Rochdale Hornets have added some much needed experience to their ranks with the signing of Dale Bloomfield from Hunslet.
The 32-year-old returns to the club for a third spell, having last played for Hornets when they earned promotion to the Championship with a win in Toulouse in 2016.
“Dale is a key signing and his experience is huge for us,” said incoming Chairman Andy Mazey.
“Matt (Calland – coach) is very happy with the players he has brought in and we have some real quality there, but we are still a very young team.
“To get some older heads in like Dale and Sean Penkywicz, who we’ve already signed, is going to be crucial in leading some of these younger guys around and really set some examples.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work behind the scenes with Matt to see where we still need to bring some more faces and more experience, and I am quite optimistic that we will have some deals over the line before the season kicks off.
“It’s not so much a numbers game now, it’s just about adding the final bits of quality to what we already have.”
Along with Bloomfield, Hornets’ other recruit last week was Jamie Tracey, who is another player to join from Thatto Heath.
LONDON SKOLARS received a big boost ahead of Friday’s Capital Challenge game against Wigan at the Honourable Artillery Company, with the news that fullback Richard Wilkinson has re-signed for the club for 2020.
The 26-year-old joined the club ahead of last season and scored four tries in 15 appearances.
For coach Jermaine Coleman, the former York and Doncaster star promises to be a pivot part of his squad this year.
“I am really happy we have re-signed Richard,” said Coleman.
“He had a fantastic season last year, had a huge impact on the team and made a real difference to the way we play.
“I am extremely excited he has chosen to stay in London and I can see him taking a step forward this year and really developing and building the team around him.”
Wilkinson is equally excited and fully believes his side could be pushing for a spot in the top six this season.
“From week one all the boys, coaches and backroom staff made me feel so welcome,” said Wilkinson.
“They are more like a family than anything. On top of this my good friendship with our head coach Jermaine made the decision to come back even easier.
“Last year we showed that we can really compete at the top end of the table and teams did not like coming down to New River Stadium to play us.
“We are entering a new decade now and building on last year and, with the team Jermaine has put together, we can really push for a play-off spot.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS coach Aaron Wood is delighted to see so many old and new players willing to buy in to what he is trying to create at the club.
The latest players to sign up are Dai Evans, Sam Herron and Mitch Shaw, who were all with the club last season, while Jarryd Davies and Sam Martin have joined from local rugby union clubs.
“Things are really starting to take shape now,” said Wood.
“We are trying to build a local Welsh side and there are some younger guys who can see this as a project going forward and there are a lot of ex-players that are interested in coming back as well.
“We’re not going out trying to poach players; these are players that are contacting us because they are interested in coming down and having a go. Guys like Jarryd and Sam have proved to be exactly what we need – they are big bodies who run and tackle hard.
“It’s great to see that people are wanting to buy into what we are trying to do here.
“There are some other players who have expressed an interest but haven’t signed on yet as well, which is great.”
COVENTRY BEARS’ new fullback Nathan Hill has arrived at the club and has already impressed director of rugby Alan Robinson.
Hill, a former England Universities international, signed for the club in November, but only travelled back to the UK from Australia recently after playing for Rockhampton Sharks in Perth last year.
“Nathan started training with us after Christmas and has been doing really well,” said Robinson.
“He’s a Student international, but he’s not had any time in League 1 yet, so he’s a bit of an unknown, but I rate him very highly.
“He’s very quick, very strong and someone I am excited to see in action.
“We may have found another diamond in the rough with him and he could be another Jason Bass sort of character.
“Jason started with us before moving to York and he’s now doing very well in the Championship.”
BARROW RAIDERS will welcome their Papua New Guinea internationals back to the club this week after the duo were given an extended winter break.
Stargroth Amean and Wartovo Puara earned the extra rest time after being part of the Kumuls’ squad that featured in the World Nines before beating the touring Great Britain Lions team.
“Compared to last year we’re quite happy to have them coming in a bit later,” said coach Paul Crarey.
“We paid the price last year by not bringing them in earlier.
“The weather was a killer for them and it took them a while to get used to things here.
“But they know the systems here now and towards the back end of last year they were really firing.
“Having both been part of the team that beat Great Britain, we decided to let them have until January off and then bring them back over.
“We had hoped they’d be in for the North Wales game on Sunday, but that didn’t happen, but they will definitely be back and ready to go for the Workington game.”
DONCASTER coach Richard Horne has praised his players for the way they looked after themselves during the recent Christmas break.
It means they are all in a strong position to it the ground running in their first pre-season match of the year against Sheffield this Sunday.
“All the players came back in great shape,” said Horne.
“He tested them on day one and everyone was up on where they were when they first went away. So credit to them, they stuck to what they had to, which is pleasing to see.
“We’re back into it now and the games are just around the corner.”
NEWCASTLE THUNDER coach Simon Finnigan was keen to use all of the players at his disposal in Saturday’s opening pre-season game on Saturday.
Whitehaven travelled to the North East to face an almost fully fit Thunder side, who secured an impressive 40-16 victory.
“I wanted to use everyone I could because the large majority of the squad have trained all pre-season, so I wasn’t going to hold some of them back when the first game came round,” said Finnigan.
“They have all worked hard so they all deserved a run out.”