London Skolars have suffered more than most from the season shutdown, according to their coach Jermaine Coleman.
A combination of bad weather, an early exit from the Challenge Cup and a scheduled bye week has meant the Skolars have only played one league game so far this year, in addition to their Cup defeat to Barrow Raiders.
“It’s been a tough start to the season,” said Coleman.
“With the first Cup game delayed by the weather and played the following weekend, postponing another game and then a bye, and now the delay to the season, it’s been hard.
“It’s been a very stop-start affair and it’s ruined the flow of everything. For the guys it feels like it’s been a very long season already.
“Pre-season started in November. We then played a couple of games in January, but by the time April comes around, they will seem irrelevant because we’re two or three months down the line and have only played two games.
“It’s not the start you want. You want some consistency, you want the guys to be out there playing and it can be difficult to keep the enthusiasm among the group when they have been training for as long as they have and only played a handful of games.
“It’s had an impact on the team but the club can take a hit as well.
“We’re paying out for the facilities to train at, but if we’re not getting any home games taking money in, it makes it tough.
“We’ve also had to pay out already for the trip to Barrow and we’ve been paying out a lot since November, without getting any real return yet.”
BARROW RAIDERS coach Paul Crarey has confirmed that Papua New Guinea international Wartovo Puara has returned home to be with his family as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the world.
The club are continuing to do all that they can to keep everyone involved safe from infection, whilst also making sure they are ready to return to action whenever the game gets the green light to kick-off once again.
“Wartovo wanted to be with his family at the moment, and when we knew they were going to be shutting the airports, we agreed to let him go,” said Crarey.
“He’ll come back when things get going again. We’ll see what happens after April 3rd, if we’re going to be playing again and can get the necessary clearance from the airport we’ll get him back over. But personally I can’t see us playing in April.
“We’ve also had a few players who have been ill, but because of the testing situation we don’t know whether it’s the virus or something else so it’s a very difficult situation.
“We’re not training at the moment, but we’ve given them their own programme to follow. The most important thing is that everyone stays healthy.
“It has really hit home this weekend because the first death in the Barrow hospital occurred on Saturday, and there are others there in intensive care. It’s not just older people either, so when it starts coming closer to home it really make you realise how bad it is.”
WORKINGTON TOWN coach Chris Thorman has said that when his players return to action, big lessons will have been learnt from their last league game against Newcastle Thunder.
Town went down 30-22 at Kingston Park in a performance that left Thorman disappointed.
“We’d set some standards in the previous month but didn’t reach them against Newcastle,” said Thorman.
“We spoke about raising the bar every week in our preparation and performance, but we didn’t succeed.
“But that we still only got beaten by eight points by one of the promotion favourites shows how far we’ve come.
“We needed to start that game better, as we conceded three soft tries early on, but then we did a good job to get it back to 18-all and then 24-22.
“In Rugby League you need a bit of luck, but we just didn’t get it. That sort of thing evens itself out over the course of the year, so I’m not too bothered. I’m more worried about the start we made and controlling what we can control, while taking other factors out of the situation by being as good as we can be.
“We’ve learnt a lesson about each other and our concentration levels after that game.
“It was disappointing, but learning those lessons so early in the season means we have time to get it right for later in the year.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS captain Sean Penkywicz has said that all the club’s signings from the amateur game have made a successful step up to League 1.
Coach Matt Calland has built a new-look squad for 2020, handing a chance of playing semi-professional rugby to a number of players from clubs like Thatto Heath and Rochdale Mayfield.
“A lot of players signed from the amateur game this year and they have stepped up to this level really well,” said Penkywicz.
“They really have been like a breath of fresh air. They have come in and worked hard, which you don’t always get. But they have worked their socks off and they are starting to get their rewards.
“Andy Lea has been one of the best players we’ve had so far, and Adam Hesketh has done really well too.
“Everyone who has come in has bought into what we ware trying to do here and the team spirit is right up there.
“In League 1 you don’t always have the top-quality players that you get in the higher leagues, but team spirit always goes a long way.
“We definitely have that, so hopefully even better things are to come.”
HUNSLET coach Gary Thornton has said he can take a lot from his club’s Challenge Cup defeat to Featherstone Rovers, even if they can’t put it in to practice straight away.
“The coronavirus scare is having a huge impact on society as a whole and we have to keep sport in perspective,” said Thornton.
“From that narrower perspective, though, it’s unfortunate that we didn’t play London Skolars this week after having lost emphatically at Featherstone.
“The first thing we said after that game was that we needed to move on and put a disappointing night to bed.
“We didn’t do ourselves justice against Rovers and never really recovered from a bad start, in which we conceded two early tries.
“We gave it a real dig after half-time, and guys such as Jordan Andrade, Zach Braham, Alex Rowe, Josh Tonks and Vila Halafihi, who played on with a hand injury, all emerged with a lot of credit, as did Ben Heaton.
“So we can take a lot from the Featherstone game.
“We were never going to win the Challenge Cup and although we were well beaten, that game won’t define our season.
“They gave us a bit of a wake-up call, and an illustration of what we’re building towards.”
DONCASTER chief executive Carl Hall has said the club will take no risks when it comes to resuming the season following the coronavirus outbreak, that has seen games suspended until April 3rd at the earliest.
“Like everyone our first concern is our players, staff and supporters,” Hall told the club website.
“Their safety is paramount and as long as everybody is feeling well then that is all that matters. Rugby League is not the priority at times like these.
“We will leave it with the experts to tell us when we can get back to playing. We all like to think we know best, but you have to listen to the government and be led by them.
“As far as we know all our players are fine and we’ll do everything in our power to make sure they do all they can to stay fit and well.
“Our boys couldn’t train last week because of the shutdown at Castle Park, so they were given training programmes to keep themselves busy in the meantime.
“They have to stay fit because we’re still in the season and hopefully they do the right thing and keep themselves ready for whenever we can return to play.”
COVENTRY BEARS director of rugby Alan Robinson has said the club could decide to rely less on dual-registration players from Championship club Dewsbury Rams.
In the opening weeks of the season players such as Morgan Punchard, Sam Moorhouse and James Thornton have run out for the Bears, while Kieran Moran remains on loan form Keighley. But Robinson feels the club has seen little benefit from using them.
“I don’t feel the guys we’ve had on dual-registration have worked that well for us,” said Robinson.
“That’s something we’re looking at at the moment and it may mean I need to invest more in our own guys, which means things are going to take a bit longer for us.
“If you’re bringing someone in on dual-registration or loan they need to be improving us. I don’t feel they have done that significantly in those areas.
“We’re still considering how to move forward with this.”
DEPENDING how long the season is put on hold NEWCASTLE THUNDER may or may not have the services of Brad Walker at their disposal once it resumes.
The 22 year-old was due to spend the year at the club on loan from Wakefield Trinity, but a shoulder injury saw him make an early return to West Yorkshire to receive the necessary treatment.
“Brad is still our only injury concern at this stage,” said Thunder coach Simon Finnigan.
“Everything is on schedule with him, but he’s probably still two to three months away. It’s unfortunate for him, but everything is going the way it should be.
“He needed surgery on a ruptured AC joint, but it’s an injury Wakefield dealt with before, so he’s in good hands down there.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS star Ritchie Hawkyard was delighted to finally make his first start for the club since rejoining them over the winter, even if it wasn’t in his usual position.
His appearance had been delayed after picking up a calf strain while playing for Castleford Tigers reserves last month as part of the two clubs’ dual-registration agreement.
When he’ll make his next appearance is still to be decided in the light of the coronavirus outbreak.
“I felt good against Rochdale, fit enough and over my niggles,” Hawkyard told the Keighley News.
“Rhys (Lovegrove) wanted me to play fullback because Taylor Prell wasn’t available, but I wasn’t up to speed with all the plays as I’d only really had one full training session.
“So I said I’d start on the wing and Alfie Seeley could play fullback if that was okay.
“There’s not as much to do (and learn) out on the wing, but it was good to get that fitness back.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray is hoping his squad is now virtually set for the season.
“In the last couple of weeks we’ve brought in Andy Ball for Leigh East and Tyme Nikau from Australia,” said Murray.
“Tyme’s arrived now and will be in contention and we’re hopeful of getting one more player in soon.
“Karl Ashall and Joe Ryan won’t be far off getting back from their injuries too, so hopefully if everyone stays fit that will see us through the season.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS forward Morgan Evans says he feared the surprise coaching change over the winter would cause much more disruption that it actually did.
Kim Williams left the club in December to take up a role with the Huddersfield Giants Academy and was replaced by Aaron Wood.
“Kim was a fantastic coach and it was sad to see him go,” said Evans.
“But I thought the transition between the two coaches when he left was going to be worse that it was.
“Aaron still seems to be working to same ethos we had with Kim, so that’s made the change easier.
“Aaron is a very different coach to Kim. But there is no correct coaching style, it’s all about how players respond to the coach.
“We have responded well and everyone seems to be enjoying it.”