huddersfield.
“His versatility to play at nine, seven and one gives us fantastic options, in what are exceptionally difficult positions to recruit.
“Having spoken to Tom at length I am really looking forward to him meeting up with the squad.”
NEWCASTLE THUNDER have continued to build for life in the Championship with five new signings over the festive period – with four of them bringing Super League experience.
Incoming are former Widnes Viking twins Ted and Jay Chapelhow, while Wigan Warriors youngsters Jake Shorrocks and Josh Wood have also agreed deals with the North East outfit.
Warrington Wolves Academy product Cole Oakley, who was close to making his Super League debut for the Wolves when he was an unused substitute against Salford in September, makes up the quintet of new faces.
“Ted and Jay are big, strong, talented front rowers with good engines who I know well from my time at Widnes,” said director of rugby Denis Betts.
“They are committed and enthusiastic lads who have ambitions to be Super League players again and see Thunder as somewhere to realise those ambitions.
“Ted and Jay share the beliefs we have in what we are doing and are fully bought in to being part of our journey and plans.
“Jake is an established half with Super League experience and has come from a great background.
“He is a player whose ambition matches that of the club, and he sees us as somewhere we he can advance his career by being a part of us achieving our goals. He is an exciting talent with an excellent kicking game and is very strong with the ball in hand.
“Josh is an experienced Championship half who wants to establish himself and develop as a player.
“He is 23 and is an ambitious lad and fits in with our plans as a club. He has come through a great academy setup, has a great kicking game and is great in defence.
“Cole is a talented young player who adds to our back row options. He’s a solid defender and runs well.
“He is looking to progress further and will want to do that by challenging for a starting spot with us.
“Cole is an ambitious player who shares our drive and will be keen to develop along with the club.”
WIDNES VIKINGS have handed forward Adam Lawton a lifeline to head home after a planned moved to Ottawa Aces was shelved when the Canadian club decided against entering League 1 in 2021.
The 27 year-old started his professional career with his hometown club, featuring 15 times for the Vikings in 2013 and 2014.
He then left the club to take up a playing opportunity in Australia, featuring for Redcliffe Dolphins before returning to the amateur game with local community club West Bank Bears. In 2019 he returned to Super League with Salford Red Devils and spent loan spells with Swinton Lions and Rochdale Hornets in the Championship.
Last year he linked up with Simon Finnigan, who he’d played with at Widnes, and made five appearances at Newcastle Thunder.
“It’s amazing to have signed back at the club,” said Lawton.
“A lot of people don’t even get one chance to represent their hometown, but I get the chance to come back, settle some unfinished business and hopefully stay here for a few years now.
“I’m not dwelling on the Ottawa situation, things happen for a reason and I’m made up to be back at Widnes.”
BATLEY BULLDOGS have re-signed Adam Gledhill ahead of the 2021 season.
The forward has committed himself to the Bulldogs despite his work commitments and club chairman Kevin Nicholas is pleased to have him on board.
“He may not be available every game but he’s going to give it a go and assures us he won’t let the club down.”
Meanwhile, Nicholas announced that the half-time draws the club have been organising each week since March have raised over £26,000 to help the club continue to operate in 2021 and beyond.
SWINTON LIONS‘ Board of Directors believe the club have made significant strides off the field during the pandemic.
Many clubs have struggled financially due to the lack of income during 2020, however the Lions are optimistic as the new year begins.
“We eagerly await the new season during which we aim to progress further on the field, whilst at the same time building closer links with our club partners and supporters,” they said in a statement.
“Despite the pandemic, the club has made tremendous progress off the field over the past year. We believe we have recruited strongly ahead of 2021, whilst ensuring that we have enhanced and protected our off-field business.
“Our community development plans have gone from strength to strength, including of course the imminent launch of our Lionesses. Indeed we have produced a detailed business and development plan which has been warmly received by our governing body.”
DEWSBURY RAMS coach Lee Greenwood has said the way the club is run has had both positive and negative effects as they have battled to return from the Coronavirus pandemic.
“We are quite fortunate as a club that we have our own facilities, and because of that we were able to get back in to training earlier than some others and, possibly in a safer way,” said Greenwood
“It’s only us using them so we’re not having to share with anyone or hire anything so that has been a massive benefit to us.
“We don’t have the funds to pay top dollars to players, but we do have our facilities and anything we bring into the club, goes back into the club. So in times like these, that has been good for us.
“But on the other hand we have been hard hit because we still have the outgoings of having our own stadium, without really bringing anything in. Our usual car boot sales, 3g hire and functions at the club have all stopped so we haven’t had that coming in.
“Clubs who just pay rent wherever they go have probably saved a bit of money this year, but we have been hard hit in some respects.”
WHITEHAVEN new signing Ryan King arrived in the country last week and was instantly greeted by a new experience – snow.
“I’m really happy to be here and it’s really good to see how everything is around the club,” he told Haven’s Facebook page.
“I have never seen snow before or been in this sort of weather before so it’s something a bit different.”
SHEFFIELD EAGLES Chairman Chris Noble has assured fans that the Eagles are here to stay despite continuing uncertainty surrounding the club’s playing venue in 2021.
Building continues to be delayed, however the end result will be worth the wait for Noble.
“We appreciate things are still uncertain regarding our playing venue with talks on-going surrounding the Olympic Legacy Park and with that 2021 Memberships not yet on-sale as we as we had hoped,” he said.
“Work continues behind the scenes as positive and constructive discussions continue with the powers that be and as soon as we have an update to relay, we will.”
YORK CITY KNIGHTS‘ overseas signing Brendan O’Hagan is looking forward to gracing the new pitch at the LNER Community Stadium in 2021.
O’Hagan joined the Knights from his native Australia ahead of the new season and arrived in the country late last year and has already visited the ground.
“It’s unreal,” he told the York Press.
“It’s my second time coming in and it keeps getting better. It’s a great facility and it’s great for our city to have a place like this to get our fans involved with.
“I’m looking forward to getting in to start playing and it’ll be good to see some fans in it.
“I’m sure it’s going to be nice and loud in here once we get some fans in. It probably doesn’t even matter whether it’s 100 or 8,000 people in here – I’m sure it’s going to be nice and loud.
“I know the crowd gets nicely involved over here. You see online on social media, all the fans getting vocal about it and it’ll be really nice to see them all in it.”
Meanwhile, the club announced their squad numbers late last year.
O’Hagan will wear the number six shirt while fellow new signing Morgan Smith completes the halfback partnership in seven.
Elsewhere, Ryan Atkins and Kieran Dixon have four and five respectively and Adam Cuthbertson takes the 13 shirt.
York City Knights’ full squad numbers: 1 Matty Marsh, 2 Jason Bass, 3 Liam Salter, 4 Ryan Atkins, 5 Kieran Dixon, 6 Brendan O’Hagan, 7 Morgan Smith, 8 Ronan Dixon, 9 Will Jubb, 10 Jack Teanby, 11 Chris Clarkson, 12 Sam Scott, 13 Adam Cuthbertson, 14 Kriss Brining, 15 Jordan Baldwinson, 16 Marcus Stock, 17 Danny Kirmond, 19 James Green, 20 Tim Spears, 21 Joe Porter, 22 Perry Whiteley, 23 Harry Dodd, 24 Daniel Barcoe, 25 AJ Towse, 26 Myles Harrison, 27 Toby Warren, 28 Danny Washbrook, 30 Tyme Dow-Nikau
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE coach Sylvain Houles is pleased with his recruitment ahead of the 2021 season.
The club have welcomed both Dominique Peyroux and Joseph Paulo from St Helens as well as other key signings from Super League clubs to balance the departures of Stan Robin and other established players.
“It was necessary to remedy our departures. We recruited the best we could and I admit that we had time to do it because of the premature end of the season,” Houles told La Depeche.
“We have players who have known Super League and the NRL, who are even Super League champions. I believes we have a total of 1300 Super League matches in the squad but also a little over 300 NRL matches.
“We wanted to bring in players who know how to win titles, who have experience. This is our strategy and I am sure that the players who have experience the high level and who know how to win are going to be very valuable in bringing us to Super League.”
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