London Broncos have signed French international prop forward Romain Navarrete following his release from Wigan Warriors.
Navarrete, who has featured more than 80 times in Super League for the Warriors, as well as Wakefield and Catalans, was the first French player to appear in the Super League Grand Final in 2018 and will add some quality Super League experience to Danny Ward’s side.
“I am very excited to have signed for London, after speaking with Danny and learning of the desire to get the club back to Super League, and I think with my new team mates we can do that,” the Frenchman said.
“This will be a real challenge and it motivates me to deliver for Danny and the rest of the boys. I know a few of the players already and I am excited about getting started with them and settling in, as well as meeting the London fans when they can get back to the games.”
His coach is delighted to be strengthening his pack ahead of the new season after losing some key stars in the off-season.
“Props are certainly an area we’ve been looking to strengthen after losing Buttie (Rob Butler) and Big Norm (Dan Norman) and Romain is just what we’ve been looking for. He’s a quality middle with lots of experience at the top with Wigan, we can’t wait to get him over and start working with him in pre-season,” Ward said.
OLDHAM club captain Gareth Owen believes his team can aspire to compete for a mid-table finish, at least, in 2021, despite the club’s struggles in the second tier of professional Rugby League in recent years.
Oldham, led by Chairman, Chris Hamilton, have invested to retain 14 players whilst adding a dozen new signings in a bid to retain their place within the Championship.
Hooker Owen, who has already amassed 137 games for Oldham, hopes they can maintain a comfortable position in the table this year.
“It’s going to be tough, but we don’t intend to be fighting to stay up like we did in 2016 and 2017,” he said.
“We’ve had enough of that. This time we’re aiming for mid-table. We’re ambitious, but we’re also realistic.
“It’s a massive jump from League 1 to the Championship and if we can finish in a comfortable spot, or in the top half, we’ll have done very well indeed.”
Pre-season may have been halted for Championship and League 1 clubs amid a spike in Covid-19 cases, but even before the necessary hiatus, pre-season was taking a different form during this pandemic.
“Pre-season training is very different this year. We only train twice, instead of three times, and we do lots of things in small groups. ‘Disco’ (Matt Diskin) now has two assistants in Brendan Sheridan and Jode Sheriffe and that enables us to split up into three units. Every so often we swop round so by the end of the session each player has spent time with each of the coaches.
“After his massive Covid scare last Spring, ‘Shez’ (Sheridan) is back to his best and he’s the life and soul of each session. Jode is new to coaching, but he’s doing a lot of it and he looks a natural. He’s doing his physical stuff first, as he’s also registered as a player, but then he puts on his coaching hat and slots into that role.
“We’re also doing a lot on our own away from the club and we can’t wait to get the season started. We’re crossing off the days on the calendar, hoping that when we start fans will be allowed in. It will be a shame if they’re locked out, but if they’re not allowed in we’ll just have to accept the situation as it is and get on with it.
“As for prospects, we’ve got a lot of new players, plus some of the old faithfuls, and we’ve got a lot of good young guys from Wigan and Warrington. We’ve got a nice blend of youth and enthusiasm and a lot of strength in the front-row.
“We’ve got a good squad, both in terms of mobility and numbers, and it’s clear even at this early stage of pre-season that there is going to be a lot of competition for places.”
NEWCASTLE THUNDER‘s Eamon O’Carroll has credited his former bosses for getting him into a position to take his first head coach role at the age of just 33.
Having retired from the game through injury in 2017, O’Carroll joined the coaching set up at Widnes Vikings, under then head coach Denis Betts, who is now Director of Rugby at Thunder.
He then joined former England coach Steve McNamara at Catalans Dragons where he spent two years before joining the north-east club.
“I am still fairly new in terms of my coaching career but it felt the right time to step up and be a head coach,” said O’Carroll.
“That is a credit to the previous coaches I’ve worked with.
“When I was still playing, Brett Hodgson was at Widnes, working with the under 19s and he and Denis allowed me to go and do a few bits with that team. I really enjoyed it and that’s where I got my first taste for coaching.
“When I had to retire I got the chance to work with Denis again and the rest of the coaching staff and start gaining experience.
“Then Steve gave me the chance to go and work in France with Catalans and he really developed me in those two years.
“He gave me the confidence to go out and coach the way I wanted to and he put the time and effort into me.
“If it hadn’t been for that I wouldn’t have been ready for this job or had the confidence to take a head coach role.”
DEWSBURY RAMS have signed back-row forward and Jamaican international Keenen Tomlinson.
The former Batley Bulldogs player, who will wear squad number 15, has already been training with the Rams since the end of last year but his move across West Yorkshire to link up with Lee Greenwood’s squad has now been formalised and his coach is looking forward to adding a player of experience and versatility t his match day squad.
“Keenen will prove to be a valuable squad member for us,” Greenwood said.
“He has been training with us since November and impressed the coaching staff with his attitude and work ethic. He had clearly worked hard on his own over 2020 which is always a good sign of someone’s professionalism.”
“Keenen covers various positions well and he has been strong in any game I’ve seen him play.
“He knows the Championship and has shown he is capable of performing well at this level.
“He also has the goal of making the Jamaica World Cup squad at the end of the year which we will try help him achieve.”
SWINTON LIONS will receive a grant of almost £3,000 as part of the Rugby League World Cup’s legacy programme, helping them fund the club’s new Jose Kenga Diversity Project.
The club’s Community Sports Foundation will use the £2,738.96, awarded to them by the RFL, Sport England and the Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, to ‘facilitate a bespoke activity programme within the City of Salford and Borough of Trafford’ providing participants with a diversity and inclusion workshop combined with a Rugby League playing opportunity.
“We are absolutely delighted to receive this funding,” Lions Director of Development, Damian Ridpath, said in a statement.
“Named after one of our key platers, Jose Kenga, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it will facilitate an innovative programme which combines a bespoke workshop for young people linked with Rugby League playing activities.
“The programme will also act as a catalyst for forming new community teams for both boys and girls and assist in the capturing new recruits for the next generation of young Lions.
“As the only professional team whose match day operations are based in the same borough as the World Cup Final itself, it is important to ensure that we provide a legacy for our sport within the Borough of Trafford, as well as providing opportunities within our historical home town of Swinton.”
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE coach Sylvain Houles has revealed that the club was the subject of plenty of interest amid their bid to reach Super League in 2021.
The club’s application was rejected in favour of Leigh Centurions but Houles believes the club can gain a lot of confidence from the preparations put in place as part of their Super League bid.
“We got in touch with a lot of players and we had a lot of planning on paper for our journey to the Super League,” Houles said.
“We had five names we were talking about
“We had had meetings, we’d planned everything and we had all the pre-contracts ready.
“We had a lot of players interested by the club, by the town, by the country and the different culture.”
Meanwhile, Toulouse’s new signing Andrew Dixon has touched down in the south of France this week as the French side continue preparations for the new Championship season.
Rugby League’s second tier is due to start at the end of February and Dixon signed with Olympique after Toronto’s expulsion from Super League last year.
HALIFAX PANTHERS duo Oliver Waite and Fraser Stroud have both left the club by mutual consent in order to seek playing opportunities elsewhere.
Both players made their senior debuts in the Panthers’ inaugural 1895 cup fixture against Sheffield Eagles in 2019 and had earned first-team contracts for 2021 after coming through the club’s academy, but have since found it hard to find game time.
“Both Oliver and Fraser have been good to have at the club but unfortunately their time with us has come to an end,” Halifax coach Simon Grix said.
“After such a long lay off they need to be playing regularly when things open up and and after assessing where they sit in the squad I feel we cannot offer them that.
“They have added to the group in the time they have been here and been a credit to themselves in their efforts but with no clear path to playing in my team, it isn’t in their interests to keep them hanging on.
“They leave with our thanks and best wishes for the future.”
SHEFFIELD EAGLES General Manager Liam Claffey says the club understands the decision to suspend training for Championship and League 1 clubs as Covid-19 cases rise around the country but is wary that the start of the season is rapidly approaching.
The Championship clubs are due to start the season at the end of February and Claffey is aware that there is still much to be done to get the Eagles players ready for that beginning.
“We were due to train last night and the decision was made at half past three and we had players on their way to training,” Claffey told BBC TV’s Look North after the announcement.
“They haven’t been training for some time now so it’s disappointing.
“We understand the decision but we’re conscious that the season is due to start at the end of February and we need the players to have contact, tackle technique and all those sorts of things to make them match-ready when the season starts.”
Elsewhere, the club have announced that from today (Monday) they will begin catch-up calls with supporters and coach Mark Aston, Matt James and James Glover are all scheduled to appear on the video chat.
Fans were asked to email in by Saturday and a handful have been selected to take part with a view to this becoming a weekly occurrence with a small selection of supporters invited to join the chat.
YORK CITY KNIGHTS are continuing their proud history of offering free Rugby League tickets to young fans into 2021.
A new partnership with local housebuilder, Barratt Developments Yorkshire East, will see them contribute over £18,000 to cover administrative and management costs allowing the Knights to continue offering free tickets to local under 16s following the club’s move to their new LNER Community Stadium.
York expects to hand out over 10,000 tickets to young people across the city in 2021 with the demand continuing to grow as performances on the field continue to improve in recent years for the North Yorkshire club.
The club’s foundation is also, therefore, able to redistribute the money they would have spent on the free tickets to other areas of their work.
“We have always tried to offer free tickets to under 16s but our move to the new stadium adds a cost to this commitment,” City Knights Chairman, Jon Flatman, said.
“We’re therefore extremely grateful for the support offered by Barratt Developments Yorkshire East, which will allow thousands of local youngsters to experience a live matchday in what promises to be an exciting season for the club.
“The support of Barratt will further add value to the ability of the foundation to link the education, health and mental wellbeing of our local communities with the matchday experience.
BRADFORD BULLS coach John Kear believes the Championship won’t start until at least the end of March.
The competition is set to begin at the end of February but with all teams in the UK now not training for at least another week, Kear is now doubtful of the restart date.
“I don’t think there’s any chance of the first Championship game being at the end of February as planned,” he told the Telegraph & Argus.
“Maybe we could be looking at the end of March or beginning of April.
“Training is all closed down for now and you’ve got to have a pre-season, you can’t just start playing, given all the conditioning that’s needed.
“It’s just my opinion, but I can’t see it being the end of February.
“We’ll have to see how it unfolds, but psychologically I’m adapting to it being the end of March.”
BATLEY BULLDOGS coach Craig Lingard is wary that Rugby League derbies may lose their intensity as they are played more frequently.
While the Boxing Day Heavy Woollen Derby between the Bulldogs and close rivals Dewsbury Rams didn’t take place last year due to Covid-19, derbies are, in general, becoming more frequent diluting the ferocious nature of the games.
“It is a bit different now because we play each other so many times,” he told Batley & Birstall News.
“When I played, you’d play in the league home and away and if you didn’t draw each other in the cup that was pretty much it.
“But now you are playing five to six times a season, sometimes that it is a little bit of overkill for these matches.
“These derby games should be special games, they should be fierce occasions. When you dilute them by playing so much, it takes away that intensity.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS memberships are now on sale as they begin to prepare for their centenary campaign.
The Rovers are hoping for a season of celebration in their 100th year and are therefore offering free memberships to young people aged 16 or under.
All UK-based Championship clubs’ pre-season training has been halted due to the spike in Covid-19 cases nationwide but the club are still hoping to welcome fans back to games at some point in 2021 with vaccines now being rolled out around the country.
Meanwhile, Rovers’ new recruit Tom Holmes is hoping he can lead his side to promotion in 2021.
Holmes, a Castleford-born halfback, joined Rovers for a second time from Huddersfield Giants last week and is confident of a good 2021 with his new side.
“Every year they have just missed out on promotion. That is why I want to be here,” Holmes told the Pontefract & Castleford Express.
“The last two years, I have not been able to consistently play rugby.
“Off the field, I have not had the best time as well. When I was here before, I was enjoying my rugby. I want to get back to my best and push for promotion with this club.”
WIDNES VIKINGS‘ Offload sessions, in conjunction with RL Cares will continue despite the recent national lockdown enforced by the government.
The sessions had taken a break over the festive period but returned on Tuesday with former Castleford and Hull KR forward Lee Jewitt leading the session and they will continue to be offered free at the DCBL Stadium on Tuesdays from 6pm.
Meanwhile the club are operating a click and collect system for the club’s new online store with the club shop in Widnes Market closed during the lockdown.
Fans can click and collect on Wednesdays and Saturday from 10am to 4pm.
WHITEHAVEN Vice Presidents, a group who have played a vital role in fundraising for Haven in the last few years are looking to recruit members in 2021.
The group have enabled the club add to the playing squad and have helped them with both equipment and training facilities in recent years.
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