Barrow Raiders look set to follow up the capture of Shaun Lunt by signing another seasoned Super League forward.
League Express understands that Huddersfield Giants prop Adam Walne has become coach Paul Crarey’s latest signing for a promotion push in 2021.
The 29-year-old has already turned out for Barrow in the past after playing one match for them whilst on dual-registration from Salford Red Devils in 2014.
If Walne does make the move to Craven Park, he will be joined in the pack next year by Carl Forster, who last week signed a new two-year deal with the club.
The 27-year-old joined the club at the start of the season, after having been part of the Whitehaven side that won promotion to the Championship in 2019. Prior to that he had been player-coach at the Cumbrian club and later Rochdale Hornets.
“It was definitely an easy decision to stay with Barrow,” said Forster.
“I had interest from elsewhere, but that would affected my working life as well. Everything fits at Barrow and it’s a good club to be with.
“As players we appreciate everything the club and Steve (Neale – chairman) have done for us during the pandemic. That has included topping up our wages so we were still getting 100 per cent of our pay and weren’t missing out. Steve has also done everything he can to keep us informed of what’s happening.
“So there was an element of wanting to pay back that loyalty, but also I was really excited about joining Barrow. But I have only played four or five games for the club and I don’t feel I have done enough in a Barrow shirt to move on. I wouldn’t have been content to leave after just a few games without leaving a mark on the club.
“I still want to get back into coaching eventually, but I am still young, and for the next two years I’m just going to get my head down and do everything I can as a Barrow player to help take this club forward.”
Forster was joined in committing his future to the club by Jamie Dallimore, who has also penned a new two-year deal with the Raiders, while Tee Ritson has penned a new one-year contract.
HUNSLET coach Gary Thornton has said he will need to get his squad in earlier than normal to start the pre-season.
Having not played a competitive match or trained in a team environment since March, Thornton knows his squad will need an extra couple of weeks at least to get back up to speed ahead of 2021.
“We still don’t fully know what is happening with next season in terms of when it will kick off, but until we hear anything different we’re planning for the usual February start,” said Thornton.
“With us effectively losing all of this season, we’re planning on getting in a month earlier than normal, because they have missed a full season of competitive rugby, contact, collision and tackles.
“We usually work on a 12 or 13 week pre-season cycle, but for next season were probably looking at a 16-week pre-season.
“The early part of that will focus on conditioning and the re-learning of game plans, moves and systems.
“In any normal season the guys would get a few weeks off after the last game to recover and then we’d start giving them some home programmes to keep them ticking over, so that when we return to pre-season they’re in reasonable condition.
“So as soon as we have some dates for the season and we know we can plan for a pre-season start at the beginning of November, we’ll look to step things up with them from home at the end of September and early October.
“But they had all been maintaining their fitness levels anyway, just in case we got back this year, so I don’t see that changing. They’ll keep themselves ticking over before we get back together as a group.”
More players who will be reporting back for pre-season are forward Jack Aldous, Dom Brambani, Simon Brown and Jordan Andrade who last week became the latest members of Thornton’s squad to re-sign for next season.
KEIGHLEY COUGARS have added to their forward pack with the signing of Zach Braham from League 1 rivals Hunslet.
The-25 year-old has hopes of making the Jamaica squad for the 2021 World Cup and will add experience and size to the Cougars as they look to make a promotion push next year.
Cougars coach Rhys Lovegrove is delighted to land his man, after being an admirer of Braham’s for many years.
“I’m really excited about bringing Zach into both the team and the club,” said Lovegrove.
“He is a really ambitious middle who is excited about joining us down here at Cougar Park and is really eager to develop and use the platform we are presenting him with to push himself and his career.
“He brings a lot of punch in attack and he carries the ball very strongly. In my opinion he’s one of the strongest ball carriers in the division, and is very good at bending the opposition line back to gain those extra metres.
“I am very excited about adding him to this group of players; we have a great group here already, but I really wanted to add someone who could bend that line back and cause the opposition defence problems, and this is what Zach brings with him.
“Zach is a really good human being and will offer a lot to the club culturally off the field; he is a very happy-go-lucky guy, but he is also very ambitious about his personal development and where he wants to end up in his career.”
NEWCASTLE THUNDER coach Simon Finnigan has said the club can work alongside their union neighbours to ensure a safe return to training later this year.
The club will not return to training until pre-season can get underway in November, but with Newcastle Falcons now back preparing for their own campaign, Thunder can use their experiences to prepare for their own return.
“This virus isn’t going away, so we’re going to need everything in place for a safe return to training by November,” said Finnigan.
“There is no general public access to our facility, so that makes it easier to keep things how they need to be.
“But an important part of our planning now is how we get things in place to allow the players to come back to training and get those facilities right. This is something no clubs have ever had to deal with, so it’s a different sort of planning now before pre-season.
“We might possibly have to align what we do with what the Falcons have done. But I don’t know what that is, as I have only seen the guidance we need from the RFL.
“But the good thing about sharing a ground with them is that they have already returned to pre-season, so we can look at what they do and learn from anything they make mistakes on.
“We can also use any difficulties they have, and the things that they do well, in our own preparations.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS coach Aaron Wood has revealed that the club will be making its first signing announcement this week.
And he promises that it’s a name that will make people sit up and take notice of their intentions in 2021.
“We’ve signed a fair few players, but we’ll release their names once the big name is announced and that will be coming out this week,” confirmed Wood.
“It’s a massive signing for League 1 and Rugby League in Wales.
“It also sends out a message to rest of the league that we want to improve next year.
“We want to be successful on the field and get some more wins, so the board has let us go out and recruit heavily to do that.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS have retained the services of three more squad members ahead of the 2021 season.
Prop forward Brad Brennan, Welsh international Elliott Jenkins, back Jack Holmes and Dante Mor;ey-Samuels have all put pen to paper on new deals with the Wrexham-based club. And coach Anthony Murray is delighted to have them on board again.
Brennan is closing in on 50 appearances for the club, while Jenkins will be looking to keep his halfback partnership developing with Jordy Gibson.
Holmes has already won promotion from League 1 on three separate occasions – twice with Oldham and once with Rochdale. He will be looking for a longer run of games next season after missing the last couple of games of this year with a broken hand.
“Brad’s got a lot of experience under his belt now, as he’s played in the Championship and League 1 for a number of years,” said Murray.
“He’s got himself into great shape and you can really see the improvement in his performances on the field. He’s a really important player for us and the type of person you build your squad around.
“Elliott and Jordy combined really well for us and they formed a really good partnership and understanding.
“I’m delighted that Elliott has decided to stay.
“He fell out of love with the game for one reason or another, but he joined us at the Crusaders and got his appetite back.
“They all enjoy playing here and love the fans. For our club and the coaches, it’s really rewarding to play a part in that.
“I’m also really pleased we’ve been able to keep Jack for another season.
“Retaining the services of a player like him shows how well we’re doing as a club and how much people enjoy playing here.
“He’s had a lot of success at this level and that will be valuable for us.
“Dante’s another good, young player who was showing glimpses of what he’s capable of.
“He just needs to kick on from where he left off when next season gets underway.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS have added some more youth to their squad with Bradford Bulls product Luke Littlewood.
The 19-year-old halfback progressed through the Bulls’ Under-16s and 19s systems before becoming a member of their reserve squad for 2020.
He will now get his first taste of open-age professional rugby under Hornets coach Matt Calland.
“It’s a new challenge for me and one I’m looking to take with both hands,” said Littlewood.
“Matt has spoken about the expectations and where we want to be and I can’t wait to be part of the promotion fight for Rochdale in 2021.
“It’s a club I look forward to playing for, with a great fan base behind them.”
On the latest new recruit Matt Calland added: “Luke has come through at Bradford Academy and he is a young and determined player.
“He has a good skill set and a great kicking game. I’m looking forward to working with him.”
DONCASTER chief executive Carl Hall is looking to bring the fun element back into the club.
Hall has already confirmed that the club’s budget for 2021 has been significantly cut, and now he hopes players will be there next season for the love of the game and the club, rather than seeing it as an opportunity to earn lots of extra cash.
“We’re all looking forward to playing next year, and doing that with smiles on our faces,” said Hall.
“We’ll probably return to playing the game we all love for the right reasons at this level.
“Yes some clubs are signing big and spending big, but what we want to do is get that fun element back into it and make our club a good place to be.
“We want them to enjoy coming to training and enjoy playing games and let’s see where that takes us.
“We want it to be about them wanting to be here and enjoying it more than being about the money they can earn in the process.
“If we strip it back, the reason we all started playing this game is because we love it. Then if you’re lucky you get good enough to turn semi-pro or full-time and that can sometimes take away the fun element and enjoyment.
“We want our players to love playing here. Then if they get some pay for it, that’s a bonus. Let’s get them enjoying the game, doing what the coach asks them do to and sometimes you can get a lot of success on the back of that.”
WORKINGTON TOWN coach Chris Thorman fully expects his players to keep up the personal training they have been doing during the pandemic so they can return to pre-season in good condition.
“Having a general aerobic capacity is important and, with gyms open now, there is no reason for them not to keep on top of everything,” said Thorman.
“The only thing that we will have to ease them back into is the physical contact, but we have lots of time to do that.
“They’re all chomping at the bit to do what they have always done and get out onto a training field and play.
“It has been a frustrating few months for everyone, but I’m sure we’ll be well prepared as we return for pre-season.”
COVENTRY BEARS coach Richard Squires is looking forward to seeing the majority of his team back together this weekend as they take part in a charity bike ride.
The Bears have not had any group coaching sessions or game time together since the game was shut down in mid-March, so the excitement about meeting up again is building.
Squires and the players will be setting off from Hull on Saturday morning and arriving at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on Sunday, although the coach admits he won’t be with the rest of the group the whole time.
“There are around 19 or 20 members of the squad taking part and it’s a 150-mile trip, so it’s going to be a real challenge for us all,” said Squires.
“The boys are camping out part way down on Saturday night, but I’ll be in a hotel.
“It’ll be the first time we’ve all seen each other in a long time, so it’ll be good to be back together. It’s a great chance for a catch-up, as well as challenging themselves ahead of a return to pre-season in a couple of months.”
LONDON SKOLARS coach Jermaine Coleman believes continued easing of lockdown rules will help his players keep up their own fitness while they await a return to pre-season training.
The majority of gyms in the UK have been open for over a month now after Covid-19 forced their closure back in March.
Coleman now expects that players from across the game, as well as those from his club, will be taking full advantage of this development.
“Anyone who plays sport will enjoy gyms being back open,” he said.
“It will allow them to get themselves back exercising, as well as getting a bit of normality back.”
OTTAWA ACES have added further names to their squad with the double signing of Sam Luckley from Newcastle Thunder and London Broncos fullback or winger Olly Ashall-Bott.
“Sam has been a real standout performer with Newcastle for the last few years now,” said Ottawa coach Laurent Frayssinous.
“He is a hard worker who is eager to learn and eager to improve and he’s got the ability to become one of the best frontrowers at the highest level in the future.
“Olly’s signature is a great coup for the club. He’s fast and agile and, despite his young age, he has already played at the highest level.”
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.