Barrow Raiders forward Carl Forster has been getting on his bike this month to visit all of his former clubs.
But he hasn’t been breaking any of the UK Government’s lockdown rules. Instead he’s undertaken a virtual tour, having been hitting the road in his own living room after deciding to pedal almost 630 miles over 14 days on a Wattbike to raise money for the Willow Brook Hospice in St Helens.
The virtual cycle trip started with a 1.7 mile journey from his St Helens home to the Totally Wicked Stadium, and it then took in Swinton Lions, Rochdale Hornets, London Broncos, Salford Red Devils and Whitehaven, before finishing at Barrow.
Forster hit the half way point on Friday and he expects to be on course to finish the mammoth challenge by the weekend.
“I did underestimate how hard it was going to be,” admitted Forster, who is fitting the cycling around working ten-hour shifts in his role as a security engineer.
“To complete this challenge in 14 days I have to average 45 miles a day. I have had one rest day so far and hit a bit of a wall on day five, but I’d luckily got ahead of myself before then.
“I have clawed it back now, but I can’t really afford to have another rest day if I’m going to complete this on time.
“So it’s going to be straight through until Friday now and I should make it.
“I’ve never done anything like this before and, with not having rugby at the moment, which has been part and parcel of my everyday life for around 20 years, I wanted to do something to raise money for charity, incorporating something to train for and a goal to reach.
“It’s tough to train, when you don’t know when the next game is coming, but the main aim is just to raise as many funds as possible for Willow Brook.
“I always struggle with pre-season because we’re training but still so far away from games. Not knowing now when the next club training session or game is going to be is hard, but this is giving me something to focus on for now and there is now an objective behind the training.”
To donate to Carl’s fundraising efforts, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/carl-forster
For HUNSLET utility back AJ Boardman the current lockdown of the game is doubly frustrating.
Not only has he been forced to stop playing like everybody else, bit shut down has also put a temporary halt to his first spell in the semi-professional game, after he joined Hunslet from Dewsbury Moor during the close-season.
“I’d been looking forward to taking the next step up and the new challenge,” said Boardman.
“I felt I’d just been getting into training and getting the right fitness and mentality I’d need for playing week in, week out. Then something like this hits us.
“But I have just got to take it on the chin and get on with whatever happens next.
“The NCL is a good level and a lot of good players have stepped up from there.
“There isn’t too much difference in the levels, but when you start playing against teams in League 1, there is just that extra one or two per cent difference that makes you a better player.
“Having all that coming to a sudden stop is frustrating. It takes all the momentum out of what you’ve been doing, so it is hard to come to terms with.”
Whilst away from the game Boardman hasn’t been allowed to slacken off his training, even if he wanted to. That’s because his partner is Bradford Bulls’ women’s captain Amy Hardcastle, and together they have been keeping each other motivated to keep themselves in shape for whenever the game returns.
“Amy keeps her fitness up and helps keep me in check.
“She makes sure I’m still eating the right things and we get our 5k runs in. We also have some weights set up in the garden, so we’re keeping busy with them.
“I’m into my cycling, and we do some of that as well. So we’re both keeping fit and we spur each other on.
“When you don’t have to go to the club for training and you’ve had a bit of a draining day, you sometimes need a bit of a kick up the backside to get out and do something.
“But with us both being in that situation, we can encourage each other when we feel like that.
“So it works really well for us both.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS incoming chairman Andy Mazey was delighted last week by the reaction of Hornets’ supporters to the interactive fans forum.
Mazey, his fellow directors Tony Sheridan and Richard Hayes and assistant coach Craig Farrimond used the Zoom session, which was also broadcast live on Facebook, to update supporters on all aspects of the club during these unprecedented times.
“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from it,” said Mazey.
“We were able to communicate with the fans and talk about all aspects of the club and give them an update of where we are at the moment.
“We’re all about the positives so it gave the fans something to cheer about in these tough times.
“With so much uncertainty in the game, and the fact that we are new to the club, we wanted to reassure the fans that we are going nowhere, and that we’re still committed to the club despite the difficult situation.
“We’re confident that if everyone works together we can come out of this in a strong position.”
Mazey also praised the awarding to the club’s foundation of £9,487.17 from the CreatedBy RLWC2021 Capital Grants Legacy Programme.
“This has been massive for the Foundation, and the club,” added Mazey.
“We’ve tried pulling all the pieces of the jigsaw together and the Foundation, which does some great work, was a bit distanced from the club.
“But we’re all working together now under one umbrella and we’ve pulled everything, including the Women’s team and the Wheelchair team, together as one brand.
“The Capital Grant now allows us to scale up the delivery with the ability to get more people into schools and hopefully get more children engaged in Rugby League.”
DONCASTER chief executive Carl Hall has said Super League should be the priority when it comes to getting live Rugby League onto the field, even if that means his own club has to wait longer to play again.
Talk has suggested that games could initially return behind closed doors, but Hall would back any decision that was made to see the top-flight return before other leagues, as that is likely to aid the whole game financially.
“First and foremost I believe we have to get Super League up and running to please the broadcasters and to get the sport back on TV screens,” said Hall.
“Championship and League 1 will have to get back as soon as we can, but for the game’s sake Super League needs to try and be back quicker than us.
“As a sport, we cannot afford to lose a good broadcast partner in Sky and I think all the big boys know that.
“I have had a few discussions with some Super League CEOs and I wish them all the best. I do genuinely hope they can get back playing soon.
“But we all have to stay safe and make sure we are doing the right thing by everyone.”
NEWCASTLE THUNDER Chairman Mick Hogan has praised the NHS for the care he received at Cramlington Hospital after being struck down with coronavirus at the end of March.
Speaking to the RFL League 1 Show podcast, Hogan said: “The NHS were absolutely magnificent, I cannot speak highly enough of them.
“I was in for three nights and was cared for in the most amazing way.
“From everyone from the people answering the phones, and probably working double shifts to do it, at 111 through to the ambulance drivers and the whole support network, we have the best health care system in the world.
“It has been put under incredible pressure over the last six or seven weeks, but they have responded magnificently.
“I feel good and I am fully fit now.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS forward Dalton Desmond-Walker loves life after making the move to the West Yorkshire club from West Wales Raiders over the winter.
As well as indulging in his love of the game, the 27-year-old Australian is even becoming a local TV star, teaching the Keighley community about his Antipodean heritage.
Speaking to totalrl.com Desmond-Walker said: “Keighley have been exceptional with the community and they’re at the forefront of that. Everyone’s forward-thinking and it’s a really great club to be a part of.
“They are by far one of the best clubs I’ve been at. They’re very community orientated and everyone from the fans to the CEO have been checking up on me every day.
“We’ve got this new thing called Dalton TV with the Cougars, where I’m getting involved with the fans.
“I’ve cooked up some Aussie meals, explained Aussie snacks to them and celebrated my birthday and Anzac Day with a few Australian beers. It’s been just like home for me.
“I’m from Sydney, so we’ve got all the NRL teams in one place. Up here, it’s just the same. It’s definitely the heartlands.
“I live and breathe the game. I get up at 4am to watch the NRL App, I’ve already been to see Toronto, Catalans and Leeds play a couple of times. I’m definitely a fan first.”
The full interview with Desmond-Walker can be read at https://www.totalrl.com/keighleys-viking-raider-ready-to-create-a-wave/
WORKINGTON TOWN Chairman Les Smallwood has said the club is in a strong position during the coronavirus pandemic, thanks to the way it has been run over the last couple of years.
As well as building up a strong presence in the local community, club officials have also done a lot of work to ensure they are financially stable.
This is now being supplemented by fans getting behind numerous incentives by both the Derwent Park Supporters Club and the Travellers Rest Supporters club, who are raising funds to keep the club ticking over while there is no income coming in from match days.
“Over the last 18 months or so we have worked hard to drive the historic debt down to zero,” explained Smallwood.
“We’re certainly not a cash rich club, but we don’t owe anyone any money.
“That takes a bit of pressure off us, plus we only have a small number of full-time staff, so that helps as well.
“But we still need to see some money coming into the club, so it’s a fine balancing act of us looking after the people that can help us, and the fans and community have been fantastic.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray believes keeping morale up amongst the group is just as important during lockdown as individuals keeping their fitness levels up.
“We’ve been trying to keep everybody’s spirits up,” said Murray.
“The guys all have membership of our WhatsApp group and there are lots of home fitness programmes being put on there. But there are also daft games going on to keep them occupied and in touch with each other.
“A big thing when you’re involved in a team sport, is that you are in each other’s company for the best part of three or four days a week. So to go from that to isolation will be hard.
“It’s about trying to keep the guys together, whilst also staying safe and well.”
COVENTRY BEARS coach Richard Squires has said some of his squad can use the lockdown period to their advantage, if they view it as an extended period of their pre-season.
The Bears faced a tough opening to the season against two clubs tipped for promotion, going down 28-8 at home to Newcastle Thunder and then 50-6 away at Barrow Raiders.
Now Squires believes that if they can use this downtime to focus on lessons learnt in those games it will stand the squad in good stead once league action returns.
“We had two really tough games to start with in Newcastle and Barrow and they shocked a few of our guys that are either new to League 1 or returning to the game,” said Squires.
“It showed them exactly where their bodies need to be physicality and fitness-wise.
“So for a couple of them this can be an extended pre-season, where they have been able to get an extra six or eight weeks under their belt and actually get in to better shape, knowing that when we do come in they’ll probably be better off than when we first started.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS coach Aaron Wood admits he has not started to make any firm plans for a return to action.
Instead, he and his coaching team are looking at numerous options that can be put in place once details of when the season can restart, and how it will be structured, have been announced.
“We just don’t know yet how the season is going to pan out, so we can’t plan ahead too much at this stage,” said Wood.
“For now we are just bouncing some ideas around, looking at what’s potentially the best-case and the worst-case scenarios.
“Most players at this level work as well as playing, so midweek games would be tough for everyone, especially with us being so far away from every other club. But what can you do if that’s what’s needed?
“We will just need to bite the bullet and get up for it, and we will, because we just want to play and we know we’ll get better by playing consistent rugby.
“My players will just be so desperate to play again after this long break that I don’t think they’d care if they had to play five days a week.”
LONDON SKOLARS coach Jermaine Coleman has said he has faced some new challenges away from Rugby League during the coronavirus pandemic.
In his day job, Coleman is an assistant vice-principal and safeguarding leader at Greig City Academy in the capital and he has seen teaching take on a whole new dimension since schools were shut down in March.
“Being part of the senior leadership team at work means I’ve still been going in to school a couple of days a week,” said Coleman.
“It’s been nice though, because it has broken up the week a little and it’s meant that I’ve not been sat in the house all week.
“But teaching itself is very different now. Trying to do it over computer screens rather than in front of individuals is very strange.
“Everyone is plodding along and taking each day as it comes.”