Bradford Bulls coach John Kear hailed the signing of his Wales international captain Elliot Kear as “big and exciting”, but warned Bulls supporters it could be towards the the of this season before they see him in action.
The 32-year-old back, who played for Bradford between 2012-14, when they were in Super League, has agreed a part-time deal until the end of 2022 after leaving Salford to become a firefighter in West Yorkshire.
Elliot Kear, who is set to play under John Kear at this Autumn’s World Cup, has been at Salford since the 2020 season, having previously been at London Broncos.
John Kear said: “It’s a big signing for us, an exciting one, but really it is a signing for the back end of this season and next year.
“He’s got to do his firefighter training from June and it’s an extensive three-month process.
“He’s one of the few who has been offered a position, and it’s a local one as he lives near Bradford, but he’s not allowed to do any other physical activity during his training, as they can’t have him getting injured.”
The Bradford chief, meanwhile, will discover if a period of “amending and adjusting” has paid off when his side head to London Broncos on Sunday.
The Bulls had been set for a home meeting with Newcastle Thunder tonight (Monday), but that game has been rearranged for Sunday, June 6.
Now Kear’s side will chase a fifth win in six league games in the capital after a 14-day break from match action.
Experienced Kear is delighted with a win percentage of 80, but after successive triumphs over Halifax, Dewsbury, Whitehaven and most recently Swinton, remains concerned by the Bulls inconsistency within games.
“The wins are racking up, and I have to be happy with that, but the performances aren’t, and we have some learning to do,” he said.
“We have to learn and learn fast because there are too many indifferent periods. I’ve been looking at why that is and amending and adjusting.”
NEWCASTLE THUNDER are fully focused on picking up a second league win at home to Halifax Panthers on Sunday after the postponement of their scheduled match against Bradford Bulls tonight (Monday).
The meeting with the Bulls has been rearranged for Sunday, June 6 to take advantage of a limited number of fans being allowed back into grounds as government Covid restrictions are eased.
Thunder general manager Jordan Robinson explained: “Both clubs agreed to push the game back slightly further to take place on a Sunday rather than on a Monday evening.
“It hopefully offers opportunities for more fans to attend and the decision has been made with the best interests of spectators at heart.”
Newcastle suffered a 50-30 defeat at London Broncos in their fifth league game since being elevated from the third tier to take the place of Leigh Centurions, who are now in Super League.
Thunder, who were 18-6 ahead at one stage, were hampered by a number of injuries.
Coach Eamon O’Carroll praised his side’s application, but was disappointed at the way some points were conceded.
“You’d like to think in any game where you score 30 points, you win,” he said.
“There are some positives in that we went through some adversity playing one half with just one substitute left and we dug in for each other.
“Ted Chapelhow took a rib injury in the first tackle, Evan Simons dislocated his thumb and Josh Woods suffered a lower limb injury.
“Losing a halfback (Woods) and two middles was a massive blow and though we made some changes, it was always going to hurt us.
“I’m proud of some of the efforts shown, particularly from the middles who had to do long periods against a team who you can tell are full-time.
“But I still feel some of the tries that we conceded could have been handled better and that is the disappointing thing for me.”
Newcastle have loaned outside back Joe Brown to League 1 Workington for a month.
DEWSBURY RAMS coach Lee Greenwood has warned his players to ignore the league table when they face Swinton Lions at Heywood Road tonight (Monday) aiming to bounce back from their 36-0 home defeat by Halifax Panthers.
The Lions are still seeking a first league win, but last time out, pushed Bradford close before losing by a single point.
The Rams, who have taken prop Jon Luke Kirby on loan from Huddersfield for an initial two weeks, agreed to alter the trans-Pennine trip so Swinton could take advantage of sports clubs being able to let a limited number of spectators back into grounds.
After beating Whitehaven and Widnes, Dewsbury have suffered three successive defeats, going down to Bradford and York before the Halifax setback.
“It’s an absolutely huge game against Swinton,” said Greenwood.
“They are still trying to get their first win and they might be seeing we have a soft underbelly at the moment and they’ll want to exploit that.
“One of the most disappointing things is that we want to be difficult to beat, and over the last few weeks, that’s not happened.
“I hope the players went home disappointed and angry at the performance against Halifax because it wasn’t good enough.
“We don’t have loads of cash at this club, so we can’t just go out and buy ready-made Championship players.
“We are always having to make Championship players after bringing them in from clubs in lower leagues.
“Part of the learning process is that you can’t just turn up one week and not the next. We have to coach and teach them into becoming consistent.
“Some will make it and some won’t, but that won’t stop us working with them and trying to improve them.”
Greenwood hopes experienced forward Michael Knowles will be fit to face Swinton after two games out following a training-ground knock.
The versatile former Gateshead, Barrow, Sheffield and Featherstone player, 34, is in his fifth season with Dewsbury.
HALIFAX PANTHERS halfback Connor Robinson says Simon Grix’s side need to make this season a smooth ride, not a rollercoaster.
The Panthers picked up a second league win of the season by beating derby rivals Dewsbury 36-0 at the Tetley’s Stadium.
The former Hull KR and York player, who is in his second spell at Halifax, said: “That win had been coming, and in previous matches, we beat ourselves really.
“I’d been frustrated with myself, and the rest of the lads were the same. There was a bit of man in the mirror stuff during the build-up.
“We know that by doing the basic things properly, we have wins in us, and the Dewsbury game reinforced that.
“Dewsbury are a decent side, so nilling them shows how well we defended, and when we have the ball, we can cause other teams problems.”
The 26-year-old, who returned to Halifax ahead of this season having played for them in 2015 and 2016, added: “That’s the standard we need to hit.
“We need to find some consistency. We don’t want the season to be a rollercoaster of win, loss, win, loss.”
Grix, whose team head to Newcastle on Sunday, praised the performances of Robinson and his halfback partner Liam Harris against Dewsbury.
Harris, 24, joined from Hull during the closed-season, and Grix said: “They’ve had a bit of criticism, from me as well as from outside.
“They really stood up and did what they had to do. They kept it simple when they needed to, and also came up with some nice plays to get the boys away.
“The two of them set the tone for the team, and with everyone looking after the ball better, it provided more energy for defending when we had to.”
Halifax’s scheduled home game against Sheffield Eagles on Sunday was postponed after two Eagles players returned positive Covid tests and a further five were identified as close contacts. It will be rearranged for the weekend of June 5/6.
WIDNES VIKINGS coach Simon Finnigan says he is confident of improvement after an inconsistent start to the season.
The Vikings went into Sunday’s home clash with York having suffered a 70-0 mauling by Toulouse in a match which took place at Swinton’s Heywood Road ground because of ongoing quarantine issues regarding games played in France.
That equalled the club’s record margin of defeat, a 76-6 loss to Catalans Dragons in a Super League game in France in March 2012.
Widnes, who made the third round of the Challenge Cup, opened their league campaign with a 30-30 draw against Newcastle, but then lost to Dewsbury and Batley before beating Swinton 46-10.
With spectators due back in the DCBL Stadium when Whitehaven visit on Sunday, Finnigan said: “We know the frustration from the outside is growing, and it should be.
“Like myself, our fans are disappointed, not just by the defeats but the manner of them, and we have a responsibility to them.
“The least they ask is total effort, and we have to be better that way. To compete, you have to put in effort in the right areas all the time, whether it’s in training or out on the pitch, and that hasn’t always been the case.”
Former Widnes player and Newcastle coach Finnigan, who took over in November after Tim Sheens’ departure, conducted a lengthy dressing-room discussion following the defeat by Toulouse.
“It was open and honest. I won’t go into the details, but there were some points put across,” he added.
“Against Swinton, we took a few strides forward, but against Toulouse, a few strides back.
We got punished by a good team, but it would have happened against anyone.
“There were a few factors, but it comes back to being willing to put enough effort in consistently.”
Teenage hooker Brad O’Neill’s loan from Wigan has been extended until the end of the season. The Super League club have a recall clause.
YORK CITY KNIGHTS continue to make good use of the RFL’s revised loan system, with Hull KR halfback Mikey Lewis and Wigan second row or centre James McDonnell the latest incomers for an initial month and two weeks respectively.
Meanwhile, 17-year-old back AJ Towse is heading to League 1 Coventry on a season-long deal.
Lewis is the second Rovers player to have made a temporary move from the Robins to the Knights this year after fellow halfback Joe Keyes.
York coach James Ford has Warrington stand-off Riley Dean at the club and has also recruited fullback Connor Wynne from Hull and props Yusuf Aydin and Lewis Peachey from Wakefield and Castleford respectively during this year.
As part of the RFL’s removal of dual registration, the minimum length of a loan is now 14 rather than 28 days.
Clubs can field up to five loanees in any one match and must have room on their register within the maximum number of players permitted for the number of sides run (40 for a club with just a first team).
Lewis, 19, who can also play hooker or fullback, has made 13 appearances for Rovers, including the opening four matches of this season.
He missed the Super League clash with Leeds on April 23 through suspension, and was left out of the follow-up game at Warrington.
He also had a loan spell at then-League 1 Newcastle in 2019, scoring seven tries in as many matches.
McDonnell, 21, played once for Wigan last year.
Ford, whose side host Oldham on Sunday, said: “Mikey is a talented young half, hooker or fullback who has a good level of competitiveness about him.
“James has got a great work ethic. He’s tough with a fantastic attitude.”
Both Lewis and McDonnell were in the 21-man squad for the match at Widnes on Sunday.
Heworth product Towse made his York debut in the recent Challenge Cup third-round tie against Wigan. His parent club have a recall option.
LONDON BRONCOS centre Chris Hankinson says tightening up defensively is a must if a serious challenge for a Super League return is to be made.
The on-loan Wigan man might have racked up 20 of his side’s 50 points, from his first try since joining and eight goals, in the recent 50-30 home win over Newcastle, and followed it up with another 20, from two tries and six goals, in Saturday’s 40-6 win at Batley.
But as far as the 27-year-old ex-Leigh and Swinton player is concerned, the concession of so many points against Newcastle took the gloss of his achievement.
“Full credit to the team, I asked them to get underneath the sticks when they could and they did just that. It made my job a lot easier,” he said.
“It was great to score my first try for the club. Jarrod Sammut put it on a plate for me with a lovely kick.
“But everybody knows we’ll lose more games than we win if we continue to concede 30 points so there is plenty still to work on, and the Batley match was an improvement.
“We want to play with pride by holding teams to the lowest score possible. Although we’ve proven we can put plenty of points on the board, we are leaking them defensively.”
Hankinson, who agreed his season-long switch on New Year’s Eve, is enjoying London life.
“Other than an away day when I was young, I had never really experienced London,” he explained.
“I’ve settled into life down here really quickly. It’s worked out well for myself and my girlfriend. We’re enjoying being here.
“Of course, being away from family and friends is difficult, but we’re all restricted as to our movements at the moment.
“Hopefully restrictions will continue to ease and I can meet the club’s fanbase for the first time. I’ve heard lots of good things.”
Having faced Batley at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium, Danny Ward’s side host Bradford on Sunday.
SWINTON LIONS are steeling themselves for two key Heywood Road matches in six days as coach Stuart Littler targets a first league win of the year.
After their meeting with Dewsbury tonight (Monday) comes a clash with Toulouse on Saturday, which will also be played in front of fans at 3pm.
The match couldn’t have gone ahead in France, as originally scheduled, because of the current Covid and quarantine regulations.
While fans can purchase tickets via the club website, the game will also be streamed live on OurLeague.
Swinton operations director Steve Wild explained: “We recently successfully staged Toulouse’s home match against Widnes at Heywood Road.
“When their chief executive Cedric Garcia approached us with a view to staging their scheduled game against the Lions here as well, we were only too happy to oblige.
“I’d like to thank our stadium hosts Sale FC for their support and co-operation.
“I know our fans would usually love a trip to Toulouse, but with that not being possible, then hopefully this is the next best solution.
“Hopefully we will also see a good crowd, albeit within current restrictions.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS coach James Webster says he can’t wait to spend tonight (Monday) in the company of the Rovers faithful.
The meeting with Oldham marks the long-awaited return of fans to the Millennium Stadium, with Webster plotting a fifth win in five league games.
Featherstone beat Batley, Swinton and Whitehaven before claiming a 16-12 win at York last time out.
“The community spirit at Featherstone was one of the things that really attracted me to the club and the job,” said the Australian, appointed in October 2019.
“We have some great fans who in normal times, follow us home and away, and it will be good to have a good number them back cheering us on.
“It’s great that the world’s moving on again and that we’re getting back to some kind of normality.”
Rovers have appointed former captain Ian Hardman as football manager.
He played 288 times and scored 131 tries over ten years after joining from St Helens in 2009.
Hardman will support Webster in recruitment and on-field matters.
OLDHAM have lost the services of on-loan centre Jack Croft after he returned to parent club Wakefield following a knee injury.
It’s the latest in a line of injury setbacks for coach Matt Diskin, whose side have a tough trip to Featherstone tonight (Monday) before visiting York on Sunday.
Croft’s deal was season-long, but having scored the winning try on his debut against Halifax, the 20-year-old damaged an anterior cruciate ligament during the 36-4 home defeat by Whitehaven.
He will now see a specialist and Oldham chairman Chris Hamilton said: “He’ll be out for a considerable time.”
Front rower Liam Kirk was forced off by a head knock just a minute into the Whitehaven game.
Diskin is hopeful second rower Danny Langtree will be fit despite having to go off with a wrist injury.
And he is also optimistic on scrum-half Dave Hewitt, who suffered a dead leg against Halifax, and centre Ben Heaton, who has had an ankle problem, will be back.
WHITEHAVEN fullback Lachlan Walmsley says the Cumbrian club are looking forward to Sunday’s revenge mission to Widnes.
Gary Charlton’s men lost 34-10 at the DCBL Stadium in the second round of the Challenge Cup in March.
Seven matches later, they return there in the league, fresh from hosting Toulouse at the renamed LEL Arena.
Australian Walmsley, 22, made his second appearance for Whitehaven in the cup clash, having signed after playing for South Newcastle Lions in the Newcastle RL competition.
The Scotland World Cup hopeful, who has played for the development teams of both Newcastle Knights and South Sydney Rabbitohs, said: “It will be interesting to go back to Widnes and try and put one over on them.
“I’m enjoying the competitiveness of the Championship, and while Toulouse and Featherstone have been the stand-outs so far, the others are all beating each other.
“We had a good win at home to Dewsbury in the Challenge Cup, but then went down there for our first league game and lost.
“And just recently, after Bradford won at our place and Oldham beat Halifax, we went down to Oldham and got a really good (36-4) win.
“You always want to get some consistency, but it’s proving difficult in this division.”
Scotland international fullback or halfback Oscar Thomas, who has been at Whitehaven on trial, has agreed a season-long deal.
BATLEY BULLDOGS coach Craig Lingard says the points his side already have in the bag should provide a solid platform as the season continues.
While they slumped 40-6 at home to London Broncos on Saturday, the Bulldogs have eight points from four wins.
Batley saw off Oldham, Widnes, Newcastle and Sheffield after a 28-18 opening-round defeat by Featherstone.
“It’s early days, but it’s good to have laid some foundations and got some confidence,” said former Batley player Lingard, who became coach in September 2019.
“History tells you that there will be ups and downs over the course of a season. We obviously don’t want it, but those dips happen.
“Having got those four wins provides reassurance that we can match sides in what is a really competitive division and will also help see us through any rough patches.”
Batley have loaned forwards George Senior and Anthony Bowman and winger Wayne Reittie to League 1 Hunslet for an initial two weeks.
SHEFFIELD EAGLES aim to get their campaign back on course when they take on Featherstone at the Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster on Sunday.
The match marks the return of Eagles fans for the first time since March 2020, and coach Mark Aston, who played for Featherstone in the 1994-95 season, is eyeing a first win in four.
Having won 20-14 at York, Sheffield lost to Newcastle and drew with London before their 30-18 defeat by Batley.
The South Yorkshire side were due to visit Halifax on Sunday, but the game was postponed after two Eagles players returned positive Covid tests.
A further five were identified as close contacts, taking the total to the minimum number of seven being ruled out to permit a call-off.
Sheffield also pulled the plug on last week’s scheduled training sessions.
The fixture, which was the first this year to be postponed as a result of positive Covid tests, will be rearranged for the weekend of June 5/6.
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE have snapped up France international and former Catalans star Tony Gigot to further bolster their promotion bid.
It’s a second spell at the club for the 30-year-old fullback or stand-off, who was there during the 2011-12 French domestic season.
Gigot won the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match in Catalans’ Challenge Cup final win over Warrington at Wembley in 2018.
He has also played for Cronulla, London Broncos, Toronto and Wakefield and is fresh from a third stint with Avignon.
Gigot will link up with his old Catalans captain Rémi Casty at Toulouse, who were in action at Whitehaven on Sunday and take on Swinton at Heywood Road this Saturday.
Toulouse recently confirmed the signing of Lucas Albert from Carcassonne, although the France international halfback has undergone knee surgery and may be out for three months.
Club president Bernard Sarrazain said: “It is with great joy that I welcome Tony. With a player of his calibre, who will come to add to the talents already present in the workforce, we will see Toulouse Olympique achieve great things this season.”
Gigot said: “I’m very happy to join Toulouse. I’m going to do my best to help the club reach our goal.”
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