BARROW RAIDERS will go with a first-choice halfback combination of former Super League star Jarrod Sammut and local product Ryan Johnston next year after the departure of Jamie Dallimore.
The experienced 33-year-old, who has been the Raiders’ main goal-kicker in recent seasons, was set for a seventh campaign with the the Cumbrian club, but has now left due to increasing work and family commitments.
At this stage, there are no plans to replace the former Oldham and North Wales Crusaders man.
Barrow – who also have halfbacks Jake Carter, who like Johnston, emerged from the Furness Raiders development set-up, and Gary Wheeler, primarily a centre – have assigned Dallimore a squad number (27).
But the Wigan-based star, twice a League 1 promotion winner with the Raiders, including this year, when he was among the nominations for the divisional player of the year award, explained: “They have left the door open to return if I can, but for now this is the best decision.
“Travelling was a massive thing. I don’t have set work hours, and I’ve also recently had a newborn son.
“With all things considered, I can’t fit it all in, especially at my age, and it’s not fair on anyone.
“I spoke to (coach) Paul Crarey and the club. They were good to me and gave me time to adapt, but it hasn’t worked out, and I believe I’m doing what’s right for both parties.”
Barrow last week announced their squad numbers for the new campaign.
1 Luke Cresswell, 2 Theerapol Ritson, 3 Dec Hulme, 4 Hakim Miloudi, 5 Shane Toal, 6 Jarrod Sammut, 7 Ryan Johnston, 8 Adam Walne, 9 Nathan Mossop, 10 Carl Forster, 11 Danny Langtree, 12 Jarrad Stack, 13 Jordan Walne, 14 Jake Carter, 15 Dan Toal, 16 Tom Hopkins, 17 Charlie Emslie, 18 Bradd Crellin, 19 Connor Terrill, 20 Gary Wheeler, 21 Ellis Gillam, 22 Josh Wood, 23 Sam Brook, 24 Anton Iaria, 25 Danny Morrow, 26 Ryan Shaw, 27 Jamie Dallimore.
BRADFORD BULLS have added a meeting with dual-registration partners Hull to a pre-season schedule which starts with a home Boxing Day derby against Halifax (12.30pm).
John Kear’s side will face the Black and Whites at Odsal on Sunday, January 16 (3pm) in a testimonial for Danny Brough, the veteran halfback who retired on medical advice at the end of last season.
Brough played under Kear for Hull in 2005, when Leeds were beaten in the Challenge Cup final, and 2006. The pair were also together at Wakefield before being reunited at Bradford.
The Bulls also host Batley on Sunday, January 9, and Leeds on Sunday, January 23 as they build for their opening Championship game at Dewsbury on Sunday, January 30.
Bradford have already announced a partnership with Leeds, which will includes loan spells at Odsal for hooker Corey Johnson, secondrow Muizz Mustapha and loose-forward Jarrod O’Connor.
Now they have resurrected the dual-registration agreement with Hull which had to be put on hold when the pandemic struck in 2020, and Kear explained: “We are looking to build on what we started then.
“There will be opportunities throughout the season for us to work closely with Hull at first-team and Reserve grade level and it should present genuine benefits for the players, the coaches and the supporters.
“(Chairman) Nigel Wood and myself have a very good relationship with (chief executive) James Clark and the management at Hull, who are one of the premier clubs in the sport and have assembled a strong squad for the new season.
“We hope both clubs will be up there in their respective competitions and that the partnership can be of benefit to both organisations.”
Hull coach Brett Hodgson said: “We are really looking forward to the opportunity to work with the Bulls again.
“I have a lot of respect for John and his team and we saw the benefit of players like Mitch Vulikijapani joining Bradford last season.”
DEWSBURY RAMS coach Lee Greenwood hopes to pick from a full-strength squad – minus suspended Keenen Tomlinson and Dale Ferguson – when his side visit Batley for the twelfth Heavy Woollen Boxing Day challenge match.
The neighbours will square up at noon for the Roy Powell Trophy, named after the former Leeds, Bradford, Featherstone and Great Britain forward, who was born in Dewsbury, played for Batley and died at 33 in December 1998.
The Boxing Day challenge series began in 2009, since when Batley have claimed nine wins and the Rams one, back in 2011.
With the game not taking place last year due to the pandemic, it’s the first festive meeting since 2019, a 14-14 draw at the Rams’ Tetley’s Stadium.
Dewsbury were 31-24 winners in September’s Championship derby at Batley, and having ended the campaign with three straight wins, Greenwood would like to kick-off his fourth pre-season schedule as Rams coach with a victory.
But he says it will be unwise to read too much into the result, however it goes.
“It’s the first game and we’re both still a work in progress,” he explained.
“It’s a little bit out of synch, but it provides a financial boost for both clubs (the receipts are shared) and gives supporters the chance to watch a game.”
The Rams have made a raft of new signings, including former Featherstone man Ferguson, who like fellow backrow and ex-Batley player Tomlinson, picked up a ban while on international duty in October.
Ferguson featured for Scotland, for whom Greenwood is assistant to Nathan Graham, his right-hand man at Dewsbury, and Tomlinson for Jamaica in the 30-30 draw at Featherstone.
Owen Harrison, the prop signed from Hull KR, has not been assigned a squad number because his current circumstances mean he can’t commit to training.
The 22-year-old is registered to the Rams and could yet feature at some stage next year.
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS would be a fine addition to Super League – according to former player Frankie Halton.
Rovers, who last played top-flight rugby in 1995, before the summer era, have three times come within one win of a return.
The most recent was this year, when James Webster’s side, including Ireland international Halton in the secondrow, were beaten 34-12 by Toulouse in the Million Pound Game in France.
Since then Webster has departed, to be replaced by Brian McDermott, who guided Leeds to four Super League titles (as well as two Challenge Cups and a World Club Challenge triumph) and Toronto to victory over Featherstone in the 2019 Million Pound Game.
And former England Lions Under 23 player Halton, who can also play prop, has joined Hull KR on a two-year contract.
The 25-year-old Leigh Miners Rangers product, who scored eight tries in 23 outings for Featherstone this year after two seasons at Swinton, says Webster played a key role in his progression.
“I had a great year there with a top bunch of lads and I learned a lot from Webbo,” he told League Express.
“Featherstone have been knocking on the door for a while now, and it took a really good Toulouse side to beat us.
“Now Leigh are back in the Championship, and like Toulouse, are a full-time team who will be really competitive.
“Newcastle have also gone full-time, and the likes of Halifax and Bradford will be having a real go, so it will be tough once again.
“But Featherstone have brought in a top coach in Brian McDermott and have made some quality signings, like (former NRL centre) Joey Leilua, and I think they will be up there challenging again.
“I really do hope they make it to Super League, and having experienced the support they get, the work they do in the local community and just the level of ambition at the club, I think they would definitely add something.”
LEIGH CENTURIONS head of rugby Chris Chester landed experienced NRL player John Asiata with the help of new coach Adrian Lam and labelled him “one of the final pieces in the jigsaw” as he plots a quick return to Super League.
The versatile 28-year-old, a backrow who can also operate in the halves and has represented both Samoa and Tonga, became available after leaving Canterbury Bulldogs over his reluctance to have a Covid vaccination.
Asiata, a Grand Final (2015) and World Club Challenge (2016) winner with North Queensland Cowboys, signed a one-year deal with Canterbury on September 15 after a season with Brisbane Broncos, but didn’t even train with the squad.
The first NRL player to be axed due to their vaccination stance, he becomes relegated Leigh’s 15th new arrival and 20th squad member.
His signing was announced by Martyn Clarke during his daunting challenge of completing seven half ironman triathlons in as many days to raise money for the MND Association.
Also on board are former Canberra Raiders fullback Caleb Aekins, ex-Wests Tigers prop Tom Alone and Nene McDonald, the Papua New Guinea back who was with Cronulla Sharks in 2020 and helped North Devils to this year’s Queensland Cup Grand Final.
Asiata, who made 129 appearances for North Queensland, explained: “It’s been a long and tough couple of months, but I’m excited for this next challenge.”
Chester said: “It is not often such a quality player becomes available. There were lots of clubs in Super League and the Championship chasing him. Adrian and I acted quickly.
“He is primarily a lock but can play halfback or on the edge. He’s a good ball player so he will be an excellent link between the forwards and both edges.
“John is a really good fit for the club, one of the final pieces in the jigsaw.”
Leigh will visit St Helens for Alex Walmsley’s testimonial match on Friday, January 21.
NEWCASTLE THUNDER coach Eamon O’Carroll says landing Castleford forward Lewis Peachey on a season-long loan has provided a pick-me-up following the loss of centre Thomas Minns.
Having joined from Featherstone in October, former Leeds and Hull KR player Minns agreed a split from the North-East club, who have turned full-time, after finding travelling from Yorkshire problematic.
The departure of Minns followed that of forward Kyle Trout, who has switched to Featherstone, and O’Carroll admitted: “Losing the pair of them was a blow.
“We knew what was coming with Kyle, so we had accounted for him going, while Minnsy had settled in well and had already added to the group, but was struggling with being based away from the club.
“In both cases, leaving was disappointing, but the best thing for them and us, and with us transitioning to full-time, there were always likely to be a few situations like this.
“We’ll think about replacing Tom, but we are not in a hurry, because we don’t want to rush into a signing for the sake of it and we have our (dual-registration) partnership with Wigan, which could lead to something.”
While Castleford have a recall option, O’Carroll says the Tigers realise the value of Peachey, 20, getting more regular game time than might otherwise have been the case.
The club Academy product, who can play prop or secondrow, made one start and six appearances from the bench last season, taking his overall Castleford tally to eleven outings.
“Lewis is a good young player with Super League experience and is looking for more first-team opportunities,” said O’Carroll.
“That is something that he has the chance to claim here as well as training in a full-time environment as he’s used to.
“He’s only been with us for a short time but has already made contributions to the group and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
WORKINGTON TOWN coach Chris Thorman says signing local products will always be a key part of his recruitment policy.
Town have agreed a two-year contract with teenage secondrow Malik Steele, who came though the Newcastle Thunder Academy after being in the Seaton Rangers junior set-up.
His fellow Workington forwards Caine Barnes, Conor Fitzsimmons and Jordan O’Leary also emerged from the nearby club who have just joined the National Conference League.
Meanwhile, Town recently signed Wath Brow Hornets centre Curtis Teare and have players from Egremont Rangers, Ellenborough Rangers, Hensingham, Maryport and Millom on their roster.
“People talk about the Cumbrian amateur scene, but being up here really brings home how strong it is,” said Thorman, who has been at the helm since May 2019 and guided his side to promotion from League 1 this year.
“Geographically, it makes sense for us to try to sign the best local players, because they are already up here, and hopefully it helps the local clubs if there is a pathway to playing professionally.
“When I was first finding my feet, I made sure I got in touch with people who know the Cumbrian Rugby League scene, and I think I’ve now visited all the clubs at one time or another.”
Thorman is delighted to have got Steele on board, explaining: ‘Mal is a big edge backrower who has had three really good educational years at Newcastle.
“He is still only 19, but with the pre-season he’s having, he’s really training himself into contention to feature.”
Workington have also agreed a two-year contract extension with versatile forward Dave Weetman.
The 23-year-old former Newcastle player is currently recovering from a broken leg sustained in only his third appearance after joining in August from French club Saint-Gaudens.
“Dave is athletic, aggressive and competitive,” said Thorman. “He is well into his rehab and should be running soon. Once he does that, he’ll be into full training.”
BATLEY BULLDOGS have confirmed two supporters’ events in January as they gear up for their home Heavy Woollen Boxing Day challenge match against Dewsbury.
The Bulldogs will host a ‘meet the squad’ evening at Batley Irish Democratic League Club on Friday, January 14.
And seven days later, January 21, there will be an ‘ask the ref’ session at Ron’s Lounge at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium.
On the panel will be long-serving whistler Rob Hicks and officiating brothers Liam and Aaron Moore.
Hicks is also the RFL’s director of operations and legal, and refereed this year’s Million Pound Game between Toulouse and Featherstone.
Liam Moore enjoyed a 2021 Challenge Cup final and Super League Grand Final double.
His younger brother Aaron played for Salford and North Wales Crusaders before taking up refereeing.
Batley will be seeking a tenth win in the twelfth running of the annual Heavy Woollen festive clash, which stretches back to 2009 but didn’t take place last year due to the pandemic.
The old rivals will be playing for the Roy Powell Trophy.
HALIFAX PANTHERS stalwart Elliot Morris is enjoying the club’s new fraternal coaching approach.
Team chief Simon Grix is now working with his elder brother Scott, who having hung up his boots at 37, has become strength and conditioning supremo at The Shay.
Simon Grix, 36, has also brought in ex-Super League halfback and fellow former Ireland international Liam Finn as assistant coach.
And 25-year-old Morris, who scored three tries in 19 appearances as Halifax finished third and made the Championship play-off semi-finals this year, said: “It’s probably been the most professional pre season in my time at Halifax (he made his debut in 2016).
“With Simon and Finny getting involved, it’s definitely taken a step up from the years before.”
Halifax face Bradford at Odsal in their first pre-season match on Boxing Day.
The Panthers also host Wakefield in Scott Grix’s testimonial on Sunday, January 16.
Forward Ed Barber is closing in on a return from injury and, having been doing some gym work, is now able to start running again.
LONDON BRONCOS coach Jermaine Coleman believes Paulos Latu can be the centre of attention next year.
It’s a second stint at the club for the 31-year-old Kiwi, who played twice at the start of the 2021 campaign after a move from French club Limoux before linking up with Coleman at London Skolars.
He played centre rather than secondrow in League 1, chalking up seven tries in 13 outings.
Now the pair are at the Broncos, and Coleman reckons Latu, who enjoyed a two-try outing for New Zealand Residents when they beat the New Zealand Maoris 30-10 in 2016, can pose plenty of problems for Championship opponents.
“Paulos is a big body and he’s a real handful with ball in hand,” he explained. “With a full year under his belt, I think he will have a big impact on the team.
“I think he has a score to settle at the Broncos and the fans didn’t get to see the best of him last time around as he was being played out of position.”
SHEFFIELD EAGLES winger Ben Jones-Bishop, whose arrival means the Eagles could have four players on World Cup duty for Jamaica at the end of next season, says there’s no reason why Mark Aston’s men can’t push for the play-offs.
The steel-city side, whose campaign was interrupted by a couple of Covid outbreaks, tailed away to finish third-bottom this year.
The resilient Aston has responded with a squad rebuild, and both Jamaica duo Jones-Bishop, 33, and Kadeem Williams, the centre or secondrow signed from Coventry, are among the additions.
They join Reggae Warriors brothers Isaac and Joel Farrell at the Olympic Legacy Park, and ex-Super League star Jones-Bishop said: “We need to be trying to get Sheffield knocking on the door of the play-offs.
“Whitehaven surprised a few to make the play-offs this time around.
“It’s well-documented that a lot of teams have spent quite a bit of money and it’s a strong league, but why not? Why can’t we throw our hat in the ring?”
WHITEHAVEN director of rugby Gary Charlton believes centre Will Evans has all the attributes to become the latest Australian to make his mark at the club.
Versatile back Lachlan Walmsley, signed from South Newcastle Lions, of the Newcastle Rugby League, and prop Ryan King, recruited from Cronulla-Carringbah Sharks, who play in the Sydney Shield, helped the Cumbrians make a late-season surge into the play-offs under Charlton.
Assistant coach Jonty Gorley has taken the reins after Charlton’s moved ‘upstairs’, and will be able to call on both King and Evans, who has been at Queensland Cup side Burleigh Bears after featuring in the development system of both Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast Titans.
“He’s been at a decent standard and with being able to play fullback or wing as well, he gives us versatility,” said Charlton.
“You always need try-scorers, and a lot of the Aussies know how to sniff out chances.”
Gorley added: “Like the others have done, Will is chancing his arm, coming to have a dig and make a name for himself.“
WIDNES VIKINGS have parted company with hooker Logan Tomkins after reaching agreement over the remaining year of his contract.
The former Wigan and Salford player, a Grand Finalist with the Red Devils in 2019, caught the eye for the Vikings during the curtailed 2020 campaign.
But a foot injury ruled him out for the whole of this year, and despite working hard on his recovery, the 29-year-old has called time on a career which began in 2012.
His decision follows the retirement of elder brother Joel, the former Wigan, Hull KR and Catalans Dragons star, 34, who was lined up to play for Leigh in 2022 before a rethink.
Middle brother Sam, 32, is preparing for his fourth campaign at Catalans, having also represented Wigan and New Zealand Warriors.
“It is with sadness that I announce my retirement from Rugby League,” said Logan Tomkins, who as an emerging Wigan player, played on dual registration for Widnes in 2011.
“It’s been a tough but necessary decision. Sharing the field with my brothers will always be among my greatest achievements.”
YORK CITY KNIGHTS winger AJ Towse has been named in the initial North squad for the University Origin clash with the South.
The sides go head to head at Loughborough University on Sunday, February 6.
York St John student Towse, 18, who made two appearances for the Knights this year and signed a contract through to 2023, caught the eye of England Universities head coach Richard Tate when playing for North-East last month.
The Origin game was first played in 2016 and has other than this year, has taken place annually to determine the final selection for the England Universities squad.
The North have won every encounter so far and Towse, who came through the ranks at community club Heworth, said: “I’m pleased to be picked. It’s a great opportunity to train with other young players in a different environment, hopefully play some representative rugby and to represent York St John.”
Both squads will be cut from 30 to 20 before the Origin game, with a 26-strong pool picked for the England Universities programme, which starts in March.
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