Newcastle Thunder coach Simon Finnigan has said the introduction of the club’s reserve grade team has produced benefits across the club.
The Thunder reserves side have won two of their opening three games and are joint third in the league with Wigan Warriors and Hull FC.
“The reserves have been really good for us so far,” said Finnigan.
“We’ve got around eight to ten local North-East kids playing each week with another three or four already graduating from that into the first team.
“All the lads are benefitting from it too. Because of the recent bad weather and minimal pre-season games, there was a spell where some of the first-team guys wouldn’t have played a game for three weeks, but they were able to get some valuable game time with the reserves, which was great.
“Also with the Under-18s Academy competition running more sensibly and only just starting at the weekend, a few of them have been able to get a hit out as well as they don’t get as many friendlies. So being able to use the reserves to get some of them some match fitness before their season started was very helpful.
“It works out good that way, plus it’s hugely valuable for the growth of the game and keeping more players involved.
“I don’t know others’ take on it, but from what I’ve seen it’s going in the right direction and I am very pleased with it. I hope it stays and I don’t know why it wouldn’t.
HUNSLET coach Gary Thornton is already looking ahead to facing Featherstone Rovers in the fifth round of the Challenge Cup, but he knows there are other priorities to focus on first.
The match against last year’s Championship runners-up will take place at the LD Nutrition Stadium on Friday, March 13 at 7:30pm.
“We’ve been given a good draw against Featherstone and while I’d obviously have preferred to be at home, it will be a good test for us,” said Thornton.
“If we have aspirations to get promotion to the Championship, which we do, then this will be a good pointer as to where we are at the moment after we pushed Halifax all the way last year.
“But we’ll not be focusing on the Featherstone game until we’ve got our first two games in Betfred League 1, which is our top priority, out of the way.
“We were at West Wales Raiders on Sunday, and we’re at home to a North Wales side that will be eager for revenge for the Cup result this weekend.
“We can’t afford any slip-ups.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS player-coach James Feather has confirmed he will hang up his boots once and for all if the club achieves its aim of promotion this year.
The 35-year-old has already put retirement plans on hold several times, but he believes he can still contribute to earning the Cougars a place in the Championship next year.
“It’s becoming a lot tougher now,” Feather admitted to the Keighley News.
“I said I’d retire at the end of last year, but I had a good season. We’re a group that all get on and are desperate to win, so who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
“But if we can win the league or get promoted, then I’ll retire, because the Championship would be a step too far.
“I’m a realist, I know I’m coming towards the end, but I’m not done yet. I can give still give more to the Cougars this season.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS forward Archie Snook believes the side will show improvement across the season as they look to progress under new coach Aaron Wood.
“When Kim Williams left to go to Huddersfield, it was a bit of a shock for everyone,” Snook told the latest issue of Rugby League World magazine.
“I’m not surprised he was snapped up because he was a brilliant coach, but we found ourselves in the deep end a bit and it’s been really hard.
“Aaron Wood’s come in and made a great impression. Everyone wants to work hard for him and stake their claim for a place in the team.
“At the moment, it’s a bit difficult to say how we’re looking compared to last season, because we haven’t played any pre-season games and some of the players we’ve signed haven’t arrived yet.”
*Read the full interview with Snook in Rugby League World – OUT NOW
COVENTRY BEARS welcomed three new faces into the squad that faced Newcastle Thunder on Sunday.
Incoming is Kieran Moran, who has joined from Keighley on a one-month loan. He is joined by Dewsbury Rams duo Sam Moorhouse and Morgan Punchard, who are on dual-registration terms with the Bears.
“These guys all added a bit of extra experience to he team and after working hard in pre-season we just really wanted to start the season well,” said director of rugby Alan Robinson.
“I have made sure they have come down and trained with us; they are not just coming in, playing and then disappearing. We’ve been in regular contact with Lee Greenwood at Dewsbury, while Rhys Lovegrove at Keighley has been great as well, so it’s all been a good fit for us.
“Kieran will give us a bit more size and impact while he’s with us. He’s versatile and skilful so he can play in the front-row, and he can also play at 13. He has some ball-play in him and that’s what we’ll hope to utilise.”
DONCASTER have signed Batley Bulldogs backrower Danny Bravo on loan for the rest of the season.
The Jamaican international came through the youth set up at Leeds Rhinos, but has had his career halted in recent years through a series of injures that have seen him out of action for three years.
Having recently had the all-clear to resume his career, Bravo re-joined Batley Bulldogs, but will spend the season earning game time with Richard Horne’s Doncaster team.
“Thank you to @BatleyRLFC for your constant support. I am very excited to get the opportunity at @Doncaster_RLFC,” tweeted Bravo.
LONDON SKOLARS hooker Ryan Cane is hoping to have a big impact on the team following his move to the capital from Australia.
“To make the move over to the UK to play with London Skolars and test myself is a great privilege and is very exciting,” said Cane.
“The boys have been very welcoming and I can’t wait to help make an impact in the competition.”