LONDON BRONCOS chief executive Jason Loubser says Jermaine Coleman’s in-depth knowledge of the Rugby League scene in the capital and beyond was a key factor in his appointment as coach.
The 39-year-old, who is also part of the Jamaica coaching set-up, will leave his post as London Skolars coach to join the Broncos ahead of next season.
Coleman is a former Skolars player (he also represented Hunslet, York, Gateshead and Hemel) who has been at the helm since 2015.
The Broncos, who went into their game at York on Sunday aiming to seal a play-off place, parted company with Danny Ward in July, after which Tom Tsang took interim control.
Coleman’s appointment comes with the club set to move to AFC Wimbledon Football Club’s Plough Lane Stadium next year.
And it follows the announcement that the Broncos, who played in Super League in 2019, are to go part-time, with Coleman facing a squad rebuild.
Loubser said: “I have spoken to Jermaine several times and it became apparent very early in these discussions that he lives and breathes Rugby League and has a vast knowledge of players across the sport, both professional and amateur, as well as overseas.
“We need to source the very best part-time players out there and ensure they fit with the standards in our environment and want to push this club forward on and off the field.”
Coleman said: “We have a fantastic crop of young players who I can’t wait to start working with.
“It’s important to me that we have players who care about the club and want to see it back where we belong in Super League.
“Having players from London playing for London Broncos is important to our identity. We need to use that identity to create a winning culture.
“We must build the club on the right foundations and we start that building project focusing on developing our own talent.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS chief executive Martin Vickers has questioned the RFL’s decision to stage the Championship play-off final in France should table-topping Toulouse win their semi-final on Saturday week, October 2.
If the play-offs follow this season’s form, second-placed Rovers will face a trip to the Stade Ernest Wallon on Sunday, October 10, when the winners will earn promotion to Super League.
Because of travel issues posed by the pandemic, a number of Toulouse home matches have been cancelled, including the scheduled clash with Featherstone in May.
All the games they have played so far this season, which include their 23-6 victory over Rovers in August, have taken place in England, with the forthcoming play-off semi-final their first outing on home territory.
Vickers says he is also frustrated by the failure to reschedule his club’s away league game against Toulouse.
“It just seems unfair that a team playing only 13 games in a season, avoiding the challenges of week in, week out rugby, are now given the added advantage of a potential home play-off series,” he wrote in a newsletter to fans.
“The travel conditions in France have allowed British clubs to go there for the last six weeks, this in a period when most players have received both vaccinations, yet an arbitrary date of October 1, which just so happens to be the start of the play-off series, has been set for teams to now travel to France.
“All clubs have been encouraged by the governing body to seek rearrangement of postponed games and there is no reason why a game can’t be played in France at the present time.
“We have been flatly refused on two occasions by Toulouse to replay our game on a weekend or midweek. I am scratching my head as to why this couldn’t have been arranged.
“As a game, we mustn’t lose any opportunity to showcase the very best of the sport with the best two teams in the Championship going head-to-head.”
Featherstone, who finished their regular-season fixtures when they hosted Sheffield on Sunday, will stage Scotland’s international against Jamaica on Sunday, October 24 (3pm).
WIDNES VIKINGS coach Simon Finnigan believes the Vikings’ dramatic last-gasp home win over Bradford bodes well as he plots a 2022 promotion challenge with a squad that will again include former Super League ace Matty Smith and second rower Shane Grady.
Like local product Grady, 31, Smith, the 34-year-old former St Helens, Salford, Wigan, Catalans Dragons and England halfback, who joined Widnes last season and has successfully switched to the pack this term, has agreed a one-year contract extension.
“When I signed, it was a club that I wanted to be at, so to sign an extension and to do another year here is great,” he said.
“I’m enjoying playing like I did when I made my debut at 18. I’ve loved my time here and I’m looking forward to next year.”
It’s been an up-and-down first season at the helm for former Newcastle Thunder coach Finnigan, who took over in November.
After veteran Danny Brough’s field-goal put Bradford ahead on 77 minutes, Jack Owens kicked a long-range penalty goal in the final minute to edge a 10-9 victory.
The fullback, who earlier this season signed a three-year contract, was responsible for all his side’s points, the others coming from a try, conversion and penalty goal.
The 27-year-old’s clincher came after a Bradford were pulled up for a swinging arm, and Finnigan said: “It was a brave call by the referee, knowing the circumstance and timing.
“But it was the right decision and Jack held his nerve to land a wonderful kick and earn us what I thought was a deserved win.”
It was an eighth victory in 20 league games and Finnigan, who played for both Widnes and Bradford, added: “We have had some tight games that haven’t gone our way this year, but full credit to the boys. They fought and found a way to get a result, and that’s a good sign.”
BATLEY BULLDOGS coach Craig Lingard says the Bulldogs are being careful “not to drop the ball” when it comes to guarding against a Covid outbreak.
The club is preparing for the play-offs, which start on Saturday.
And as another season that has been disrupted by the pandemic heads towards an exciting finale, Lingard is determined to do everything possible to ensure his selection options remain plentiful.
It wasn’t until earlier this month that a full 18-match league fixture list was completed for the first time this year.
“We know from the daily Covid figures that the virus is still very much here,” said the former Keighley coach.
“As we have seen from the number of postponed and cancelled games, it’s clearly been a big problem for a lot of clubs this season, and to be honest, I think we have got off relatively lightly.
“There seems to be a loosening of people taking precautions generally, and certainly don’t want to get any issues at this stage of the season.
“As a part-time club who have players who out to work and with children going back to school, we have to be careful, and we’ve reminded everyone to remain alert to the risks we still face.
“We were already testing our players on a regular basis, but we’ve been doing it at every training session lately, so that if we do get any positive cases, we can take quick action to try and limit the spread as much as possible.
“Having put in so much hard work to get to where we are, we don’t want any disruptions, and it’s crucial we don’t drop the ball at this stage.”
Batley went into their final regular-season match at Halifax aiming to halt a mini-blip of two successive home defeats, by Whitehaven and Dewsbury.
Before that they had chalked up twelve wins in 18 league games.
DEWSBURY RAMS winger Lewis Carr has agreed to a second season with the Rams – after helping them gain a sweet first Heavy Woollen derby win over Batley in six attempts.
The 21-year-old came though the Castleford Academy but was unable to break into the first team, although he made a dual-registration appearances for York last year.
The former Normanton Knights junior joined Dewsbury in November, and has enjoyed his time at the Tetley’s Stadium.
“I feel (coach) Lee Greenwood has helped my confidence massively and he’s got me back to being myself on the pitch again,” he said.
“Hopefully next year he will help me to improve even further and I am excited to see what it has to hold.”
Greenwood explained: “Lewis has shown real potential in the games he has played, having impressed during pre-season.
“As with all young players, there are inconsistencies, but he has worked hard on his understanding and awareness of the game.”
Carr is the third current squad member to commit for 2022, following fellow winger Andy Gabriel and hooker Reiss Butterworth.
Prop Tom Garratt will join Hull KR while versatile back Matty Fleming is leaving for Widnes.
Dewsbury went into their final game of the season at home to Oldham seeking a third straight victory after winning 24-20 at Sheffield and 31-24 at Batley.
“It was a massive effort from the lads (at Batley), especially having played a man down for 30 minutes of the match,” said Greenwood.
“We showed sheer determination against a side who have been good this year, and there was a lot of pride in the performance.
“We’ve struggled at times, and some of that is down to struggling for numbers, at training as well as for matches, which has made preparation hard.”
Experienced Ireland international halfback Liam Finn, 37, has announced his retirement after a 20-year top-level career.
He started his second spell at Dewsbury in 2019, having previously played for Halifax, Wakefield, Featherstone, Castleford and Newcastle.
HALIFAX PANTHERS coach Simon Grix says his older brother Scott will be doing everything possible to end his career on a high as their hometown club prepare for the play-offs.
The pair, who are 35 and 37 respectively, featured alongside each other for both the Yorkshire team in 2004 and Ireland in 2010.
They were reunited in 2019, when Simon, who had retired at the end of the previous season, succeeded Richard Marshall as Halifax coach and Scott moved on loan from Huddersfield.
The versatile back signed a permanent deal ahead of last season and made his 400th career appearance against Whitehaven earlier this month.
It was his 51st outing for Halifax alongside 168 for Huddersfield, 90 for Wakefield, 32 for Widnes, 28 for Leigh, nine for his first club Doncaster (2003) and 22 for Ireland.
Simon said: “I have the pleasure of handing over milestone jerseys to the lads pre-game. For as long as I may coach in the game, I’m not sure I’ll hand over many with 400 on.
“There is only a select band of players who have managed to play so many. He’s worked really hard over his career and should be proud of that. We’re proud of him as a club.
“As it stands, he will be retiring. I’m sure he’ll be throwing everything into it to make sure he ends on a memorable performance.”
Scott said: “I’ve known about the milestone for quite a while. It crept on the radar prior to the Covid stuff so it seemed like it was a long time coming.
“It was in the back of my mind and to reach it with a couple of games to spare is great.
“I think looking back, I’ve probably got away with a lot on intuition, love and energy for the game, rather than the smart side of it.”
Halifax completed their regular-season fixtures at home to Batley seeking a 14th win in 21 league matches.
WHITEHAVEN will have talented backs Andrew Bulman and Karl Dixon in their squad again next season.
Winger Bulman, the son of former Haven player John, arrived from Hull ahead of the 2019 League 1 promotion campaign, when he crossed 17 times in 17 games in all competitions, scoring six in the 74-4 Challenge Cup third-round win over Wigan St Patricks to equal Vince Gribbin’s club-record feat of scoring six tries in a match, against Doncaster in 1984.
The 22-year-old has signed a two-year contract extension, while ex-England Lions community team international Dixon, 28, who joined from Wath Brow Hornets ahead of last season, has penned new twelve-month terms.
Jonty Gorley, who will next season step up from assistant, with current head coach Gary Charlton becoming director of rugby, said: “It’s great to have Andrew Bulman back on board with us.
“He’s an exciting winger who knows where the try-line is and as he has shown this season, he does a great job for us coming out of yardage with the pace and power he’s got.
“He is still young and can only improve. He has got a great future in the game.”
Dixon is primarily a halfback but has also slotted into the centres this season.
“I’m absolutely buzzing about Karl signing back on. He’s been brilliant for us again this year,” added Gorley.
“He’s proved what an asset he is. He has without doubt stepped up to Championship rugby and I expect him to be at the forefront of what we do well next year.
“When Karl has the ball in hand he is a massive threat. He is a big lad who has a great running game and he can also find the right pass. He proved to be a handy defender on our left side too.”
Having beaten Halifax, Whitehaven went into Sunday’s game at Bradford still in with a chance of making the play-offs.
SWINTON LIONS coach Allan Coleman is “keeping his fingers crossed” that Martyn Ridyard will remain at the club for next season’s League 1 campaign.
The 35-year-old former Leigh and Featherstone halfback, signed ahead of this season, made his 300th career appearance and kicked five goals when the relegated Lions beat Sheffield 34-28 in South Yorkshire for only their second league win of the season.
“It’s a fantastic achievement to get to that number of games, and Martyn’s experience is invaluable,” said Coleman.
“It’s not just what he does on the pitch, but how he is off it and how he mentors the younger lads.
“We’ve been working on getting the squad sorted and talking to players for a while now, and fingers crossed we can keep Martyn on board.”
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE will head into the play-offs with a 100 percent record and having impressed in front of the Our League cameras as they received the League Leaders’ Shield on Saturday.
Former Featherstone, Castleford and Bradford player Jy Hitchcox went in four times, while Joe Bretherton, Mathieu Jussaume and Justin Sangare all crossed twice as Sylvain Houles’ side scored 15 tries in all in beating Thunder 82-12.
Toulouse, who will have home advantage in the semi-finals, and if they are victorious, the final, which will decide promotion, have notched 698 points and conceded only 124 in 14 matches, all of which have been on English soil.
NEWCASTLE THUNDER took Warrington’s 20-year-old back Nathan Roebuck on loan ahead of their final match of the season, and watched him score both their tries in from the wing in their 82-12 defeat by Toulouse at Kingston Park on Saturday.
The Oldham-born Wolves Academy product, who had made one first-team appearance for the club, has already had spells at Leigh and Salford this year.
Tonga international and former New Zealand Warriors and Huddersfield forward Ukuma Ta’ai took both the coaches’ and players’ player of the year awards at the club’s annual event.
BRADFORD BULLS have agreed a contract extension with Brad England, and the impact the backrower has made since moving from Doncaster has convinced coach John Kear that it’s well worth looking for further players ready to step up from League 1.
Wakes international prop Ant Walker has also penned terms through to the end of next season.
Having had a spell on loan in 2016, the 26-year-old England joined Doncaster after failing to break into the first team at Castleford, serving them for four years before Kear made his move ahead of this season.
“Brad’s been a signing that really has paid off and it came as a result of us trawling through the lower leagues,” explained Kear, who has piloted his team to the play-offs.
“That’s what will happen this year with our recruitment. The players may not be the biggest names, but they are ones we have researched greatly and feel can make an impression.
“You’ve got to trawl through and put in the time, but you will find some hidden gems. That’s what we believe we’ve done with Brad.
England explained: “It has been a lot more physical in the Championship, but I like that side of the game. I have enjoyed every minute and hopefully we can keep on improving.”
SHEFFIELD EAGLES coach Mark Aston faces a squad rebuild after experienced prop Scott Wheeldon became the third senior Eagles star to announce his retirement as the departure of ten other players was confirmed.
Ryan Millar, James Glover, Aaron Brown, Oliver Davies, Brad Knowles, Frankie Mariano,
Bobby Tyson-Wilson, Max Clarke, Robbie Ward and Chris Ball are all leaving.
Wheeldon, the former Hull, Hull KR, London Broncos, Castleford and Featherstone man follows winger Rob Worrincy and skipper and forward Matt James in hanging up his boots.
The 35-year-old, who began his second spell at Sheffield last year, said: “I’ve been thinking about it from the start of this season.
“Last year was a bit funny with COVID, so that didn’t really help me, not getting much training and everything being shut.
“I knew going into this season it would be tough to get into shape from the get-go. At 35, it’s difficult to have a year out while some of the younger lads got straight back into it.
“I also feel my performances this year haven’t been where they were in the past, so it’s another factor in calling it a day. I’m not the sort to drag out another season to pick up some money.
“The body has taken a bit of a hammering over the years and I’m looking forward to a bit of time off, but I’ll miss being around the lads.”
Aston said: “We are saddened to lose Scott, like we are Matty and Rob.
“Wheely is a champion bloke who during his two spells at the club has brought vast experience and knowledge to the squad and been a real asset up front and also helping mentor the younger players.”
A SOLID 100th career appearance for second row Liam Bent and a fine solo try by prop Tyler Dupree provided some consolation for OLDHAM from their defeat by Newcastle – and showed why Widnes are reportedly interested in the pair.
The Bower Fold match-up, which the visitors won 38-24 to condemn the relegated Roughyeds to a 17th loss in 20 league games this year, also marked a farewell home outing for retiring captain and hooker Gareth Owen.
It was a 92nd Oldham appearance for Bent, 23, who played eight times for North Wales Crusaders during the 2015 campaign.
Dupree, 20, signed from Leeds ahead of this season, grabbed the third of Oldham’s five tries.
Taking the ball deep inside his own half, he crashed into the clear, sent two or three defenders scattering, looked for support and then decided to go it alone, cutting in for the posts and just doing enough to fend off fullback Alex Donaghy.
Oldham, who closed a disappointing campaign with a visit to Dewsbury on Sunday, are resigned to losing a number of players, with winger Ryan Ince and hooker Dec Gregory also being linked with Widnes and frontrowers Martyn Reilly and Liam Kirk with Sheffield.
YORK CITY KNIGHTS forward Tim Spears is set for talks about taking a coaching role at the ambitious club after announcing his retirement as a player.
The 37-year-old, who came through the ranks at Castleford and spent eight years at Featherstone, has just finished his fifth campaign with the Knights.
He was captain for the first four of them, leading York to the League 1 title in 2018 and a third-placed Championship finish in 2019.
“Tim and I need to sit down and have a chat. I’m full of respect for him, and I’d like to think that it’s mutual,” said coach James Ford.
“The door is certainly not closed.”
York trio Ryan Atkins, Danny Washbrook and James Green have already announced plans to retire.
Meanwhile, the Knights have announced a two-year contract extension for fullback or halfback Matty Marsh, while confirming that second rower Sam Scott is leaving the club, where he has had two spells.
“Re-signing Matty was a priority for everyone at the club,” said Ford of the former Hull KR player.
“He’s matured into a top fullback and as we’ve seen this year a very good halfback too. He has a fantastic attitude.”
Ford’s side closed their 2021 campaign at home to London Broncos on Sunday.
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.