Newcastle Thunder centre Kieran Gill has said long friendships have been the key to forming a deadly threequarter partnership with winger Alex Clegg and fullback Lewis Young.
Between the three of them they scored 64 tries in all competitions last season, and had already bagged a total of nine touchdowns in the five games they played before the lockdown.
Gill’s 28 touchdowns in 2019 broke a 20-year-old club record for the most tries scored in a single season.
“We’re all local to each other so we do a lot of travelling together,” said Gill, who signed a permanent deal with the club ahead of this season after spending last year on loan from Castleford Tigers.
“Even though Alex is at university in Newcastle, he’s always home in the summer and I do think all those car journeys have helped created that bond.
“We all want to make each other better players and we all push each other forward. We thrive off each other and you can see that in the fact we all got in the (Rugby League World) Team of the Year last year.
“Even though Lewis is a year older than me, I have known him all my life and we have a great bond. That’s not something I want to change any time soon.
“I said to myself in pre-season that there is only one person I want to beat the record I set last season and that’s me. I want to do it again and again and get my name out there. I want to get back to the level I was at as a full-time player.
“But in the meantime Newcastle is a great club to be with and that is why I chose to stay there, despite numerous offers from elsewhere.
“I felt really comfortable at the club and I didn’t want to leave an environment that I know will help my game massively.”
The current lockdown has been doubly strange for Gill to get used to after leaving a full-time rugby environment just a matter of months ago.
“It’s very different,” added Gill.
“When you are full time at a club you’re used to training and playing all day every day, but this year has been a weird change of lifestyle for me.
“I am getting up early in the morning, going to work, then going straight to training. But now I’m getting home from work and wondering what to do.
“So I am just trying to keep my fitness up so that I am raring to go when this pandemic is finally over.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS winger Rob Massam admits he is enjoying the challenges he is facing during the current coronavirus lockdown.
While players across the game are working on their own fitness programmes set by their clubs, Massam has twice as much to do as everyone else.
That is because he is also the Crusaders’ strength and conditioning coach, so as well as keeping himself in shape for when the game returns, he is also looking after his team-mates and the work they are required to do.
“I suppose I do have twice as much to do, but it doesn’t really feel like that,” said Massam.
“I am a personal trainer in my day job, so with all the gyms closed I’m not doing that as much, so I have a bit more free time anyway.
“So if anything the roles at the club are filling that void.
“It’s a new challenge I’m facing, in that I am trying to keep the guys ready for action, without actually getting to work with them. But that’s the same challenge for everyone.
“No one really has a gym they can work with, so we’re having to be a bit more creative with how we do things. I know I also have to do things with them that the guys actually want to do.
“It gets me thinking a bit more and I am actually enjoying that challenge.”
WORKINGTON TOWN will be able to fall back on some extra finances when the going gets tough during the current Coronavirus lockdown.
The Travellers Rest (Workington Town) Supporters Club have set up a JustGiving page to raise some much-needed funds to help Town ride out these unprecedented times.
Treasurer of the Supporters Club Tony Boyd has said there is far too much history in the club to risk losing it all because of the current global health crisis.
“This club has been a massive part of the community since it first started up in 1945, and it is very important to a lot of people,” Boyd said.
“That’s 75 years of history, in which we’ve won the Challenge Cup, the Championship and the Lancashire Cup in 1977. We were also part of the inaugural Super League season, and we can’t risk losing all of that. So we’re going to do all that we need to in order to ensure it survives.
“I was previously on the board at the club, so I know what it is like trying to run the club from the sharp end and we just want to do whatever we can to help at the moment.
“We have done loads of fundraising in the past, but that has been things like fun days in the car park, sportsman’s dinners and treasure hunts. But when you can’t get out and interact with people it’s difficult to do things like that.
“So we’d seen others using JustGiving and we thought we’d give that a go. It’s been going quite well so far and we have seen some fantastic donations coming in.
“But anything anyone can donate is fantastic and we are grateful for any contribution.
“We’ll keep it going for as long as we can, and we have a signed shirt that we’re looking to auction soon.
“Then when it gets to the point that the club needs the funds, we’ll hand the money over.
“There is another supporters club, the Derwent Park Supporters Club, and they are fundraising as well. So hopefully we can help get the club through these difficult times.
At the time of going to press, over £3,300 had been raised on the page. Anyone wishing to donate can visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/workingtontown?utm_id=1&utm_term=yYaN2Kjey
LONDON SKOLARS coach Jermaine Coleman has said whatever decision is made on how this season is structured whenever it restarts, it could still have a big impact going into next year.
One option Coleman is aware of would see the remainder of this season run from June through to late October, but admits this would still leave many questions to be answered.
“It’s certainly going to be interesting to see how the season pans out,” said Coleman, who also coaches the Jamaica national side.
“We’ve been told that one possible option is starting up again in June and running right through to October. But that has knock-on effects everywhere else.
“When it comes to internationals, we had things planned with Jamaica in October, so how would the season then affect that.
“At Skolars we would normally start pre-season in November, but if the season isn’t finishing until October, and then there are internationals in November and December, when would pre-season start? When would that mean next season would then start?
“Next year will be a big year for a lot of players who are looking to get themselves in a position to make different World Cup teams.
“So there is still a lot to consider.”
RECENTLY appointed Coventry Bears head coach Richard Squires has said he is eager to continue his transition in the top job, once the Covid-19 crisis has ended.
The former Hull FC Community Development Officer and Ladies coach, who also headed up Hull University’s Rugby League side, was promoted to head coach at the start of the season after Director of Rugby Alan Robinson was impressed with his work.
He joined the club as an assistant coach to Tom Tsang, initially, before he left to head up London Broncos’ reserves set-up. Since then, however, Squires has quickly risen to the ranks of the head coach, working under Robinson, and he knows he can’t take this position for granted once the season resumes.
“I came down half way through last season,” Squires explained.
“It was very organised when Tom was heading things up and it was already very established.
“I joined as another assistant and another pair of eyes. The other two assistants had families and the away journeys to Cumbria, for example, were too much for them.
“When Tom left for London, it was a bit of a shock. It was the weekend before I was meant to have the initial trial with the club. Tom said that he couldn’t turn the Broncos’ job down, because it was a great opportunity. Alex Brown, the other assistant last year, then stepped down to focus on family and work commitments.
“We started off as a coaching team, with Alan heading us up, but half-way through pre-season he pulled me to one side and said that he believed in what I was doing and then asked if I wanted to be head coach.
“I was never going to say no. I knew I wanted to be a head coach in the professional game, but it was a lot sooner than expected. It was overwhelming. Since I’ve been playing and coaching, you get to a point where it’s a tough gig to get into.
“A lot of ex-players head up the teams in Super League and the Championship. I can’t take this for granted now because opportunities are few and far between. Once the virus is over and the season restarts, I can’t wait to continue my development.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS assistant coach Dean Muir has praised the involvement of former Premier League footballer Tony Adams, who has been very active in his role as president of the RFL during the coronavirus pandemic.
“At times like, this looking after everyone’s mental health is really important,” said Muir.
“We even had Tony Adams make a personal phone call to a member of our staff just to see how he was and that he was getting on okay. I was really impressed by that.
“Tony is very big on mental health issues and player welfare, so he’s probably the perfect person to be involved with the game.
“He’s a huge figurehead in sport and his knowledge and what he can bring in this area at times like this will be invaluable for us. So if we can harness and access a bit of that now, our sport will definitely be stronger for it going forward.”
Meanwhile the club has done its bit to help the current situation by sourcing 5,000 CE certified facemasks with more now in production.
The Cougars are donating the 5,000 masks free of charge to organisations that are in need of vital PPE equipment in the ongoing battle against Covid-19.
Airedale Hospital has taken 2,000 masks with Manorlands hospice taking a further 1,000 masks. More facemasks remain available for the wider and local community, whether they are frontline providers such as care homes or those who are living with and caring for those at high risk to enable them to make trips to the supermarkets, or take their daily exercise safely.
Should any provider require any masks contact firstname.lastname@example.org. They come in packs of 50 masks, but the club can accommodate packs of a smaller size should a fewer number be required.
WEST WALES RAIDERS halfback Dan Price believes the current Rugby League lockdown could work in their favour as they aim to improve on previous years’ performances.
Before the enforced break, the Raiders had lost 50-10 to both Hunslet and Doncaster in the league, and were knocked out of the Challenge Cup by amateur side Underbank Rangers.
“As a group of players we were upset with our first few games of the season,” said Price.
“We let ourselves down more than anything.
“We’d retained and recruited well and set ourselves standards that we wanted to achieve, but that’s not really come around so far.
“This delay has been a bit of a knock, but when we get back we’ll be in the same situation as everyone else. Every club will effectively have to do pre-season again.
“So we’re going to look on this as a bit of a positive. We had a few players, including me, who came in late and missed most of pre-season.
“So if when we do start back we get a couple of extra weeks to work together as a group on the things we didn’t have time to do together before, then it can be a benefit for us.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS incoming Chairman Andy Mazey has said that it is important that club rivalries are put to one side in the current climate so everyone can look after each other.
“As a club we’re doing all we can to keep everyone healthy on the playing side of things,” said Mazey.
“But on a player welfare front we’re trying to make sure that mentally the guys are okay.
“In a way to try and be proactive I wrote a letter to all the staff and players at the start of all this to remind them that it is good to talk and reach out and that my door is always open.
“They can talk to anyone at the club. We are a family here and the last thing any of us want is for anyone to be struggling and suffering mentally.
“On a game front as well it’s not a nice thought at all that some clubs might find it hard to come back from this.
“But there is a strong camaraderie between clubs and I do believe we all need to pull together and help each other through this.
“No one wants to see anyone fall by the wayside because of the coronavirus.”
DONCASTER chief executive Carl Hall has said the current Covid-19 crisis has once again brought out the best in Rugby League.
“Rugby League always manages to come together and help each other through the tough times and that’s one way our sport is head and shoulders above so many,” said Hall.
“When there is a little bit of adversity, this is when we all come together.
“That’s really pleasing for me to see, both from my club’s point of view and that of me being the vice-president of the RFL.
“The game is a really tight group when we need to be and everyone just wants to make sure everyone is okay.
“The number of messages people have been getting from club owners and CEOs to see how everything is going demonstrates that.
“I have also been asking those guys how they are. People have been asking about how the players are feeling, but it’s important to remember everyone at every club is in this together.”
HUNSLET coach Gary Thornton has spoken of two major advantages of Harry Kidd’s shoulder injury not being as bad as first feared.
The prop dislocated his shoulder against North Wales Crusaders on March 8 and missed the club’s final game before the lockdown – the Challenge Cup defeat to Featherstone Rovers.
“I suppose you could say that every cloud has a silver lining and that’s the case for Harry,” said Thornton.
“Thankfully everything in his shoulder was intact so there was no need for surgery.
“This delay in the season is giving him some extra time to get his recovery in place and then hopefully, by the time we do get back playing, he’ll have benefited from the break by being fully fit and available.
“Also because the NHS’s priority right now is fighting the coronavirus, the fact he’s not having to wait for an operation is a benefit.
“All this means we’ll have a quality player back much earlier than we expected.”
BARROW RAIDERS coach Paul Crarey is hoping that when the games return, so will a number of new supporters who turned up at their last home game.
A number of initiatives implemented by the board before the lockdown, which included giving a free season ticket to all local school children, saw a crowd of over 1,200 turn out for the 50-6 win over Coventry.
For Crarey, this proves the club is currently being run in the correct way.
“What the board has been doing has been really good and it was great to see so many people in the ground at that last game,” said Crarey.
“We’ve also had ex-players like Joe Bullock come down to games and Brad Singleton has come up to watch his brother as well.
“We’re getting loads of kids coming in now and seeing then enjoying the game with their parents is great.
“It used to be that this club was 80 per cent about the rugby and 20 per cent commercial, but now the business model and that side of the club has surpassed the rugby, which is the way it should be really.
“Well done to the board for doing that and they are getting the recognition for it now.”