Coventry Bears coach Richard Squires has admitted the current lockdown is allowing him to trial training methods he wouldn’t normally have the time to do when there are games to focus on.
Last week the squad took part in a Zoom yoga session led by the club’s physio Grace Hodgkiss and Squires has been heartened by the way his squad are welcoming a new way of training.
“It’s been a difficult month or so for everyone at the club,” said Squires.
“We have a lot of students in the squad, so they’ve got a lot of time now to get their work done, but we’ve all lost that outlet now that rugby usually gives us on a Tuesday, Thursday and a weekend.
“I have been trying to think outside the box for ways to keep the lads together and keep some team cohesion, so we have done a few different things over the last couple of weeks.
“Our physio is a trained yoga instructor, so I handed the session over to her. We were split into four different groups and I took part with the first group and then sat back and watched the others.
“The guys have reacted well to these sort of sessions, because it’s a little bit different for everyone.
“I have always tried to bring things like this to the club. But when you only see the guys twice a week, it comes down to fitting it in when you have games to think about as well.
“From working with different clubs and seeing what other coaches do, many of them do yoga and dance in pre-season, because it is really good for prehab, rehab and injury prevention.
“We have spoken about it for a while. Tuesday was the first time we could try it and it went down really well.
“The current situation gives us the chance to try something a little different and it’s going well.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray believes that once the season returns, his latest batch of amateur signings can keep up his success rate of handing community players their chance at semi-professional level.
Jordan Gibson and Gav Rodden have featured in every game for the Crusaders so far this year after signing for the club from Haydock and Wigan St Judes respectively.
“I was pleased with what I was seeing from the amateur guys,” said Murray, who has already seen success in this field after giving Widnes’ Kenny Baker and Crusaders’ favourites Earl Hurst, among others, their first taste of the professional game.
“There is still a lot for them to learn yet and they have so far just tipped their toes into the professional game.
“But as far as their attitude goes, how they have committed themselves to the club and personal performances, they have been really good.
“Once we are back out there training and they get a few more games under their belts I am sure they will continuing improving.
“I have taken a lot of guys out of the community game in the past and it is never a one-season project. It takes a couple of years really to see how they have gone.
“The first year they are really just gaining the experience and then the following season you’re always hoping that they take a step forward after a year in the professional game.
“It is always a longer-term project, but it’s one I enjoy doing and I am sure the lads that have come in this year will do themselves justice when we get back going again.”
HUNSLET coach Gary Thornton believes amateur convert Liam Copland could have a big future with the club once the game gets back underway.
The 26-year-old joined the club on trial from Stanningley in December, following previous spells with West Leeds and Wortley Dragons.
He went on to feature in a number of pre-season games for Hunslet, before agreeing a permanent deal with them just weeks before the game was put into lockdown.
“Liam did really well in pre-season,” said Thornton.
“He trained hard and showed plenty of promise and strength in the warm-up games, which included scoring a spectacular try in the corner against Batley Bulldogs.
“It’s still early days for Liam in the professional game, but he’s shown great promise in the short time he’s been with us, and has fitted into the group really well.
“He’s keen to learn and is hungry for success, so hopefully he can have a big future at Hunslet, and fulfil his undoubted potential.”
WORKINGTON TOWN Chairman Les Smallwood has said there are still funds available should coach Chris Thorman choose to strengthen his squad once the season gets back underway.
“We have put a lot of time and effort into our squad this year,” said Smallwood.
“Chris has always said he wants the right people at the club. They don’t have to be the best players, but as long as they have the right attitude, there is something to work with.
“We were chuffed to bits with how the squad was going and how we’d started performing. We were improving week on week, so it was all very positive.
“We’re taking this break as a chance to assess where we are as a club and seeing what we need to do next.
“Then, whenever we do get back playing, we can push on.
“We didn’t spend big this year, and Chris has picked up a few diamonds from the community game.
“There is more money in the pot for this year if Chris wants to add any more players. But for now he seems happy with what he has.
“He is still assessing the games, so if he spots any weaknesses he’ll look at what we can do to strengthen them.
“So it means that if we do face extra demands when we get going again, we have the ability, if we need to, to add some numbers to what we already have.”
DONCASTER chief executive Carl Hall has said the current lockdown has allowed him to connect with the club’s supporters a lot more than he has done in the past.
“We have a connection with B:Friend charity in Doncaster, and through them I made a couple of calls last week to some of our supporters,” explained Hall.
“One of them was 97 years old and I was speaking to him for around 20 minutes and he couldn’t believe I’d taken time out to give him a ring. He still comes to the games now and he told me that when we get back he’s going to come with a big placard to hold above his head so I know who he is. But I have told him he can come to the game with me.
“The other guy was 84 and we had a great chat.
“They were both so appreciative of the call and humbled that I’d taken the time out to have a chat with them.
“As any CEO or administrator of any club will know, you get disgruntled emails from fans when things haven’t gone our way.
“I’ve made contact with every one of them now just to see how they are, how their family are and if they’re all safe. Some have replied saying they can’t believe I’ve been in touch after what they sent to me.
“At the end of the day Rugby League is one family and one thing our game is very good at is looking after each other and pulling together in tough times.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS director Ryan O’Neill has said the club is currently coping well during the coronavirus pandemic that has seen the game grind to a halt.
“We have had to furlough some staff because the whole stadium has had to close down, but everybody is still getting their pay at the moment,” said O’Neill.
“We are in a relatively lucky position that the club has traded well since we took over at the start of last year.
“We are surviving at the moment, but obviously, the longer this situation goes on the more stressful it is likely to become.
“At the moment we’re just battening down the hatches and battling on through.
“We were a bit unlucky that since the season started all our games have been away from home, so from a cash flow point of view we haven’t really had anything come in since the end of last season.
“But we had a business plan in place, and once we saw this coming down the line we made some contingency plans. We’ve all mucked in and helped out and hopefully at the moment everything is going along fine.
“But we just have to play it by ear for now.”
BARROW RAIDERS Chairman Steve Neale hopes his club can pick up where it left off once the game finally returns.
The Raiders currently sit joint top of League 1 alongside Hunslet and Newcastle Thunder and they were also getting things right off the field.
Now Neale is hoping that all that hard work does not go to waste after the lockdown.
“Looking back at the very brief start to the campaign I thought we were in the perfect position to make a strong challenge for promotion,” Neale wrote in his North West Evening Mail column.
“We had successfully come through our friendly campaign with steady improvements. We blooded a lot of amateur dual-registration players and youngsters in those games and when we eventually got started we were looking good.
“We were victorious against London Skolars in the Challenge Cup and both Doncaster and Coventry in the league and the Cup defeat at Featherstone was hardly a blip, as we gave the unbeaten Championship side their toughest test to date.
“The injury situation was the best it had been for a couple of years and we were ready, virtually at full strength for our next fixture.
“Off the field we had announced some ground breaking initiatives and financially we were in a decent position.
“The hope is that we can quickly pick up the baton when normality does return and we continue all the good work we have been doing.
“We have to be respectful that a lot of people have lost lives, but at the same time I’m sure everyone is just praying that normality returns.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS coach Matt Calland believes it will be the strength of his players that will be hit the most during the current enforced break from the game.
With players across the game working by themselves to maintain fitness levels, without the facilities they have available at the club, some will be finding it hard to replicate all aspects of their usual training regime.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen, so we just have to keep the players ticking over so they are in decent nick when they do come back,” said Calland.
“A lot of them will have lost their strength because they haven’t been doing any weights.
“When you stop doing weights, you do lose strength pretty quickly, so we’ll need to try and build it back up as soon as we can.”
Meanwhile the club will be hosting a webinar via Zoom this Wednesday (May 6) at 6.30pm
The webinar will see the club’s leadership group update supporters on all club developments, plus a number of initiatives and developments that could help the club through the current situation.
Supporters are encouraged to register free. See the club website for details, or watch the live broadcast on Facebook. Questions will be fielded from those registered through Zoom as the panel plan to make the session as interactive as possible.
NEWCASTLE THUNDER centre Kieran Gill has said every player will return to the club with one clear aim.
Prior to the coronavirus lockdown, Thunder were joint top of the table with Hunslet and Barrow after two wins from their opening two league games.
For Gill, the unprecedented delay in the season will not derail their ultimate aim for promotion to the Championship and beyond.
“We definitely just want to get back playing and get the job done,” said Gill.
“As players, we are all members of a WhatsApp group and all we are saying to each other is that we just want to be back playing and show everyone that we want to go up into the Championship and that we want to get that automatic promotion.
“I don’t think there is anyone in the club who doesn’t want that.
“We know where we want to be and each and every individual at Newcastle Thunder wants to be in the Championship, and then in the following years to push for the Super League.”
LONDON SKOLARS coach Jermaine Coleman has said he may need to strengthen his squad to deal with any extra demands placed on his players once the season returns.
However, with previous board members Hector McNeil and Terry Browne having left the club in March, Coleman is unsure whether the necessary finances will be there to allow him to do so.
“If we’re going to be in a situation where we don’t have as many free weekends and also have to play some midweek games, we probably would have to look at bringing some more players into the squad,” said Coleman.
“But with Hector and Terry stepping down not long ago I don’t even know if that is a feasible option.
“I only have a squad of around 22 players and I know there are already some weekends, when we weren’t due to play, when I already know I will have five or six players due to be away on holiday.
“So if we now suddenly end up having games on each of those weekends I am already going into those games with a depleted squad.
“This was a bit of a transition year for us anyway in terms of our budget, so I don’t know how all this is going to affect us going forward.
“It’s probably just going to mean that some of our younger players that we are looking to develop will get more game time this year than we would have initially imagined.
“But hopefully that will be beneficial for them in the long run.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS coach Aaron Wood believes that if his squad can get a number of weeks back in training together before the season resumes, it could work in their favour.
A number of new signings were arriving at the club as pre-season progressed, meaning that they were only just starting to bond as a group as the lockdown hit.
With some signings due to arrive from France when restrictions allow, a second, mini pre-season will suit Wood.
“Without wanting to sound too positive in such a negative situation, this just gives us a bit more time to get all our players in to spend a bit more time together,” said Wood.
“We were just starting to play a bit better before we had to stop, so it’s tough. But everyone is going to be on the same path now.
“If we can get a bit of notice to train again before we start playing then it gives us an extra chance to get a bit more cohesion together and get the players in key positions that we were maybe missing at the start of the season.
“Once we have everyone on board we know we can be competitive. It’s now just about getting that from the training pitch to the actual games.”