Betfred League 1 news round-up

WEST WALES RAIDERS chief executive Peter Tiffin has revealed that former player Ash Bateman is back at the club and taking charge of training.

As explained in a previous statement, the club was dealt a blow ahead of their Challenge Cup defeat to Swinton Lions when all three of the coaches they had in place – Ben Flower, Gareth Davies and Geraint Davies – all left, leaving Tiffin and the other owners on the look out again for someone to lead the team.

Bateman made 19 appearances for the Raiders last season and is keen to get into coaching. He is already having a positive impact in training and Tiffin is hoping a deal can be struck to make the current arrangement more permanent.

“Things have gone a lot better since the statement,” said Tiffin.

“We’ve regrouped, recharged and are preparing for the new season.

“At training last week we were getting between 23 and 25 players at the sessions, which is much better than we had been getting.

“Ash, who has always wanted to get into coaching, has been taking the sessions and he’s been fantastic.

“He’s got a number of boys back into the club – guys who have played with him in the past, guys he knows from the game.

“He’s very keen to get involved so we have allowed him to and myself and Andrew (Thorne – co-owner) are going to sit down with him and discuss the future and see what he wants.

“We know he’ll play a part, but we need to know what he wants from the club, what position he wants, who he wants around him. Once we know that it will be up to me to deliver that.

“I should know more this week.”


KEIGHLEY COUGARS coach Rhys Lovegrove can see that forward Brenden Santi has retuned to the club in a better place after an extended pre-season break.

The Italy international was granted the extra time off to return to Sydney and visit his family for the first time since moving to the UK in late 2019.

Santi originally joined Newcastle Thunder head of the curtailed 2020 season, before making the move to West Yorkshire a year later.

He only returned to training in the days leading up to the Challenge Cup defeat against Hunslet so did not feature in that game and now my have to wait until the opening league game next month to pull the shirt on again.

“Brenden is very family orientated but due to the restraints of Covid and his investments within the culture at Keighley, he’s just hasn’t had the opportunity, as far as I know, to go back at all since he moved over here,” said Lovegrove.

“He needed that time with his family and he’s definitely come back better for that time with them.

“I know myself that when you leave Australia and come over here, you leave your old life behind and start creating a new one over here. The longer you’re here the further down that path you go so it has been good for him to get back over there and connect those two lives.

“He’s been able to interact with his family and friends back home and let them meet the new Brenden Santi – the one that’s a few years older, the one with some worldly experience, the one that’s had all sorts of experiences over here and to share with them.

“He’ll be a better person for that, but he’s maybe not feeling that way just yet with all the fitness work he’s having to do.”

Despite Santi’s return, Lovegrove faced two losses last week.

Prop forward Jack Arnold was granted a release from his contract, and has since joined Oldham, while halfback Dan Parker was handed a four match ban after pleading guilty to a Grade D charge of Other Contrary Behaviour during the Challenge Cup tie.

Captain Kyle Kesik, who had previously copped a two-match ban for an incident in the same game challenged the ban and saw his ban overturned.


SWINTON LIONS‘ Allan Coleman knows it might be a few weeks into the season before he, and the other coaches in the league, can settle on knowing what their best 17 is each week.

With the way the league and cup have been structured this season, many League 1 clubs will have had limited time on the field ahead of the opening weekend at the end of March.

Challenge Cup rounds have taken place on alternate weekends since the end of January, but an early exit from that competition leaves many teams without a game until the season starts. Pre-season games have also been limited due to the Championship and Super League clubs having already started their season.

But even then, Coleman is confident that whatever squad he selects on a game by game basis will still be good enough to get the job done.

“Until we can consistently get games week in, week out it’s a difficult selection process for us,” admitted Coleman.

“The Challenge Cup and pre-season games have given us an insight into where we are, but I am still unsure of my strongest 17, so there is still plenty for all the payers to aim for.

“I do believe that every coach will think they know what their best 17 is at the start of the season, but how often will they get to play that? I’m not sure it’ll be very often with the way injuries go and people pick up bans and knocks.

“It’s going to be difficult play the best 17 each week and that is why the game has become more about a squad now.

“I’m happy with my squad and I know that if I lost four or five players from that through injury, I would still be happy with what I have.

“I am really fortunate in that respect.”


MIDLANDS HURRICANES coach Richard Squires has said he won’t be looking to do too much more recruitment, despite losing four players to injury already this pre-season.

Squires has recently brought in forward Russ Spiers, who featured once for Doncaster last season, to add some experience in the forwards and replace some of what they have lost with injuries to Will Budd and Aaron Harlow-Stephenson.

“Will and Aaron have both done their ACL, so they’ll be gone for the season,” said Squires.

“Our hookers Tom Blakey and Elliott Windley have broken their jaws as well, but we’ll not look to bring in anyone else for them just yet because we still have two months until the season starts so we will try and get them fighting fit again by then. We’ve also brought in Travis O’Loughlin on trial and he played there against Rochdale. You could tell he’d only had one session with us before then, but he does look like he can have a future with us.

“But as for the longer term injuries we will look to fill the void they leave in the squad.”

Spiers is a more than adequate replacement in the pack and Squires added: “Russ is a very experienced middle who knows how to lead from the front.

“He could be the missing part to the puzzle for the upcoming season.

“We have lacked leadership upfront and the way Russ plays the game is something we can really move forward with and he has been great with the other forwards young and old.”


OLDHAM have beefed up their pack after acting quickly to snap up Jack Arnold following his release by Keighley Cougars.

The prop, who can also play in the second row, was restricted to just 17 appearances in three seasons with the West Yorkshire club due to a lengthy ban for two separate charges of gouging in the same game and the curtailed 2020 season.

The 24-year-old was contracted to the Cougars until the end of this year, but will instead now link up with former teammates Will Cooke, Jason Muranka, Ryan Wright and Jack Coventry at Oldham.

“Jack is strong, big, rugged and aggressive with good go-forward,” said Oldham coach Stuart Littler.

“I’m excited to get him because he will add to what we’ve already got in most of the pack positions.”


CORNWALL’S latest signing Luke Collins has said the chance to return to England and join League 1’s newest club was an offer he couldn’t miss.

The 24-year-old hooker was born in London but emigrated to Australia with his family when he was just five. It was while he was out there that he first started playing the game.

In his junior days Collins played for both Balmain Tigers and North Sydney Bears, alongside also trying his hand at the 15-a-side code.

Most recently, Collins has been playing rugby union in the Netherlands for RC Hilversum in the top division of Dutch rugby union.

But now he will relocate to the South West of England and fulfil a life long ambition with the fledgling club.

“When my manager said there was an opportunity to be a part of Cornwall, a brand-new club in a strong comp, it was an opportunity I didn’t want to turn down,” said Collins.

“It isn’t very often that you get to be part of something right from the very beginning and I have been to Cornwall a few times – it’s is a very tight-knit community with a real hunger for sport.

“This isn’t an opportunity I will take lightly because it’s not every day you get offered a professional contract in an English competition. It has always been a goal of mine to play professionally and to play professionally in England. I have family that have never seen me play before so I have just grabbed this opportunity with both hands.”


LONDON SKOLARS have added some more League 1 experience to their ranks with the signing of former Coventry Bears winger Reece Rance.

The 28-year-old scored three tries in 17 appearances for the Bears last season and is looking forward to a new challenge in the capital.

“I am excited for this new challenge and can’t wait to get stuck in at Skolars this season,” said Rance.

“I played some of my best rugby last year, got some big wins and we ran all teams close from start to finish. I’m aiming to bring knowledge and experience from these types of games into this squad.

“The move to London was made easier through the connections I have here and the conversations I have had with past and present players, who have spoken highly of the club’s ambitions and vision.”

Coach Joe Mbu added: “Reece is another excellent addition to the squad. He is a powerful runner who has invaluable League 1 experience. I have admired his performances over recent seasons and look forward to working with him.”


DONCASTER have give themselves an extra option in the forwards ahead of Saturday’s Challenge Cup game at Rochdale Mayfield by signing Freddie Brennan-Jones on a two-week loan from Castleford Tigers.

The youngster featured against the Dons when the two sides met in a pre-season game, and it was in that match that coach Richard Horne saw something he liked.

“He came on in the friendly against Castleford and he went looking for our middles by trying to put shots on which shows how enthusiastic he is,” said Horne.

“It’s the next stage in his development and he gives us a bit of flexibility in the forwards with one or two players carrying risks.”


ROCHDALE HORNETS chairman Andy Mazey has predicted the standard of rugby in League 1 competition will be as good as ever. And just because it doesn’t have a broadcast deal of its own like Super League and the Championship, doesn’t mean it will be any less entertaining to watch.

“In League 1, as a product, the standard is really high and after some of the games were on OuRLeague last year the general consensus is that it is a really good competition good to watch,” said Mazey.

“It’s not as quick as Super League, you’d probably call it more old school in terms of some of the skills you see on show, and probably it’s not quite as robotic and structured as Super League.

“But in terms of value for money and broadcast value, it’s a great product and hopefully more people will see that this year.”


HUNSLET were hoping to reap the rewards from Sunday’s Challenge Cup game against Siddal after reducing entry prices to the game.

Supporters could gain entry to the match that was being shown live on the BBC Sport website, for just £5 with those under 16 getting in for free.

“With the game being featured on the BBC App we had to work harder at attracting fans to the game,” said Hunslet chairman Kenny Sykes.

“It was actually Siddal Secretary, Joe McCormmack, who contacted us with the proposal to reduce prices and we are more than happy to give our support.

“There is nothing quite like live sport and this was a great opportunity for those who have never seen a Rugby League game to get down to the South Leeds Stadium.

“Our loyal supporters have also been out in force supporting the club for the last two weeks, so this was a small gesture to reward that loyalty when the price of everything else seems to be rocketing.”


NORTH WALES CRUSADERS forward Kieran Sherratt believes the Challenge Cup game against newly-relegated Swinton Lions on Sunday was the perfect marker ahead of the new season.

“Swinton have probably got one of the strongest squads in League 1,” said Sherratt.

“They’ve retained a lot of their squad from the Championship and as they’re in our division and will no doubt be one of the favourites.

“It’ll be good for us to see where we’re at and what our expectations can be for the new season.”

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