Keighley Cougars veteran James Feather has admitted that if this season is deemed null and void because of the Coronavirus pandemic, he would be tempted to pull on his boots for one more year.
Having already put off retirement on a number of occasions, the 36-year-old said at the start of this year that this would be his last as a player.
But with the season currently on hold, Feather admits he is already considering his options for 2021.
“This is definitely not how I imagined my final season in the game panning out,” said Feather.
“If this turns out to be how this year finishes there has been talk of me going again next season.
“I was going to hang the boots up at the end of this year, but if we don’t play again I’ll have had twelve months to rest my body.
“I feel good right now and my fitness levels are up. I probably feel the best I have done for a long time.
“It will be up to the club and the coaching staff if they want to keep me on for next season, but my services will be there and I will be willing to carry on for one more year.”
“I don’t want to retire on Covid’s terms, I want to retire on my terms.”
LONDON SKOLARS utility player Mike Bishay has more reason than most to want to see the game return, but he is fully prepared to wait until it is safe to do so.
The 27-year-old works on Sky Sports’ Rugby League team, helping provide the on-screen graphics that appear during live broadcasts.
Whilst still working elsewhere in the corporation, Bishay is looking forward to the day he can get back to his usual roles, both on and off the field.
“I usually work for Sky Sports, but with no live sport I am doing a few days a week with Sky News,” said Bishay.
“I do some of the graphics for them and also controlling some of the auto-cues that the presenters read from.
“When you’re at home, you can choose when you watch the news and choose how often you hear it. But working in it, I’m getting it constantly for seven hours a day, so when you hear just how bad things are here and elsewhere, the severity of the situation really hits home.
“Normally I would have training or some sport to watch to switch off from all that, but I don’t have that now, so it’s tough.
“With the amount of contact in Rugby League I do understand its return will probably be delayed for longer than most other sports, but on the other hand I want Super League to come back as soon as possible.
“I have a lot of work specifically on live Super League games, so I am up north for the Thursday and Friday games and I just want to get back to that.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS hooker Karl Ashall is missing his rugby during the current lockdown, but he has had a much bigger adventure to keep him occupied.
With his wife due to give birth to the couple’s first child any day now, Ashall has been in the perfect position to enjoy the excitement of the imminent arrival.
“It is a strange time for everyone, but it has also been a nice experience for me,” said Ashall.
“We have a baby on the way, so I have had lots of time to do all the little jobs around the house that I had been putting off when I had work and rugby to do as well.
“I am a plumber and have been off work since March 17th, so I am ready to get back to that once the baby’s here.
“But I have enjoyed the experience of getting the house ready and the baby’s room decorated for the arrival and being able to do it at my leisure.
“It’s our first, so it’s an exciting time. We’re never going to be preparing for our first-born again, so it’s been nice that we’ve had a lot of time together for this experience.
“It’s been a light at the end of the tunnel for us. Knowing that our son or daughter is on the way means there is something to look forward to for the end of lockdown.”
HUNSLET back AJ Boardman has said a return to some sort of team environment is high on everyone’s wish list right now.
With uncertainty over whether promotion will be a viable option if the league does return in some form this year, Boardman knows the players may have to re-assess their aims for the year.
“I don’t think too many of us are thinking at the moment about how the league is going to pan out and be structured,” said Boardman.
“We just want to get back to some sort of normality and get back to training and games.
“That is not just for our physical wellbeing, but our mental health as well.
“Many of the guys are working from home and getting out for a bit of exercise every day. But looking at same four walls for most of the day isn’t nice.
“When you are used to being in that team environment several times a week, to go from that to nothing is hard to get used to.
“To be back out with the lads and having a bit of banter can be crucial and we’re all just looking forward to it.”
DONCASTER chief executive Carl Hall has said his players need to be aware of longer-term issues as they continue to train by themselves during lockdown.
With no idea if or when the season will resume, players across the game look set to face more personal training programmes. But Hall has called for them to be cautious and not push themselves too hard.
“Our boys are all pretty good and they will be doing what they can in terms of training,” said Hall.
“We all know there isn’t much they can do other than bike rides, running, walking and a little bit of weights with what they have got in their house.
“All clubs will be in the same situation and we have to consider that these players have been in pre-season training since November. If they continue training hard during this, then get back playing later on and see the season extended, then they will be burned out by the end of it.
“So they need to be sensible with their training as well. They can’t flog themselves every day, they just need to keep themselves ticking over.”
WORKINGTON TOWN chairman Les Smallwood believes the progress the club has made in recent years means planning for the future could be much more straight forward, whether the game returns in 2020 or not.
“You don’t need to be Albert Einstein to see how much progress we have made on and off field in last 18 months,” said Smallwood.
“It’s just a pity the game stopped when it did. I felt we were just starting to build a bit of momentum and our crowds were starting to lift. We were averaging over 1,000 by the end of last year, which was fantastic.
“We were just hoping that all that could continue this year.
“But what we have still got is players who want to be back together and stick together as a group. Chris (Thorman – coach) wants to keep all these players and I think most of them want to stay, which is refreshing.
“It’s difficult for all clubs right now. We don’t know if we’ll be finishing this year or not, and if we don’t, who we are looking to bring in to strengthen next year.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS coach Matt Calland will have plenty of players at his disposal if and when the season resumes.
“At a time like this you have to focus on the positives and for us that means having a full squad to select from when we can get out there again, which we didn’t have before,” said Calland.
“Sam Freeman has had a small operation on his groin. The injury flared up after the York game just as all this started. It a way it was perfect timing, as he now won’t miss any games.
“He’d been playing really well and I was pleased with how he was doing, so it will be great to have him available when we can get back.
“We also had James Connaughton and Callum Ogden injured and they’ll be ready to play when we start again too.
“Shaun Ainscough had quite a bad injury, but will hardly have missed any games and Sean Penkywicz and Sam Hopkins will have had a much needed break to get over some niggles, so that’s all good.
“Everyone is in the same boat and it’s not good for anyone to focus on the negatives.”
COVENTRY BEARS coach Richard Squires has said he can learn a lot from the current lockdown situation as he takes the next steps on his coaching journey.
Squires previously worked as the Hull FC Ladies coach and also headed Hull University’s Rugby League side before joining the Bears as assistant to Tom Tsang. This season he stepped up to head coach, under director of rugby Alan Robinson, and quickly found himself having to coach in an altogether different way after the coronavirus put a sudden halt to all group training sessions at the club.
“I have had quite a lot of experience in the background, seeing how people at the other clubs that I have been involved with have done things,” said Squires.
“But this is a time that I have had to implement things myself. I am the one that has got to come up with the ideas so we can do the best we can in these circumstances and still be ready to jump back into action as soon as we get the go-ahead.
“I have been in close contact with Rhys Lovegrove at Keighley and Lee Greenwood at Dewsbury. We have a weekly brainstorm and swap ideas. We’re all having to think a bit differently and do things outside the box.
“I do think that coaching in this situation can help benefit my career in the future.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS have stepped up as a leading light of the game in their local area by showing their support to seven neighbouring community clubs and handing over a small cash amount to help them during these difficult times.
Aber Valley Wolves, Bridgend Blue Bulls, Cardiff Blue Dragons, Cynon Valley Cavaliers, Rhondda Outlaws, Torfaen Tigers and Valley Cougars can gain up to £500 each from the Raiders, based on the terms and conditions set out for each club. In return, the community clubs will be required to show their support for the Raiders as they continue their own development in League 1.
“We understand it’s difficult times for everyone currently and we want to show our support to all seven community clubs,” said Raiders CEO Peter Tiffin.
“Over the past three years we have been working hard behind the scenes to make sure the club remains financially viable to help during times of hardship just like these.
“The RFL has done extremely well in securing the £16 million grant from the government and I am pleased to say the West Wales Raiders will be one of the few clubs not needing to apply for this loan.
“We want to support the clubs in the South Wales area to ensure that every team has the correct amount of support to restart when the lockdown is finally lifted.
“As the only professional Rugby League club in South Wales we have a duty to help where possible and we hope that in return the clubs will help support us build for the future.”