Rochdale Hornets are closing in on two more signing that will add vast experience to their ranks.
League Express understands that the club are currently in talks with both former Tonga and New Zealand international Fuifui Moimoi and Batley Bulldogs scrum half Danny Yates.
Moimoi has spent the last three season at Workington Town but a move to their League 1 rivals is now looking likely and would see the 41-year-old link back up with Sean Penkywicz, who he has previously played with at Leigh Centurions, Toronto Wolfpack and Workington.
Yates was previously at Rochdale and was instrumental in their promotion to the Championship in 2016.
His departure came about as financial difficulties hit the Hornets and the club are now keen to bring him back to The Crown Oil Arena.
If the duo do complete the moves, they will be joining Ben Moores in the squad after the hooker became the latest member of the 2020 team to re-sign for the club.
Meanwhile, chairman Andy Mazey has said the club should be in a position to return to training as soon as they get the green light to do so from the RFL.
“We’re pretty much there on the internal stuff that we need to do to get the return to train protocol boxed off,” said Mazey.
“Once we’ve had the sign off from the RFL and know a bit more about how next season is going to look, we can start getting the guys in.
“We’re OK to carry on training at Hopwood Hall because, although it’s a college and we’re part-time, we only train in the evenings. The facility isn’t in use at night so we have exclusive access to the gyms and the pitches at night.
“There are just rigorous cleaning protocols in place we have to follow.
“Between the college using it during the day and us coming in at night, a thorough deep clean has to take place and a process that needs to be followed. Then once we’ve finished and used the facility again that process has to be done again.
“So we have no issues there and we’re pretty confident it will all get signed off by the RFL.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS have added even more top flight experience to their ranks for 2021 after completing the signing of Papua New Guinea international Wellington Albert from Leeds Rhinos.
Having starred for the Kumuls in the last two World Cup tournaments, Albert made the move to the UK, initially joining Widnes Vikings, before moving to Leeds in 2019.
After six appearances in the Rhinos first team, he spent the back end of that season, plus the early part of 2020 playing in the Championship with Leeds’ partner club Featherstone Rovers.
When Cougars head coach learnt of Albert’s availability, via Rovers coach James Webster, the forward became a key target for the club.
“I’m really excited about having a player such as Wellington at the club,” said Cougars Head Coach Rhys Lovegrove.
“His athleticism is going to really add something unique, not just the forward pack, but to the squad as a whole.
“With the team we have, and the systems that I want to play moving forward, Wellington will definitely add something different.
“I’m just really excited now to see him in Cougar colours in 2021.”
The Cougars have also signed Italian international captain and former Canterbury Bulldogs and Wests Tigers forward Brenden Santi from Newcastle Thunder.
“Brenden signing adds top level experience to the squad having played in the NRL,” added Lovegrove.
“He has already shown that top level experience in the last couple of years playing with Toulouse and Newcastle.
“I’m really excited about the leadership qualities he will bring to the club both on and off the field, and also excited to see him progress now in the next stage of his career with us at Keighley.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS have brought one of their fans favourites back to the club with the re-signing of Jono Smith.
The 31-year-old was part of Crusaders’ squad for their debut season as a club back in 2012 and won the Northern Rail Bowl and iPro Sport Cup in his time at the club, as well as securing promotion to the Championship.
He crossed for 45 tries in 81 appearances during his first spell at North Wales, before joining Rochdale Hornets in 2016, He has most recently been with Barrow Raiders.
With the end of his career approaching, Smith knew there was only one place he wanted it to end.
“I’d been wrestling with the idea of retiring, but I knew I would’ve missed it so I wanted to come back to Crusaders for one last hurrah,” said Smith.
“I’ve not come here just to make the numbers up. I’m a senior player now so I want to help the club challenge at the top end of the table and support some of the younger lads coming through.
“A few of the boys are just starting out at this level like I once was and I can hopefully show them a few tricks of the trade.”
Head coach Anthony Murray is delighted with the latest new recruit.
“It’s a fantastic signing for us and a real statement for us to be able to bring somebody in of Jono’s ability.
“Jono was a fans favourite and I’m sure he will be again so it’s great to have him back.
“We’ve got a young, up-and-coming squad now so having players like Jono around is really important to help bring them on.
“I didn’t work with him for too long during my first spell as head coach, but Jono was always a great lad to have around the camp and he gives you everything.
“Jono has bags of experience at this level now and will be a vital player for us in 2021.”
COVENTRY BEARS coach Richard Squires has said the experience he has added to his squad for 2021 will allow the club to keep up with other clubs around them as League 1 looks set to be more competitive than ever.
With promotion chasers Barrow bringing in a raft of ex-Super League stars, Keighley strengthening their side with top-end experience and West Wales Raiders catching the eye with the signings of Gavin Henson and Rangi Chase, teams across the league are going to be much more competitive once the game resumes.
Coventry themselves have added the experienced Dave Scott and Matty Welham, as well as a number of players that have featured at both Championship and League 1 in the past.
“I have 27 players in the squad now which is enough,” said Squires.
“Every single one of them has played League 1 or Championship rugby before, which is miles ahead of where we were last year, when we had more of a development touch to the squad.
“I had an idea of the direction I wanted to take the squad and the kind of players I wanted to bring in. And then we sat back behind the scenes and looked at some of the signings others were bringing in and they will add a lot to the teams in this league.
“But I am really happy with what we have got and the players we have brought in. We’ve had a couple of Zoom meetings with them and discussed where we want the club to be.
“Every single one of them understand the steps we’ve made and I think some of the guys we’ve signed showed a real signal of our intent for next year.”
NEWCASTLE THUNDER have so far remained quiet of the recruitment and retention front, but that does not mean work is not being done behind the scenes in preparation for 2021.
Coach Simon Finnigan has confirmed the club will start to announce members of next year’s squad from this month – a similar time of the year to previous signing announcements.
“All the paperwork is done and the squad is pretty much in place,” said Finnigan.
“There may still be a couple to add, but we’re up to 21 or 22 players so we’re well ahead in terms of that.
“We’ve just not announced anything yet, but we’ll probably be in a position to start doing that this month.
“In Championship and League 1 it’s not usually normal practise to start announcing deals before the end of the season anyway, and in any normal season we’d only just have finished anyway.
“I can understand why fans want to hear some news though because it’s been so long since anyone did anything, but we are well ahead of schedule just now.”
HUNSLET coach Gary Thornton has said the first few pre-season sessions will not necessarily focus too much on rugby.
Instead it will be about building back up the team spirit the squad created last year.
“The guy are still doing their own thing in terms of maintaining their fitness,” said Thornton.
“They are also trying to retain the advise we’d give them in any normal off-season and work towards that so that when we do get back in, we come in in a decent shape.
“If we can get the return to train protocol signed off and can get back into the stadium in mid-November then we’ll do that, but we’ll not rush it.
“As soon as we get the green light to start again we’ll get the boys in. So if they want to have a game of touch and socialise as best we can, then we’ll do it.
“It’s as much about getting the guys back together. They have not been in each others company for so long that we just need to get the group feeling back together.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS coach Aaron Wood doesn’t believe the local restrictions in Llanelli will have too much impact on their planned return to training.
Currently Wales is in the middle of a two-week firebreak lockdown, in which people must stay at home and not meet up with others they do not live with.
Bars, restaurants and most shops have shut as the Welsh Government look to get the number of Coronavirus cases back under control.
These restrictions will remain in place until next Monday (November 9) and will then be replaced by a new set of national rules.
“Hopefully there’ll be no more lockdown because everyone is ready to go when we get the green light,” said Wood.
“Once the RFL have had their latest meeting we’ll hopefully have an idea of when we can get back.
“Even if the local restrictions haven’t fully lifted by then, we should still be able to get together for smaller group sessions.
“There are players that come from all over Wales to play for the club, so if that’s the worst case scenario, we’ll be able to group them up into sixes based on where they live and work with them separately that way.
“We just have to wait for the green light. But we’re currently working through all the finer details we need to look at to make sure then when we do get back, we get everything perfect.
“We don’t want any outbreaks and we want to keep all our players and staff safe. We won’t come back if we can’t keep everyone safe.”
Meanwhile the club have announced four new signings ahead of the new season.
Incoming are Australian half-back Will Ramsey and Cardiff Blues number 9 Scott Gibson, while former Wales international Joe Burke and former South Wales Scorpions player Tom Morgan both return to the game after spells in rugby union.
BARROW RAIDERS chairman Steve Neale believes the club can offer local players a great pathway into the first team.
Currently below the first team the club have reintroduced their JETS programme, aimed at developing local young players. From there, they can progress into the Furness Raiders team with the elite performers stepping up to the college team and aiming to earn professional terms.
But Neale thinks more steps can be made to keep these local youngsters playing in the area.
“As well as achieving promotion we want to provide opportunities for our young players to come through,” Neale wrote in his latest North West Evening Mail column.
“There is little point running our JETS programme for 11-16-year olds and then our Furness Raiders side, signing a conveyor belt of talent, and not giving them a chance.
“We acknowledge what a tremendous job has been done at the Furness Raiders under the management of Keith Nutter and the coaching of firstly Darren Carter and then latterly Dave Cairns.
“We have discussed plans to strengthen those pathways to the first team and whilst the finances aren’t in place at the moment we acknowledged that either an Academy or Reserves team would be desired to complement the Furness Raiders team.
“There is no reason why the best of the local talent should be heading down the M6 to St Helens, Wigan and Warrington if Barrow Raiders could also develop an Academy team to match those teams.
“The added advantage of course with the Reserves is that we can give our fringe players game time, and keep their interest.”
WORKINGTON TOWN have re-signed local forward Ryan Wilson for 2021 after impressing coach Chris Thorman in his short time with the club.
The 29 year-old signed from Ellenborough Rangers ahead of the curtailed season and took his first steps into the professional game with two appearances before the shut down.
“Ryan is a no-nonsense, local front-rower who has made the big step up to professional rugby,” said Thorman.
“He is really coachable and has one thing you can’t really coach and that’s playing with intent.
“I love his approach to the game and how at times last year he’d get frustrated as he was still learning a specific system or a call from the playbook because of his short time with us.
“He wants to get better and constantly improve and with his competitive nature, I’m confident he’ll do just that.
“Town fans should be very excited to see what Ryan is capable of in 2021 and beyond.”
DONCASTER have handed a new deal to winger Josh Rickett for 2021.
The 23-year-old arrived from Bradford Bulls ahead of the ill-fated 2020 season and scored one try in three appearances for the club.
Despite the limited appearances he got due to the premature ending of the season, he did enough to impress the club and earn a second second year with them.
“We’re really pleased to have Josh staying with us and he will be another important part of the jigsaw,” said chief executive Carl Hall.
“He was someone we worked hard to bring here last season so it’s good for the club that we can keep him here for next season.”
OTTAWA ACES have lost a member of their squad before their inaugural season has even kicked off, with Ellis Robson choosing to remain with Warrington Wolves rather than join the Canadian outfit.
“Effective immediately, new Aces recruit Ellis Robson has been granted a release to rejoin Warrington RLFC in the Betfred Super League for 2021,” read an official tweet from the Aces.
“Whilst it is a shame to lose him, we wish him the very best of luck on his journey in Super League with Warrington next year.”
LONDON SKOLARS are currently heading back in time with a series of features on their club website looking back at their 25-years as a club.
The articles have already covered their origins as a club and their first ever League game. The newest article now looks back at their first ever Cup game in 1995 when they, Student Rugby League Old Boys as they were known then, took on London Warriors in the Southern Counties Cup.
More articles are planned in the coming weeks and can be found at https://www.skolarsrl.com.
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