Workington Town coach Chris Thorman has warned that people should not think the Championship and League 1 season can instantly follow Super League in making an imminent return to action.
After a string of meetings last week it was announced that Super League will make its return on August 2, but no decision was made on the two lower competitions.
“The priority has to be, and has always been, saving the future of our sport and making sure there is still a product to watch and support,” said Thorman.
“The priority has never necessarily been about getting the 2020 season back up and running.
“If everything goes well, and it makes financial sense from all the clubs’ point of view to get the season going again, then that would be a by-product of protecting our sport.
“It was always going to be the highest level of the game that had to be prioritised, and for us that is Super League.
“From a fans’ point of view it is great to see that the game in this country is returning in August, but from my job as a coach, I have my players asking why can’t it be them.
“There are a number of overriding reasons why it can’t be and having to try and explain that to the players is hard.
“We have some good brains on the case and, whatever decision is made about our season, we have to accept it and be thankful that we still have clubs to support.”
Meanwhile, League Express understands Town are chasing Dylan Morris and Tom Angel from Newcastle Knights’ feeder team in Australia.
COVENTRY BEARS director of rugby Alan Robinson has said it is not as easy as just picking a date for the game to return at Championship and League 1 level, as all clubs have different needs and requirements to take into account.
An online meeting of club officials last week saw clubs discuss a range of issues, with the main topic of discussion the options for the remainder of the 2020 season, following its suspension on March 16. But the meeting broke up without agreement.
“People think the process of getting the season back is a lot easier than it actually is,” said Robinson.
“It’s not as easy as just training or playing again; there are a huge amount of logistics to think about and get in place before we can even consider that.
“Sometimes there is much more to consider than just getting back playing.
“Every club is completely different and has different things to factor in.
“There are clubs up near the top of both Championship and League 1 that want to get promoted and want to get back playing straight away.
“But I just want our club to be able to sustain itself and still be here next year.
“Currently we’re not in a precarious situation, but if we had to start forking out huge amounts of money on different things to be able to play without getting any income, we’d be putting a strain on the business.
“I am really sympathetic to what the RFL is trying to do under the circumstances, but it’s a difficult time for every club in its own way.
“Whatever decision is made, it’s not going to suit everybody, but we have to think about the sustainability of the sport and people’s businesses.
“We’re all desperate to play and get Rugby League back, but safety is paramount and we can’t risk peoples lives.”
DONCASTER chief executive Carl Hall has warned his players that their physical condition when they return to training will be taken into account when it comes to negotiating new contracts with the club.
Having been furloughed by the club during the Coronavirus pandemic, the players are all still receiving 80 per cent of their club wage from the government.
They have also been expected to keep themselves fit and ready for a return to training whenever it is deemed safe to do so.
“The onus is on the players to keep themselves in shape, because we’re almost at the time for contract talks and renewals,” said Hall.
“If we do get back and they come back in out of shape they won’t be offered a new deal by us, that’s for sure.
“But if they have done the right things, looked after themselves and kept themselves fit, then that is a way we’re going to judge if they’re the sort of people we want at the club.
“If the season comes back in a shortened form we will see them in some live action. But in my mind, the players are still being paid while they’ve been off. So if they come back out of shape and haven’t been keeping themselves active then that’ll make our minds up on a lot of our recruitment.
“Hopefully they have all been doing the right thing and we’ll be able to see that when they come back in.
“Normally contracts come down to how they perform, but now I’ll put it down to how they’ve have looked after themselves during lockdown.
“If we’ve been doing right by them and they haven’t been doing the right things then that will determine their future at Doncaster.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS have already started looking ahead to 2021 by handing head coach Matt Calland a new one-year deal.
The former Hornets player returned to the club mid-way through last season, replacing Carl Forster in the role.
With off-field issues dominating the club in the later stages of last year and the current campaign on hold, Calland is looking forward to being able to move the Hornets forward over the next 18 months.
“I am grateful to Rochdale Hornets for offering me an extension to my current contract,” said Calland, who started his first of three spells with the club 30 years ago.
“I had no hesitation in agreeing to remain as coach through to the end of the 2021 season and hopefully beyond, as we continue to all work towards reclaiming our place in the Championship.
“Covid-19 related issues mean that we are in unprecedented times for both Rochdale Hornets and the sport of Rugby League. The game will not be the same on the resumption.
How we operate, what the financial impact has been, what restrictions we will have to adhere to will all have to be thoroughly assessed as we slowly start to understand what the new normal will look like for Rugby League.
“I honestly believe that we were in great shape before the lockdown in March. We have a well-balanced squad that is as hungry for success as I am and I am certain that the dynamics of the squad will not have changed once we get the green light to resume training.
“My desire to see Rochdale Hornets succeed has not changed since I first walked through the door at Spotland in 1990. And with the new directors now in place and backed by our loyal supporters and club sponsors, together we can achieve our goals for this great club.”
BARROW RAIDERS coach Paul Crarey admits his squad is desperate to get back to training, but he knows nothing can be done until the clubs receive concrete guidance on how that will be possible.
“Now things are calming down a little and things are starting to open back up, we would like to get back training if possible, and prepare to start playing again,” said Crarey.
“Our Chairman is keen to get back and get going again, but we’re just waiting on some guidelines on how we can do it.
“Everyone’s health is first and foremost, but we’re over the worst of it now and with football back and pubs opening at the weekend, maybe it’s time we were allowed to get back training.
“We’ve been trying to do everything properly, but now we need concrete evidence of what we can and can’t do next. Will we all need testing before training and what kind of testing will we need? Will it just be a temperature test or something more?
“Nothing is that clear, but if it was I’m sure we could find a way to get back training.
“We might be trying to jump the gun, but everyone is itching to get back.
“If anyone comes down with any symptoms whatsoever, then we can stand them down, but we have to find a way to get back and we need a bit of clarity from the government on what we can do.”
LONDON SKOLARS hooker Neil Thorman fears League 1 clubs will simply be priced out of a return to playing this year amid the current Coronavirus pandemic.
All Championship and League 1 clubs took part in a meeting on Thursday to discuss the findings of two working groups set up to examine the cost and logistics of getting back into action as well as revenue opportunities to offset those costs.
No decision was made following the forum, but for Thorman, the numbers simply do not add up for many of the lower league clubs.
“It’s not looking great,” admitted Thorman.
“If we’re going to do it right, then it seems like it’s going to be a very expensive task to get us back and to make sure that we are all definitely safe.
“If you’re training three times a week and then playing at a weekend as well, that’s four times a week a player would need testing.
“A test costs probably £100 plus, so if you’re having to do that four times with 20 or players, you’re probably looking at around £10,000 a week and that just isn’t feasible for any lower end club.
“If that’s what people are looking towards it seems a little out of reach for us and other teams in League 1.”
ANY hopes HUNSLET had of a return to some sort of training will have been derailed by the government’s latest relaxation of lockdown rules.
While pubs, restaurants, museums and hairdressers were last week given the green light to open from this Saturday, gyms are to remain closed for the time being, meaning Hunslet will have to wait a little longer to access their usual facilities.
“We’re in a slightly difficult position in that we train at a council facility, so without that being allowed to open we’re a bit hamstrung,” explained Hunslet coach Gary Thornton.
“It means we can’t just turn up at the club and do a session with five or six of the lads at a time.
“We’re struggling for the facilities we can use, so it would mean meeting in small groups at a local park until the sports centre opens, unless we can come to some sort of arrangement with the centre to use part of their facility.
“It’s certainly not straight forward for us.”
NEWCASTLE THUNDER coach Simon Finnigan has described the frustration that is being felt across the game due to the current situation.
Clubs are still no closer to knowing if or when they will play again this season, with everyone seemingly doing all they can to return to the field in some way.
“It’s is frustrating not knowing what is going to happen, but it’s strange because there is no one to be frustrated or annoyed at,” said Finnigan.
“Sometimes when things happen there is a third party that might be being obstructive, but in this case that’s not happening.
“The RFL has been doing a fantastic job behind the scenes to have got us to the point we’re at, and the clubs are all trying the same.
“There is no one to direct our frustration at, because it’s affecting the whole world, so it can’t be changed.
“We all just want to get back to what we love doing and that’s playing Rugby League.
“But everyone understands why we can’t and why the process takes time.
“We can’t just say we can do it now, all jump in our cars and drive to training. It’s not that simple, there are lots of other things to do to make sure everyone is safe.
“But we all also know things could be a lot worse.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray has said the current coronavirus lockdown will have more of an impact on the younger and less experienced members of his squad.
The Wrexham-based club has not played since its defeat at Hunslet on March 8 and it is still unclear when they may get back onto the field.
For Murray though, if they can return it would be better for the careers of some of his stars.
“Our younger players and those that stepped up from the amateur game definitely need some more game time this year to continue their development,” said Murray.
“My plan was for this year to be another stepping stone for them and it was about them getting some experience and reaching the goals we’d set them in pre-season.
“They’re chomping at the bit to get on the field and play and get back to some sort of rugby based activity, but we’ve just got to deal with what we’re faced with.
“We just have to take it week by week.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS fullback Ritchie Hawkyard has taken up a new hobby during the Coronavirus lockdown, and it’s one that will keep him in shape for whenever the game returns.
“I have been keeping active, but not taking the impact of the same, so this break has been good for me,” said Hawkyard.
“I have been out and bought a new road bike and been doing around 60 to 70 miles a day in total.
“My daughter is seven now, so I have been going out on a lot of bike rides with her as well as going out for a lot on my own.
“And since we’ve been able to meet up with friends, we’ve been doing 40 or 50 mile rides with some of them at weekends.
“I tried to do some road running, but I just can’t do that any more. I get shin splints and my knees swell up as soon as I start.
“That’s why I got on the bike and, to be fair, I’ve really been enjoying it.”
WEST WALES RADIERS have announced another new team that will pull on the Raiders’ colours when the game can safely return.
Just weeks after announcing the launch of their new Wheelchair RL side, the Raiders have confirmed that the club will be represented in the ever-growing Masters game.
The hope is that the Raiders can organise regular fixtures against teams from similar areas to their Men’s team League 1 counterparts and hold full weekend events with the first team, wheelchair and masters all playing across one weekend.
“Launching the masters’ side is another great announcement for the club,” said general manager Richard Stebbing.
“Masters Rugby League is a great opportunity for those that love the game to carry on playing the sport at a relatively competitive level.
“Being able to support the Raiders on the field and then pulling on a Raiders shirt with your pals either beforehand or afterwards will be great fun.
“The basis of any sport is to have fun with your friends and that is what the West Wales Raiders Masters will be.”