Betfred League 1 news round-up

CORNWALL coach Neil Kelly admitted two of last weekends Challenge Cup results were discussed when the squad got together for their first official training session on Tuesday.

The League’s newest club did not take part in the competition this year in order to give themselves more time to get a squad in place and prepare for their inaugural season.

The training session saw the eight already contracted players joined by a further eight players who have been offered an extended trial with the club following an initial trial in January.

And the early signs were promising for the former Super League Coach of the Year.

“It wouldn’t have been fair to judge them all on just that one trial last month,” said Kelly.

“Some players really stood out on the day and we acted quickly to make the decision on them, but there are also a group of players that have been offered a trial over a number of weeks so we can see how they fit in and what they can do individually.

“We can’t allow that to go on for ever though. It’s not fair on the players, so we’ve promised them a quick decision one way or another as to whether they come with us for the season or they pursue other avenues. I imagine we’ll be making those decisions within the next couple of weeks.

“In total we had 16 players at the session and I was quite pleased with the effort and commitment from everyone. We had a chat about the challenge ahead and everybody is up for it, and judging by what I saw, I’d be very happy if all the decisions we made on the trialists were in the affirmative.

“The result of the West Wales v Swinton tie did feature in the conversation we had, none of those Raiders players got up that morning to lose by that scoreline, just like Oldham didn’t expect to lose to Lock Lane.

“Looking at both those results, one of them gave us encouragement because an amateur club, and most of our players will be from amateur game, did well against a professional club with a long history. But the other acts as warning to us and shows what can happen if you throw a team together at last minute and trying to compete against very dedicated and ruthless semi-professional players.

“I did feel sorry for the West Wales players who played, I have been in that situation as a player where you are stood behind a post watching the score rack up. It’s tough and totally demoralising and can in some case lead to players not playing anymore, which we don’t want to see.”


HUNSLET have seen two familiar faces back in the reckoning in recent weeks, and coach Alan Kilshaw couldn’t be happier about it.

Centre Jack Render returned from injury to face Keighley Cougars in the Challenge Cup tie, while Joe Sanderson re-signed for the club in time to face Leeds Rhinos in Sunday’s pre-season outing.

Sanderson has had a spell in Australia since last playing for the club in 2019, but when that was scuppered by the Coronavirus pandemic he had stints with Batley and North Wales before returning to his local amateur club Drighlington.

“It’s great to have Jack back and available for selection,” said Kilshaw.

“He fractured his ankle at the back end of November and was originally ruled out until February and in a moon boot until until just after the new year. But his powers of healing must be really good because as soon as he came out of the boot he was running.

“He got through all the checks we did on him and had a couple of training runs against some local community clubs and came through them both unscathed.

“Joe was an original target in November but he was honest at the time and said he wasn’t ready to commit. Since then, he has seen what the club is trying to do and what we are putting together.

“He has plenty of close friends at Hunslet, and lots of support off the field, and I’m sure that helped him. We heard a few noises that he was interested in returning so made the call, and we now have the appropriate depth in the halves with Jack Mallinson, Dave Gibbons, Fraser Stroud and now Joe.

“It’s a long campaign and we will need them all to contribute. The competition for places will be strong and that should bring the best out of all of them.

“Joe has a really good kicking game and his skill level is very high. He has had a stop-start few seasons but we are now giving him a platform to kickstart his career at this level again, in an environment he is familiar with.”

However, one player Kilshaw was without for the Leeds match was Welshman Rowland Kaye,who sustained an Achilles injury in training.


MIDLANDS HURRICANES may be out of the Challenge Cup for this year, but coach Richard Squires is hoping to still play a role in one of the ties taking place this weekend.

Squires’ brother, Connor, plays for Hunslet Club Parkside, who go up against the Hurricanes’ League 1 rivals London Skolars in the third round.

Not only will Squires lend a hand to the Yorkshire team’s preparations, but he will also try to watch the game to get an idea of what they might find themselves up against when the League kicks off in March.

“We had planned to play London Skolars in a pre-season game on February 26, but they’ve cancelled that because they’re confident they’ll get past Hunslet Parkside and make it into the next round of the Challenge Cup,” said Squires.

“It’ll be a tough test for them tough.

“My little brother plays for Parkside and has been asking me questions and for video of the Skolars so I’m going to go down and do a video session for them.

“I played for Parkside for a bit before moving down here and I know their coach, Paul McShane, really well so I am going to help them out in the build up to the game.

“I’m also probably going to go down to the game because it give me an opportunity to get a look at Skolars again before the season starts.

“We’ll be targeting Skolars as one of the teams we can beat this year so it will be good to get a bit of an indication where there are.”


SWINTON LIONS coach Allan Coleman has said he is in no rush to replace Reece Hamlett in the squad.

The 20-year-old became the club’s first new signing back in September after making five appearances for them whilst on loan from Bradford Bulls in 2021.

But last month it was confirmed that the winger had left the Lions by mutual consent due to his desire to focus on his non-Rugby League career.

“Don’t get me wrong, we’re always looking for ways to strengthen in any way we can on and off the field,” said Coleman. “But do I need to do it now after losing Reece? I don’t think I do.

“We have got a lot of players who can play in multiple positions, and that’s what we looked at when we built the squad. We didn’t want people who were only a certain position, instead we’ve got five or six players who can’t just play two positions, but can play three.

“With Reece deciding to leave us for work commitments, we looked at it and saw we still have a lot of cover in that area if we need it, so we’re quite blessed in that respect.

“I’ve got some really good understanding with other clubs, so if it came to the crunch and I was really desperate I know I’d get help from other clubs. But as much as we’re always looking, we’re certainly not desperate.”

Meanwhile the club have also been hit with a three-match ban for Lewis Charnock, following his altercation during the recent pre-season game against Whitehaven.


DONCASTER coach Richard Horne has admitted there is still a lot of work to be done ahead of their league season kicking off next month.

The South Yorkshire side face Rochdale Mayfield in the third round of the Challenge Cup this weekend, having defeated Thornhill 24-6 in the previous round.

Horne was pleased to get through against the Trojans, but it has shown him areas they will need to improve on as the remainder of pre-season progresses.

“They carried well and rolled us down the field a bit which is something we can have a look at and try to prevent happening again going into the next round and the start of the league season,” Horne told the club website after the game.

“We’re still in our pre-season phase so it’s tough to be too hard on the players when we haven’t yet covered some of the areas they were struggling in.

“It was a great conditioning session for our middles because we were asking them to defend and then weren’t smart enough to bring our edges onto the game so they had to carry the ball as well. They got through some work and they’ll be better for that.

“There were some really good little bits, but overall there a lot still to work on.”


NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray was largely satisfied with his side’s first performance of the year – the 40-8 victory over Leigh Miners Rangers in the second round of the Challenge Cup.

After seeing their planned pre-season game against Barrow Raiders cancelled due to Covid cases within the squad, the Challenge Cup meeting was the club’s first game since their play-off exit in September.

“It was a competitive game for large spells, but when we got back to task and did what we do well, we got on top of them,” said Murray, who hopes to have a few more players available to him when they face Swinton in the third round of the competition this weekend.

“Full credit to them, they came at us all game and asked a lot of questions but we dealt with most things quite well as a team.

“It was our first hit out this year and the first 20 minutes were a bit hit and miss, but once we got our second wind we got into the stride of the game and started controlling it.

“We had a few players missing and picked up a couple of injuries so there are a few bruised bodies, but there has been a bit of time since to try and get them right.”


OLDHAM coach Stuart Littler saw one big area of improvement his side need to work on during the 22-12 Challenge Cup defeat to amateur outfit Lock Lane.

With just six weeks left until the League season starts, Littler will be doing all he can to make sure the side can put right the wrongs of that defeat.

“I don’t shy away from responsibility and, as head coach, I suppose it’s down to me. I’ll stand up and take it,” admitted Littler.

“With so many new players, and difficulties surrounding how to peak for the Challenge Cup and how to peak again for the start of the League programme several weeks later, we weren’t exactly sure how things would go in only our second run-out.

“We let ourselves down in a lot of areas, particularly in the way we struggled to get to the end of sets.

“We completed at 45 per cent in the first half and we spoke at half-time about the need to do better. In fact, we finished with six completions out of 18 sets — 33 per cent.

“You don’t win matches with figures like that. We have to be far better in completing our sets.

“The one positive to come out of this performance is that we know for sure what needs to be done.”


WEST WALES RAIDERS part owner Peter Tiffin has said the appointment of a new head coach is a major priority following the 96-0 defeat to Swinton Lions in the Challenge Cup.

In a lengthy statement released following that loss, Tiffin shouldered much of the blame and confirmed a crisis meeting was held at the club in the days leading up to the game.

“It was an unanimous decision from all that nobody wanted to see the club finish after all the hard work from everyone at the club currently, plus everyone who has gone but done so much to get the club to where it is in such a short space of time,” read the statement.

“Even though everyone was fully on board to continue as a club and to progress with our plans, it was going to be a massive task to get our Challenge Cup fixture to go ahead. With no head coach in place, the loss of both our assistant coaches a few days earlier, only six contracted players and our irreplaceable team manager in hospital it was going to take everyone to work together to get everything needed to fulfil the fixture.

“As part owner I take full responsibility of the situation we were in, each year we seem to lose our head coach and this year was no different, we should have appointed a head coach straight away to support the staff we had put in place but left it and left it.

“After our board meeting we invited four of the head coaches that applied previously for an interview.

“We are sitting down with all four coaches to see who fits in with how we as a club want to progress within the professional game.”


KEIGHLEY COUGARS have linked up with Bradford Bulls to give some of their younger players important game time throughout the season.

The dual-registration deal will allow Cougars players, who aren’t featuring in the first team the opportunity to turn out for the Bulls’ in the Reserves Championship competition.

The partnership has come as part of the deal that sees Bradley Ho join the Cougars on loan for the season.

Ho came to the attention of the Cougars last year when he impressed for Bradford in the pre-season fixture between the clubs, and then again when he was on loan at Coventry Bears.

“We are really pleased to have secured the services of Brad Ho for the coming season and thank Bradford for supporting this move for the player,” said Cougars Head of Rugby Andrew Henderson.

“Brad has come through a good system with Bradford and has already gained experience playing in League 1 previously which helps.

“Brad is a strong ball carrier and is effective in the contact area, but as with every young player he has areas to develop in his game which we feel can be achieved in our performance environment.

“He will definitely add a different dynamic to our pack and will be challenging our current middle unit for a position in this team.”

Meanwhile, Kyle Kesik has been banned for two games following his red card in the Challenge Cup defeat to Hunslet. Dan Parker has also been charged with an off the ball incident in the same game and will face the Operational Rules Tribunal on Tuesday.


ROCHDALE HORNETS have fought off Championship competition to retain the services of half back Ryan Forshaw.

A frustrating season with injury limited the 21-year-old to just four appearances for the Hornets in 2021, with his performance against Keighley Cougars a particular stand out.

Forshaw has spent part of his pre-season with Bradford Bulls, featuring for them in games against Batley Bulldogs, Hull FC and Leeds Rhinos, but has since decided on a return to the Hornets.

“I am really looking forward to being back playing after getting the all-clear from the doctors,” said Forshaw.

“I’ve played with a few of the new signings before and I am really excited to play with them again and get on the pitch and show the fans what I can do.”


LONDON SKOLARS will be without new signing Jarred Bassett when they host Hunslet Club Parkside in this weekend’s Challenge Cup tie.

The full back has already featured in the competition for Wests Warriors this season, captaining them to the second round, where they were defeated by York Acorn.

Bassett was named as Southern Conference Player of the Year for 2021, having been selected as one of the 13 most promising players in the grassroots game the previous year.

“Jarred will be a key part of our squad this season,” said Skolars head coach Joe Mbu.

“It is unfortunate that he is cup tied but Skolars supporters can look forward to seeing him in the League.

“He has the ability to be a standout player in League 1.”

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