Betfred League 1 news round-up

MIDLANDS HURRICANES will kick-off life as a professional club when they travel north to face York City Knights in a pre-season game on Friday night.

The match at the LNER Community Stadium will be the club’s first since their major rebrand from Coventry Bears and head coach Richard Squires says it will be a special event for all those involved.

“It’ll be a momentous day and it’s one everyone is looking forward to,” said Squires.

“Lots of people are buying into it. A lot of hospitality has been sold for the game which is a great opportunity for us to tell them about our journey so far and what our plans are.

“But as a new group of players it will be great for them to finally get out there together and give them the chance to enjoy and express themselves.

“Obviously we do want to put in a performance, but we won’t have been training too much, given how late we were in starting.

“We do still need to show people what we’re about on the field, but a lot of Friday is about letting fans meet our new owners, seeing the new players and really just bringing everyone together for the first time.

“York are a club a bit like ourselves. They haven’t rebranded, but they are a similar sort of expansionist club that have gone about things in the right way. They have made some great strides in the last couple of years so we want to be able to set our stall out and give people a vision of where we want to be in a few years time.”


SWINTON LIONS directors Steve Wild and Andy Unwin teamed up with RFL CEO Ralph Rimmer to give one of their former stars a Christmas present he’ll never forget.

Stan Laing, managing director at the club’s principal sponsor and commercial partner Glossop Caravans, who played for the club in the late 60s and early 70s alongside legends such as Ken Gowers and Alan Buckley were still at Station Road, picked up a winners medal when the Lions defeated Salford in the 1970 Lancashire Shield Final.

It was one of his most prized possessions before it sadly went missing during a house move.

“When we heard Stan’s account of the missing medal we were determined to do something about it,” said chief executive Wild.

“First of all we tracked down an original medal from the game in question, and for that we need to thank Gary Robinson, whose dad Brian captained the Swinton team when the final was won 51 years ago. We then engaged a specialist jeweller to make an exact copy in solid silver, and finally with the assistance of Ralph Rimmer, we were able to “re-unite” Stan with his lost medal.

“It was a fantastic feeling to be able to give something back to Stan as a token of our appreciation.”


Despite bringing in eight new faces for the upcoming season, KEIGHLEY COUGARS coach Rhys Lovegrove has admitted he has had easier pre-seasons when it comes to recruitment.

Over the festive period the club confirmed the signing of Kian Fisher following a successful trial at the club. He joins Lewis Young, Myles Tate, Harvey Spence, Chris Cullimore, Nathan Roebuck, Anesu Mudoti and Anthony Dyne in moving to Cougar Park.

“It has not been the easiest window for any club to work in because a lot was still up in the air for a long time,” said Lovegrove.

“The return of the Reserve grade has had an impact on League 1 and Championship clubs’ player pool. A lot of clubs have previously taken players straight out of Super League Academies, but with the reserve grade Super League clubs are retaining a lot more players.

“The arrival of Cornwall as well means there will be a group of players going down there so there is an extra team to split players between.

“We have also seen a lot of players drop out of the game because of Covid, meaning they aren’t enjoying the game as much as they once did.

“It’s been a challenging window, so I am happy with the success we’ve had. We’ve been able to entice the targets we wanted and they all seem to have settled in really well.”

18-year-old hooker Fisher has joined the club from National Conference League side Drighlington where he caught the eye of his new team mate Scott Murrell, who coaches in the junior ranks at the community club.

Fisher was previously part of the scholarship programme at Huddersfield Giants, but returned to the Community game after just a year. He linked up with the Cougars at the start of pre-season and has impressed enough to earn a contract for the 2022 season.

“Kian has a strong desire to learn and progress his game which is rare to see in someone so young,” said Lovegrove.

“He plays the game with a great intensity and really listens and focuses when it comes to training.

“The intensity and desire to learn that he brings to the field is infectious, he always wants to get involved and ask questions in order to further and aid his development as a player.

“He’s often the last out on the field doing extras with some of the other players and I’m delighted he has agreed a deal with the club.”


NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray will be an interested spectator when Leigh Miners and Milford Marlins go head to head in the Challenge Cup later this month.

The winners of that tie will host the Crusaders in the second round in what will be their first game of the new season.

“I’ll be going down there to watch that game,” said Murray.

“We’ll be taking our game against whoever wins that one very seriously. We came unstuck in this competition against Thatto Heath a couple of years ago and with my own background in the community game I am very aware that there are some very good players out there.

“As much as Leigh Miners have been a successful team in recent years, so have Milford, but I probably wouldn’t have had much opportunity to see them in action if we didn’t already know the draw. So the way it’s been done this year allows me to get out and watch both teams knowing that we’ll be playing one of them in our first game of the new season.”

Elsewhere, over the festive break, the club announced new deals for utility man Jack Holmes, who has won promotion from League 1 on three separate occasions, and former Super League winger Patrick Ah Van.


ROCHDALE HORNETS were dealt a double blow just before the new year with the death of two well-respected club favourites.

Original Fijian pioneer Michael Ratu Senior and former director and lifelong supporter Brian Belfield passed away within days of each other, but chairman Andy Mazey believes the sad losses can spur the squad on to have a memorable season in honour of the duo.

“It was a really tough couple of days,” admitted Mazey.

“We had been informed of Brian’s passing and were putting together a tribute to him for the website when we also got news that Michael had gone too.

“They were two really important figures for the club. Michael was a big figure around the club and did a lot of work with us round promoting the England v Fiji game that was due to be played here in October. He was known around the community too so it’s a big loss.

“Brian has pretty much done every voluntary duty possible around the club and was a real gentleman and a real stalwart of the Hornets

“But we have got to use that as motivation. We’re already pushing hard to have a big season this year and while this news is not what anyone wanted to hear, it will give us an extra push to achieve something they both would have been proud of.”


OLDHAM coach Stuart Littler is hopeful that the club’s return to the Vestacare Stadium will lead to less disruption and bigger crowds when the new season gets underway.

League Express reported in November that the club were close to finalising the move back to the Stadium following their relegation from the Championship. Those final factors have now been confirmed, meaning the club will now be back playing in Oldham for the first time since beating Newcastle Thunder in the Promotion Final in 2019.

The first game to be played back on the artificial pitch at the Vestacare Stadium will be a pre-season friendly against Super League side Wakefield Trinity on Saturday, January 22 (6pm kick-off), with the Second Round Challenge Cup tie against Lock Lane or Thatto Heath the following weekend.

“We’ll be playing for Oldham, in Oldham and we’ll be trying to create a community atmosphere in which Oldham people can play a key part,” said Littler.

“We hope to attract them in numbers, including whole families who can enjoy themselves watching a team which, hopefully, will be playing good rugby too.

“It’s a fast pitch which should suit the way we want to play.

“Pre and early-season games could be hit by bad weather, but the Vestacare pitch should reduce the risk of that.

“On top of that, we already know the pitch to a degree because we’ve trained on there and some of the lads have played on it, either for Oldham or for other clubs.”


HUNSLET coach Alan Kilshaw has sent out a very clear message to his squad if they are to go one better in 2022 than they did last year.

The South Leeds club claimed the final play-off spot in 2021, but lost 31-10 to Doncaster in the Elimination Play-Off.

Kilshaw though will be hoping his side can make a real push for promotion this time round and knows that consistency will be the key to success.

“We need to be consistent in our actions every week,” he said.

“Finishing high in the table and making the finals will be a by-product of that.

“It’s about taking the things we’re doing now, in pre-season training, into the season and being consistent week in week out.

“That not just when at training or playing. Away from the club the guys have to focus on what they’re eating, how they are preparing for games and getting plenty of sleep. All those things need to be done consistently, not just for one week when we’ve hd a loss, or another because we have big game coming up.

“It needs to be week in week out and that’s one thing we’ve already addressed as a group.”


DONCASTER chief executive Carl Hall has said the early signs are looking good as his squad continue to prepare for the new season.

Joe Fella and Tom Halliday both signed new deals ahead of the Christmas break to complete the 2022 squad for now, with more new arrivals possible.

However, if they don’t materialise, Hall is confident in the ability of what he already has signed up.

“The coaching staff are really happy with the squad and they are a really fit bunch,” said Hall.

“We harped on last year about how good the togetherness in the group was and I think, I hope, we have the same sort of group again.

“The feeling is there and players all doing the right thing, and it looks like we have a real hardworking group with some real X-factor in there.

“We have spoken to a couple more players and are waiting for a decision on them. We’ll also maybe look at the loan market and have had discussions with other clubs on that. But we’re happy with where we are and if we get the couple coming in that we want and a couple on loan we’ll be strong again.

“We’ve made no secret of the fact we want to go one better again and we’re doing everything we can to do that.”

One player that won’t be involved this year is Ryan Boyle, who has announced his retirement from the game.

The 34-year-old has made 67 appearances for the club since joining in 2018 following a career with Castleford Tigers, Salford and Halifax.


LONDON SKOLARS are on the lookout for a new opponent for their Capital Challenge pre-season game after the decision was made to postpone the planned fixture against London Broncos.

The sides were due to meet on Friday, January 14, but the ongoing pandemic has caused the game to be pushed back two months until Friday, March 18.

However the Championship season will be underway by then, meaning it will not be possible for the Broncos to play on the re-arranged date so the Skolars are now assessing other options.

“With the pandemic being declared a state of emergency in London and the rising case numbers having an increasingly detrimental effect on the wide variety of stakeholders involved, all parties felt that a postponement is the most sensible course of action, to protect players, staff members and supporters,” read a club statement.

“Ultimately, we feel this postponement will result in a safer and more successful event.”


CORNWALL coach Neil Kelly will not be taking it easy on prospective new players at Sunday’s trial to find a new batch of local stars.

The club have always spoken of their aim to include a large number of local players in their squad and they will be hoping to unearth some talent at the event taking place at the Memorial Ground in Penryn.

“Everyone will be treated with the appropriate seriousness,” said Kelly.

“We are looking forward to tapping into this seam of talent that Cornwall offers Rugby League.

“The players will have to go through a warm-up and rudimentary game plan. However, there is nothing like playing the game and I will be watching players who grasp the lines of running, defence, footwork and showing a player before putting another into space.

“Players will also need to show the basics such as passing and handling skills, but I will see that best in a game itself. The real meat in the sandwich on the day will be to see players in a game situation on the day.”


WEST WALES RAIDERS have paid a special tribute to former part owner Aneurin Gravell by designing their new away strip with him in mind.

Gravell, who owned the club alongside Peter Tiffin and Andrew Thorne passed away in February after contracting Covid-19.

The kit of red shorts and socks and a white and red shirt, signify Gravell’s favourite colour, with the club saying at the strip’s time of release: “Red to remember our owner Aneurin Gravell’s favourite colour as he will never be forgotten.”

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