Rochdale Hornets Chairman Andy Mazey says it is all systems go now that his takeover of the club has finally been made official.
Although Mazey and his consortium were given the green light in December to take over and change the club from being supporter-owned to privately-owned, the necessary legal paperwork was still to be completed.
But now it has been, leaving Mazey and his co-owners to take up their respective positions on the board.
Having been at the helm since December, the new owners have been instrumental in the running of the club through the current pandemic. So for Mazey, very little will change immediately, with his thoughts still focussed on eventually getting the club back into the Championship.
“It’s taken longer than we anticipated, but we got there in the end,” said Mazey.
“The Covid-19 situation didn’t help, but because we were converting the club from one type of company to another, it rolled on for the best part of six months. But all’s well that ends well.
“It’s a relief that it’s finally done now and I have to thank the old board for showing a lot of trust and faith in us. Even though we didn’t have legal control, they let us get on with what we needed to do.
“That means that not much will actually change now. When our takeover was ratified in December we didn’t feel we had time to sit back and wait before we got going.
“All that change at the end of last year meant we were late in getting started with building a squad and getting things in place for the season.
“Putting aside the uncertainty of this season, we’re starting to prepare for next year as well.
“If we play again this year, we’ll be ready for it, but we also want to be ahead of the game for next year in terms of recruitment and retention.
“Now the takeover is complete we can hit the accelerator pedal and get us moving on our longer term plan for the club.”
DONCASTER chief executive Carl Hall is hoping that there will be some clarity resulting from this Thursday’s meeting of the clubs to discuss the resumption of the season.
Representatives from Championship and League 1 clubs will hold an online conference to discuss the findings of the two working groups that were set up in May to consider the issues surrounding the possible resumption of the sport below Super League.
One of the groups was considering the costs and other logistics surrounding matches taking place behind closed doors for broadcast, while the second was looking at possible revenue opportunities to offset some of those costs.
But Hall has warned that a premature return to action could see more than the players’ health put at risk.
“It’ll be interesting to see what the two groups have come up with and what they can throw on the table,” said Hall.
“But it feels like we might be getting a little closer to knowing what’s going to happen next.
“We are all wanting to get back, but we all have to make sure we’re doing the right thing. Player safety is paramount.
“No one wants to rush back too early, if we are forced to stop again and then have things end up in a worse situation. There are people who wanted to get back yesterday, but if we come back too early and end up locked down again we’d be in serious trouble.
“The game would be at risk, so we can’t afford to do that.
“We need to make sure that when we come back, we come back for good.
“Whether that’s behind closed doors or in front of crowds, we don’t know yet.”
NEWCASTLE THUNDER head coach Simon Finnigan has admitted that while he is disappointed that the competition for reserve sides may not return next season, he knows it is likely to prove to be the right decision in the long term.
The new competition had got underway prior to the Covid-19 lockdown and it was soon announced that the remainder of the reserves fixtures scheduled for 2020 were to be cancelled.
The competition was expected to resume in 2021, but with clubs facing the prospect of large cash deficits after the current pandemic, it could be shelved again.
This would likely lead to the Under-18s reverting back to an Under-19s competition temporarily.
“It’s disappointing, but I understand that it will be difficult to get it going again for the following season,” said Finnigan.
“The 18s competition barely got going this year either, so by extending that to an Under-19s league next season, it allows them to get the game time they need to develop at that age. Otherwise they’ll have lost a whole year, which would not be good.
“There is a lot else that needs to happen next year, including the World Cup, so financially having the reserves as well would be tough.
“It’s unfortunate, especially for us who made a big push for it.
“But I don’t know what the right answer is.
“The reserves was needed, but it might still work out better in the long run. If it comes back the following year in 2022, that would give us plenty of time to get the competition running more fluidly.
“The right intentions were there is this year, but I’m not sure the organisation and structure was the best.
“So if it does come back in the future, which I am sure it will, having longer to prepare and plan for it the right way might be a big benefit.
“I’m trying to look at it as a positive that it will be back in the future and running smoother than ever.
“It’s a logical decision, but sometimes these hard decisions have to be made.”
LONDON SKOLARS hooker Neil Thorman has said lessons will be learnt from last season, when this year’s campaign gets back underway in the coming months.
The capital side were one of the surprise packages of the first half of last season when a string of impressive performances and results saw them reach as high as second in the league behind eventual champions Whitehaven.
But nine straight defeats at the end of the season saw them slip down the league and finish eighth.
2020 never really got started for the Skolars before the Covid-19 lockdown got underway. The club played only twice, once in the Challenge Cup and once in the league. Both games ended in defeat, but Thorman is confident that when they get back on the field, they can rediscover last season’s early form.
“Even though we didn’t get the result, we did start the year with a decent performance,” said Thorman.
“That’s always what you want as it gives you something to build on.
“I am still confident that we will be going into the rest of this year with a strong team.
“With the Academy and reserves seasons cancelled at this stage we’ll be able to make more use of our dual-registration partnerships with the Broncos and Wigan than we might have done, as those players will be looking for game time.
“We had a good core last year that was strengthened by dual-registration, so hopefully it’ll be the same again.
“When we get back it’ll be like the season is starting again, and everyone will be on a blank slate.
“We’ve always been able to beat anyone on our day, and we shocked a lot of teams last year.
“But our consistency let us down and we went away from a lot of the things we’d talked about from the analysis we did with the coaches.
“That was disappointing, given that we were up there with the best of them for half the season.
“We needed to be as boring as possible and just try to close the game down rather than forcing passes.
“That’s what we need to do better this year.”
BARROW RAIDERS winger Shane Toal has said the way the club has looked after him and all the players has made life much easier during the coronavirus pandemic.
Barrow are one of a small number of clubs that have not furloughed their players through this pandemic, and have always kept them fully up to date on any developments in relation to the playing season.
“I’m not going into work so it’s strange times,” said Toal.
“I work as a steelworker at a shipyard in Barrow and there are thousands of us that work there, but they’re having to have a minimal number of people on site.
“A lot, like me, are working from home but none of us know when we’ll be going back.
“The fact that I have not been furloughed from work or by the club is a massive boost for me.
“The club has been great with us all and the chairman has always been really open with us. Whenever he’s had a meeting about the season he’s come back to us and told us exactly what’s going on.
“It’s been great to have the transparency from him.
“In the meantime our strength and conditioner has been working hard and coming up with lots of work for us to do.
“But we don’t know when we’re going to be back in training, so we just have to continue to do what we can on our own so we’re ready for when a return to action happens.”
WORKINGTON TOWN forward Hanley Dawson knows he has some of the best people around him if he is to successfully become an established League 1 player.
Having made the step up from the amateur game ahead of this season, the former Millom star was a standout performer for Chris Thorman’s men.
While he has already spoken about the impact Thorman has had on him in his short time at the club, there are others around him he is also benefitting from.
“Ollie Wilkes is here as a coach, but as a player he played over 500 professional games,” said Dawson.
“He was a forward at the top level, so coming in as a forward myself, he has really helped my game develop through my mindset and my physicality in the middle.
“Then player-wise, for me to be able to play alongside guys like Carl Forber and Fuifui Moimoi is fantastic and it really spurs me on.
“The competitiveness we have throughout the squad is really great for me to be a part of as well.”
HUNSLET coach Gary Thornton is hoping to get some clarity soon about how the rest of the year is likely to pan out, and he admits that the success of soccer’s return to England could play a part in getting Rugby League back in action.
“We are all just wanting a decision to be made quickly now so that we can know what we can do to plan going forward,” said Thornton.
“Other sports are coming back now so there are some positive signs and hopefully we can see a change for us in the near future.
“Seeing other sports back is a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel for us.
“The Government will be looking very closely to see what impact, if any, the return of the Premier League and Football League has on the infection rate.
“If that’s a good outcome we can maybe take something from it.
“All we can do at the moment is start planning as if we can start in August. Hopefully those plans will allow time for the guys to get together for a mini pre-season.
“They won’t have played for a long time, but they’re all chomping at the bit to get playing again, so I think that playing again will be pretty seamless transition.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS fullback Ritchie Hawkyard has said the current delay in the season has allowed the club to go back to basics.
The Cougars started the year with high expectations, but a defeat to Newcastle in the Challenge Cup was followed by losses to Workington and Rochdale in the League.
But when the game returns, Hawkyard is confident the extra time to prepare will pay dividends for both himself and the club.
“I was a bit behind the eight ball compared to the other lads at the start of the season,” said Hawkyard.
“I was not up to pace with what Rhys (Lovegrove – coach) was wanting and that’s why I was playing out of position on the wing.
“So if anything good has come out of this situation it’s that I’ll be going back and be in the same boat as everyone else. It will give me time to get back up to speed and try to get the starting fullback spot back.
“We’ve all been staying in touch with each other and Rhys has been doing Zoom meetings to make sure we don’t forget what he drilled into us in pre-season and how he wants us to play. He is still talking tactics and keeping us refreshed and up to date with what’s happening.
“He has also looked backed at things we did in the first few games and explained what was not working and what he’s like to change.
“This break has given him time to get back to the drawing board and put a new plan together, so it’s probably worked out well for him as well.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray has said a truncated campaign this year would make his squad building for next season a very different job compared to what he usually has to do.
“A shortened season this year does make it more difficult for building a squad for next year, because we won’t have seen as much of them in action as we normally would,” said Murray.
“But hopefully we can keep the guys together and roll on from this into next year.
“The early signs of the squad we have and the players we signed in pre-season have all been good. The attitudes have all been great in terms of everyone doing what they have been asked to away from the club.
“I can tell from our Zoom sessions that they have all been working hard.
“It is a but challenge for us, but it’s the same for everyone else.”
COVENTRY BEARS coach Richard Squires has confirmed that he is starting to make plans based on the proposed August restart for the game, but is fully aware that it may still come to nothing if the game doesn’t get the green light to resume soon.
“I think a lot of people thought that it was the end of the road for the Championship and League 1 for this season, but it looks like there could be a bit of hope,” admitted Squires.
“I am starting to look at and planning for an August start, and I’ve been in touch with the guys every week.
“Working towards August is giving me a bit more time to put a bit of structure into place based on what we need to do.
“But until we know what’s happening for sure we can’t set anything in stone.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS coach Aaron Wood has said some of his players have been putting in extra hours to make sure the stadium is up to standard for when games are allowed to resume at Stebonheath Park.
“It is hard for everyone when we’re not playing, but the guys are still coping well,” said Wood.
“We’ve done a lot of online training and they have really bought into that and are going at it really hard.
“Because we own our own facilities, we’re allowed to be in the vicinity of it and some of the guys have been going down now and then to help the groundsman out. They have been cleaning up and helping get the field right for when we can get back there.
“The ground is in great nick and very well prepared and we just can’t wait to get back there.”