Having seen his plans to take over at Rochdale Hornets confirmed last week, Andy Mazey believes consolidation is the key at the club this season.
A consortium headed by Mazey, along with fellow new directors Tony Sheridan, Richard Heyes, Peter Smith and current club president Paul Ormerod, saw the final approval of their deal to take the club back into private ownership confirmed ahead of Christmas and work will now step up a gear to prepare the club for life in League 1 in 2020.
“We’re are coming in with a long term plan and a vision, but we have to be realistic,” said Mazey.
“Year one will hopefully be about being competitive in this league, but at the same time we understand we have Newcastle in here spending big money, Barrow and a few other sides are in there too, so it will be tough.
“We’re not going to put any unrealistic expectations on Matt (Calland – coach), we just want to get the pride back into the shirt, get more Rochdale lads playing for the club and be as competitive as we can be.
“We’d anticipate that as we move forward we’d then be in a stronger position for recruiting for 2021.
“Consolidation is the key word for this year. The expectations from the fans are pretty realistic after going through what they did last season, and they understand that a few weeks ago only a few players were signed on.
“It’s very much a rebuild for this season, with the aim of putting a young, competitive team together to then have quality as we move forward.
“There is no reason why we can’t compete this season and push for the play-offs, but when teams like Newcastle are doing what they’re doing it’s going to be difficult.”
Meanwhile, BARLA international Callum Marriott, who played 15 games for the club last season after joining from Mayfield, has put pen to paper on a deal to remain at the club for 2020.
HUNSLET coach Gary Thornton will use the upcoming pre-season games to have a good look at a number of players currently on trial with the club.
Their pre-season programme gets underway with a home game against Bradford Bulls this Sunday (January 5), before Batley visit the South Leeds Stadium a week later.
“We have AJ Boardman from Dewsbury Moor and Arron Williams from Ossett Trinity in on trial and they are both training really well, as is Liam Copland, who is with us from Stanningley,” said Thornton.
“All three of them are promising young lads who are looking to make the step up.
“As well as them, we also have former Sheffield player Darren Forde, and Ben Worrincy, who was most recently at Featherstone, doing pre-season with us in the hope of getting a contract.
“They have all been showing up very well in training, but we still need to assess how good they are at League 1 level, so until we start playing our warm up games we won’t get a true measure of that.
“Assessing them in training and assessing them in games are two different things, but they trained really hard and have got stuck into it, so we will give the some game time across these first two pre-season games and then take it from there.
“If we feel they will add value to the side, we’ll sign them.”
Three players, however, who have already been signed by the club are props Jack Aldous, Harry Kidd and Jack Ray.
Aldous, who has previously worked with Thornton at York, joins from fellow League 1 club Newcastle Thunder, for whom he played 22 times for in 2019.
Kidd made a big impression on the club whilst on dual-registration from Halifax last season and has now signed a permanent deal, while Ray, who joins from Dewsbury Rams, found his feet in this league whilst on dual-registration with Coventry Bears.
DONCASTER coach Richard Horne has admitted it was a deliberate ploy of the club to start their pre-season games a lot later than many other teams.
The club will not play its first game until it faces Sheffield Eagles on Sunday, January 19, and it will then feature against Wakefield Trinity reserves five days later (Friday 24th)
“Once we’re back to work after the Christmas break we’ll still have a few weeks to make sure the guys are good to go for those games,” said Horne.
“We wanted those extra weeks because in previous seasons we’ve never felt we’ve been quite ready for these pre-season games. We’ve had them earlier in January and with only being in training three times a week, we’ve been playing games when we’ve only been 15 sessions into training.
“We have purposefully got them in for longer before we play, so we can get them fit and ready and hopefully a bit more robust for the start of the season.
“Also, last year we played three Super League teams and we were not really mentally ready when the league season started. We’d been getting 60 points put on us and didn’t have much of the ball in those games, so it wasn’t the best end to pre-season nor start of the season for us.
“We have aimed for Championship teams this year and Sheffield will be a real test for us. That, and Wakefield reserves, are games we can get stuck into and hopefully take some positives out of, unlike last year, where there were a lot of question marks on how we played and where we were at.”
NEWCASTLE THUNDER coach Simon Finnigan has confirmed that as well as remaining in his post with the first team, he will also take on a leading role with the newly-formed Reserves team.
“I’ll be overseeing the reserves from a coaching perspective, but I will have some help,” said Finnigan.
“Joe Brown will be putting a lot of work into the team as well, as will the group of Academy coaches we’ve got, so it will be a team effort.
“It’s not going to be a huge amount more work for me.
“Plus the reserves side will largely be made up of my first-team players as well, so I’d like to be able to keep an eye on them, and how they do, throughout the year.”
Finnigan has also recently secured two new faces for his 2020 squad, with both Reece Dean and Jake Lightowler making the move to Kingston Park.
Halfback Dean joins from Hunslet, while forward Lightowler, who is a Bradford Bulls Academy graduate, has recently moved to the North East to study and has already impressed Finnigan in pre-season.
COVENTRY BEARS director of rugby Alan Robinson has confirmed the club will once again not be taking part in this season’s 1895 Cup competition.
In the inaugural competition in 2019, the Bears, North Wales Crusaders and London Skolars chose not to enter, and for Coventry the choice is the same this year.
The club will instead look at the possibility of arranging some community games through their Foundation to give fringe players some much needed game time.
“It’s difficult for us to be in it, because the funding isn’t really there for it and if we ended up getting drawn away to a team in Cumbria, for example, it’s a lot of financial outlay for the club,” explained Robinson.
“Also, when there are midweek games, that can be a challenge as well.
“There isn’t really any benefit for us and it’s just more outlay we’d need to find. So instead we’re going to focus on developing the younger players and competing in League 1.
“There is a huge amount of Rugby League players and some union players in this area that want to get involved with us, but it would be very difficult to put them straight into a League 1 game. Even starting out in an 1895 Cup game would be a big step.
“We’re still looking at trying to arrange some community games through our foundation and we’re already working closely with Derby City. Some of our players, especially those we’ve taken on from the trials, will feature a lot for them throughout the year to get that game time they need to develop.”
WORKINGTON TOWN coach Chris Thorman has been delighted by the big improvements he has already seen from his squad this pre-season.
Having moved to the club in May, this is his first pre-season with the club, but he is already seeing positives signs ahead of the season kicking off against London Skolars in February.
“They have been training hard, so it’s all going really well,” said Thorman.
“The big thing for me was to get more consistency in everything we do and we certainly did that in the first stage of pre-season before Christmas.
“We have been a lot better in terms of numbers and attendance than the club has been in the past, which helps with that consistency. That comes down to having a group of players that knows what hard work is all about. The players we’ve recruited so far have been hardworking players and have helped bring in that attitude.
“What we have done so far all bodes well for the season, but nothing is won in December.
“We have still got a lot of hard work to do, and we won’t taper things in training just because of some trial games coming up.”
Meanwhile the club has announced the signing of loose forward Hanley Dawson from Millom on a two-year deal.
Dawson was invited to trial with the club for the duration of the pre-season programme, but after impressing with his attitude and fitness levels in training, as well as his performances for Cumbria in the BARLA Tri-series, the decision was made to offer him a deal.
LONDON SKOLARS coach Jermaine Coleman is hoping pre-season training can step up another level next month after everyone returns to the club after the festive break.
“Pre-season has been going okay, but it’s always difficult in December because there are lots of Christmas parties,” said Coleman.
“That is especially for us, as a lot of our guys have city office jobs, so it’s parties galore.
“It is always a bit of a challenge to get people to training throughout the month and numbers do tend to drop off a bit as we head towards Christmas, so that’s challenging.
“But with the guys we have been getting, our intensity has been really good.
“I would like to have had more numbers at times, but there are a few northern lads and some Aussies who will arrive at the club in January, so hopefully things will step up again then.
“It will then be a different challenge, because they will then only got a few more sessions before we’re into games.
“Getting people to gel in time at that stage can be difficult, but it does mean we’ll soon be getting some match fitness into us pretty quickly.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS coach Rhys Lovegrove has said it will take someone special if he is to add any further recruits to the squad ahead of the new season.
“I am happy with group we’ve got, but I’m not completely against an opportunist purchase if anyone becomes available,” said Lovegrove.
“But it would have to be someone special. It would have to be someone I thought could greatly improve what we’ve already got, and also someone who would fit into the unique culture this group has created in pre-season.”
BARROW RAIDERS coach Paul Crarey has said there is still a need to add some more numbers to his squad ahead of the new season.
“We have got 22 players in the squad plus ten amateurs who are training with us as part of the new dual-registrations rules,” said Crarey.
“They’ll continue to train with us and play with their amateur clubs and we’ll be able to call on them when we need them.
“We’re happy to have them with us, but we are looking for some seasoned professionals to pull the squad up to where it needs to be.
“We’re pretty healthy in all positions and well balanced across the board.
“But we feel we need another middle to put pressure on the other guys there. Plus you tend to go through the middles more than any other position in the squad throughout the season, so we’re going to look at doing something there.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray admits that while he is still searching for the final few additions to his squad, he will not rush into any signings just to make up the numbers.
“I am still looking for more signings because we’re still a couple short,” said Murray.
“But I am happy to wait for a bit and get the right players in.
“I don’t want to sign anyone just for the sake of it, but I would like to get them in before our pre-season games start, if possible.
“Potentially we’d like another hooker and another middle, but we’ll have to wait and see if the right players become available.
“We’re not under strength in any way; it’s more about offering a bit of cover and some more competition for places.
“We’re not desperate as we have time on our side, but with not having dual-registration this year, it’s important we bring in the right players who will be with us for the season.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS coach Aaron Wood has drawn comparisons between this new role, and that that he faced in France when working with Toulouse.
“This is a similar situation to my previous job,” said Wood.
“When I was at Toulouse coaching the Academy squad, it was a similar set-up. We had to build a team from scratch because a lot of the players went up to the Championship squad.
“It meant we had to do everything from finding sponsors for the reserve grade to recruiting a new team.
“That is something that has always interested me and I learnt a lot in those three years.
“This is another stepping stone for me and something a lot of coaches probably wouldn’t have taken on, because they are just worried about winning and losing.
“But I am more concerned about getting this club right and making sure the right things are in place and the players are settled here.
“It’s definitely a big challenge, but it’s an interesting one.
“The club’s views are similar to mine, so it’s working well.”
© League Express Mon 30th Dec 2019