Barrow Raiders have added yet more Super League experience to their ranks after making a surprise move for former Warrington Wolves forward Ben Harrison.
The three-time Challenge Cup winner hasn’t played professional Rugby League since 2016, when he spent time on loan with Wakefield Trinity following a ten-year spell with the Wolves.
But still aged only 32, Harrison has now chosen to revive his career with his hometown club.
“Ben has managed to keep himself fit and in good shape,” Raiders’ rugby director Andy Gaffney told the North West Evening Mail.
“It is an excellent signing for us, a really top-drawer addition to the squad.
“To bring in three former Super League players now in the form of Shaun Lunt, Adam Walne and now Ben is fantastic for the squad.
“He is a great player who can really add a lot to us.
“There is no doubt it is a massive signing for us. He is yet another player who wanted to step over to us, and that shows that top-level players want to come and play for us and have heard about the buzz around the place, and it is great to see.”
As well as Harrison, Jarrad Stack will also return to the club for pre-season training after agreeing a new deal with the club.
“For us this was a key deal to get done, with Jarrad being our captain,” added Gaffney.
“He’s a great player and has been a great leader for the club. He brings that experience as well, which we are going to need in the side going forward.
“He was one of the key players we wanted to get signed on ahead of what we think will be a big push for promotion next season.”
Halfback Ryan Johnston has also signed a new one year-deal with the club.
DONCASTER chief executive Carl Hall has been left humbled by the supporters’ reactions to plans to defer this year’s season tickets to next year, as well as setting up a crowdfunding scheme to support the club’s future.
Anyone with a season ticket for 2020 was given the option to claim a refund, or roll the ticket on to next season, allowing entry into home matches in 2021 without paying extra money out.
The Crowdfunder page allows supporters to take advantage of a number of rewards for making a small financial contribution to the club.
“The response to all of that has been really positive,” said Hall.
“Since we have said we’d roll season tickets over to next year, a lot of fans have told us they will still buy another one next year anyway.
“We’re saying that if they want to do that, they should give one to a neighbour or bring a friend to games, but then some are saying that the club can donate it to a NHS support workers or other key workers.
“The CrowdFunder, which allows fans the chance to do things like paint a brick at the stadium and put their name on it, or have their name embossed into a shirt for next year, is going down really well too.
“It’s quite humbling really. When we lose a game, the fans can get frustrated and call you everything under the sun, but as soon as the club faces a little adversity they show their true colours. They want to stick by you and support you.
“Their reaction shows what the club really means to them and seeing that makes all the turmoil worthwhile.”
Meanwhile, on the field the club has made forward Aaron York their first new recruit for the 2021 campaign.
The 21-year-old started his career at Betfred Super League side Wakefield Trinity, before a stint in Australia prior to his move to the Keepmoat Stadium.
“Aaron is another player who we have had to fight off Championship competition for,” said Hall.
“He will bring a lot to the team next season.
“A team from the top end of the division above were very keen on him and we are delighted to have him in our ranks.”
Forward Brandon Douglas has also agreed a new deal with the club.
NEWCASTLE THUNDER coach Simon Finnigan has said he is close to finalising his squad for 2021.
Having built a squad he believed capable of winning promotion to the Championship this year, Finnigan prioritised keeping as much of that group together as possible. But he admits that some other external issues will mean there are some new faces at Kingston Park in 2021.
“We’ve agreed deals with quite a few of the current squad and we just need to finalise some of the details so we’re moving along nicely,” said Finnigan.
“The priority was to sign up as much of the current squad as we could first of all, but there are always other bits that pop up that you work on too.
“We have lost a few from this year, but most of them are getting back on board so it’s looking promising.
“Some players have already left, but we had an idea they’d be going so we had plans in place to replace them.
“We’ve got some targets in place and we’re close to getting some of those over the line, so it’s just a case of getting things finalised.
“Lots of club in League 1 have strengthened already for next year, so it is going to be a different season, but we’re confident of what we’ll be able to produce.
“We’ll be stronger than we were this year.”
WORKINGTON TOWN coach Chris Thorman has said the introduction of new six-again rule has altered some of his thoughts on recruitment for next season.
The new set re-start rule has been in place since the game returned at Super League level last month, and seeing how it has gone so far has shown Thorman he will need more in the pack next season, as it is expected the rule will stay in place, across the whole game, in 2021.
“Because of the rule changes, the forwards that I want to bring in have probably changed slightly,” admitted Thorman.
“We have seen in the NRL and Super League that the game is evolving because of these changes and my recruitment and retention will have to change because of it.
“Players now have to be fit and capable of playing big minutes, regardless of what position you play.
“Whether they are a fullback or a prop, they have to be the fittest version of themselves.
“The recruitment I did last year, with guys like Hanley Dawson and Marcus O’Brien, was made because they were fit middle players anyway.
“So that is how I like my forwards. It might be that we can have one or two of the big guys on the bench that can come on and make an impact, but if they’re not fit, mobile, agile and don’t move well laterally, they’re going to get found out even more so with the rule changes.”
Meanwhile, Thorman has boosted his outside backs with the capture of centre Perry Singleton, who will rejoin the club on a two-year deal following a short spell with Barrow Raiders.
KEIGHLEY COUGARS have seen two of their current squad sign new deals to remain at the club.
Following some outside recruitment, coach Rhys Lovegrove has made Dan Parker and Dalton Desmond-Walker his first re-signings for 2021.
“Dan has always had a lot of talent,” said Lovegrove.
“But over the last eighteen months especially, he has really developed as a Rugby League player both on and off the field and has added a really professional edge to his preparations for both training and game days.
“I’m really excited about the prospect of working with Dan over the next two years and continuing to push him on into becoming one of the most talented and consistent performers in both the club and the division.
“Dalton was the easiest decision to make.
“Since we brought him into the club last year, he has jumped in head first and really understood since day one what we’re all about here at the Keighley Cougars.
“He is a really honest and hardworking front rower, and I’m really excited to continue working with Dalton over the next two years.”
HUNSLET have continued to build their 2021 squad with two more familiar faces committing their futures to the club.
Re-signing with the club is Tom Ashton, who will now spend a fourth season with the club, despite the commute he faces from Bury to South Leeds for training and games.
As well as him, the club will also welcome Niall Walker back to the fold after two years away.
The back joined Hunslet in 2017 after spending five years in Australia, but left after two seasons to try his hand in the Championship with Batley Bulldogs, and later London Broncos.
“Tommy is a big fans’ favourite with his explosive, direct running,” said coach Gary Thornton, who is delighted by the latest two pieces of business.
“He is a great attacking option for us with his power, and is very difficult to stop close to the line. He’s also an important and popular member of the group, and has been for three seasons now, so I’m delighted he is staying on.
“He has become an integral part of this squad. He was getting back to fitness after a few injury problems the previous season, so hopefully he can hit the ground running when we eventually get back to playing in 2021, and be back to his best.
“I’m also really pleased Niall is returning to the club.
“There is no doubting his ability to score some very good tries with his pace, agility and strength. I was sorry to see him leave the last time, but he wanted to test himself at Championship level and I can’t fault him for that.
“His spell in the Championship will see him come back a more experienced player and he will be a fantastic addition to our squad. Hopefully he can stay fit and help us achieve our goals.”
IT WAS a case of one in, one out at NORTH WALES CRUSADERS last week with hooker Karl Ashall penning a new deal and centre Tyme Nikau joining York City Knights before even playing a game for the club.
Ashall has racked up 79 appearances and 14 tries in two separate spells for the club, while Nikau had one training session with his new team-mates before the Covid-19 pandemic struck and put the rest of this year on hold.
“Karl has a lot of experience and is a real leader, so it’s great to have him on board for another season,” said Crusaders’ coach Anthony Murray.
“It’ll be great to have him fully fit for next season as we all know what he brings to the club.
“Not only does he offer us a lot on the pitch, but he also loves it here and has real passion to play for Crusaders.”
After arriving from the Southern Hemisphere in March, Nikau was staying with family friends in York while he settled in the UK. But the pandemic had a major impact on his future plans.
“During the pandemic, Tyme has based himself in York with family as he arrived the week we went into lockdown,” added Crusaders chief executive Andy Moulsdale.
“The plan was for Tyme to spend a few weeks in York and then move across to the north west to find work and focus on his rugby. Unfortunately, that hasn’t materialised because of the pandemic.
“We’ve been in constant contact with Tyme and he’s kept us updated with his situation. Ultimately, he needs to be settled and working around his rugby.
“We wish Tyme well with York next season.”
OTTAWA ACES have added two more faces to their inaugural squad after snapping up French frontrower Clément Boyer and former St Helens and Workington Town threequarter Calvin Wellington
“Clément has proved his abilities with Toulouse over the years,” said Toulouse coach Laurent Frayssinous.
“He’ll bring his toughness, his work ethic, his skills and his experience to the team, and like all his new team-mates, he’s very excited to start working hard.
“Calvin comes from a good system and has all the abilities to perform at the highest level.
“He’s strong, fast, skilful and he will add a lot to our squad.”
LONDON SKOLARS coach Jermaine Coleman is setting his sights on a securing a number of key players to get the ball rolling for 2021.
“We’ve had some really positive talks with some of the senior players from this year,” said Coleman.
“Hopefully we’ll be in a position to start making some signings in the next couple of weeks and then start pressing on with plans for next year.
“The priority is to get the senior group of players sorted first and get those four or five players signed up, as they will be the core and nucleus of the team.
“Once that is in place I’d like to think that the rest of the group that we had this year will get on board again with same vision.
“Hopefully we can then add to that with five or six new players and get ourselves a good squad together and put ourselves in a strong position to challenge in 2021.”
COVENTRY BEARS‘ new head coach Richard Squires believes his side will be stronger in the crucial halfback positions once his recruitment is confirmed.
And while those new recruits might be young, he believes next season’s League 1 campaign will be the perfect development ground for them.
“We’ve struggled without any halfbacks for the last couple of years because there hasn’t been any on the radar and they are always so hard to get hold of,” said Squires.
“But we’ve signed two young kids that will really be able to rip in next year.
“They’ll now also get the chance to go up against some really experienced guys that will be in this league and who have been around the game for a long time and played at the highest level.
“There will be no better for them to test themselves then against these kind of players.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS coach Aaron Wood has not ruled out looking outside of Wales to add further numbers to their squad.
Wood has previously confirmed that around 20 players have agreed terms with the club for next season, with the paperwork just needing to be finalised.
But he is still actively looking across the rest of the British game for further players who could add to their squad for 2021.
“We’re still on the lookout for players and we’re hoping to bring a couple of Championship players in,” admitted Wood.
“We’re in contact with a few coaches about loan players.
“We’re in for a couple of big names and the experience they would bring will be huge for us.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS look set to give their fans a voice within the club by setting up a new supporters’ club.
When Andy Mazey and his consortium took over the club from the fan-led organisation last December, they were very keen to keep the supporters involved in some way, and this could be the first step in doing that.
“We’re looking at getting a new official supporters club up and running in the next few weeks,” said Mazey.
“Because it was a supporters-owned club that has now gone into private ownership, we didn’t just want the supporters to stand down.
“We have come along and want us all to work together to maximise the club’s potential.
“The game is nothing without it’s fans and we want to work with the supporters to move the club forward.
“The planning for it is well underway and the personnel involved in running it are in place.”
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