Newcastle Thunder have reunited ex-Widnes duo Denis Betts and Eamon O’Carroll, after the latter was named as Simon Finnigan’s successor as head coach.
After a 12-year Super League career with Wigan, Hull FC and Widnes, O’Carroll joined the Vikings’ coaching staff alongside Betts in 2017 when he was forced to retire from playing through injury.
The six-time Irish international has most recently worked under Steve McNamara at Super League side Catalans Dragons and now moves to Kingston Park on a two-year deal.
“Eamon fits in to our club brilliantly,” said director of rugby Betts, who has also signed a new two-year deal with the club.
“He has a real understanding of who we are and the fabric of our group and is willing to work hard at making the place better.
“He was my assistant at Widnes and he was a sponge who took in everything and worked hard to improve himself. Two years at the Dragons under Steve McNamara will only have made him better.
“He is a fantastic bloke who wants to help players achieve their ambitions. I’ve seen him work through pain and defy odds during his career and that determination is going to be great for us.
“Since joining Thunder I’ve had a fire in my belly and a feeling for Rugby League that I’d not had in a while.
“I’m part of something special, with a great owner and Chairman, a staff who have a real love for the game and a drive to make the club as successful as it can be.
“That drive and desire is infectious and every time I am at Kingston Park there is nothing that disappoints. It’s fantastic to see the players grow and to see what we are doing to put ourselves in position to achieve our final ambitions.”
O’Carroll will be taking over a strong squad at Newcastle, with the club completing the signing of two former Super League players last week.
Jack Johnson and Sam Wilde, who had both signed for Ottawa Aces from Widnes, have made 59 Super League appearances between them for Warrington Wolves and the Vikings, so bringing with them vital experience.
“Jack is a fantastic player and he really impressed me when I brought him in at Widnes,” added Betts.
“He is dynamic, with great footwork and is strong under the high ball and he is a player that is really going to excite our fans.
“He is an excellent character and is going to play an important role for us next season.
“Sam is a Super League backrower with great ability. He is solid in defence and has huge levels of talent
“He played in the Super League Grand Final and wants to take on a mantle as someone who leads.
“As a club, we can provide him with an environment that shares his ambitions and desire to step up to higher levels and he is a player who can be part of what is happening at Thunder for a long time.”
The club has also signed Wigan Warriors Academy product Nathan Wilde, as well as handing new deals to their own home-grown stars Kieran Hudson and Oliver Gowing.
BARROW RAIDERS coach Paul Crarey has spoken about the novel way he deals with the stresses and strains of his career in the game.
Whilst players across the game have many different hobbies away from the pitch, few will share Crarey’s love of scuba diving, which he says is the perfect way to switch off from the game.
“I was always interested in water and we used to have a trawler that I always went off the back of that,” said Crarey.
“I always went swimming and snorkelling when I went on holiday and got the bug for diving when I was 17.
“I joined a club at that point and have stuck with it ever since.
“It’s so different to rugby but it does help me with the game. You’re in a different world when you’re under water, there is no sound apart from your bubbles so you really have to concentrate on what you’re dong and where you’re at.
“We can go down to 30, 40 or 50 metres so it’s sometimes pretty black so you have to have you’re wits about you.
“It’s a release from the stresses of the game and gives me a chance to escape it when we’ve been working hard at training.
“As a coach or a player it’s important to have something away from the game that you can go to to switch off. This game can be very intense so you sometimes need a release from it.
“I need to concentrate hard when I’m diving so it’s a great way to completely free the mind.
“I am 55 now and have been diving throughout my playing and coaching career. It helps relax me and I think that’s why I’ve continued in the game because I have had that release when I’ve needed it.”
COVENTRY BEARS look set to finally return to training in the next couple of weeks, after hopes of an early November start were dashed.
“We were planning to get back in in early December but unfortunately the RFL asked us to put a hold on it,” explained coach Richard Squires.
“We were all ready to go back and had everything signed off by the RFL, but then they released an article about how many of the cases that had been present within Super League teams were from people travelling together, rather than from playing face-to-face.
“As we have quite a few travellers they asked if it was a necessity to start in November, and as we said it wasn’t, they put a bit of a halt to it.
“But we will be back in December, and have been given the green light for that.
“After getting so close to a return it was frustrating that we had to delay again. We had everything sorted to go but we’ve just been back to doing some virtual sessions to keep everyone entertained.
“But the boys all know the situation everyone is in so we just have to do what’s right. Everyone’s health is most important.
“The RFL cannot stop people travelling to training and ideally they’d have to travel separately. For us, looking at expenses, that’s just not viable. But they have said that when they do travel, they’ll all just need to wear masks in the car.
“We can’t sit in a car with them and make sure they do that so we just have to trust in them. We’ve got a good bunch though this year so that shouldn’t be an issue.
“With the season likely kicking off later, losing that month won’t be too much of an issue. We more wanted to get the lads together early on for the mental health side of things and just have a few fitness sessions leading up to Christmas.”
WORKINGTON TOWN have confirmed that they will be applying to join the Championship in 2021.
The Derwent Park outfit are one of five clubs that are eligible to apply for the spot vacated by whichever Championship club are promoted to Super League.
“We’ve analysed the criteria and we meet it all,” chairman Les Smallwood told the Times and Star.
“The board have thought long and hard as to whether to apply.
“We would prefer to achieve promotion through the usual process, but have decided that we have to apply when circumstances have presented the opportunity.
“We are a club with a strategy to get to the Championship anyway and all of the things we have been putting in place over the last few seasons is based on being a solid Championship club.
“We look forward to submitting a compelling case to the RFL.
ROCHDALE HORNETS‘ longest serving player Ben Moores feels the club is getting back to it’s best under the stewardship of chairman Andy Mazey and coach Matt Calland.
Moores first signed for the club ahead of the 2016 season, which culminated in promotion with a play-off win over Toulouse Olympique in France.
He has since witnessed relegation back to League 1 and the financial difficulties that saw Mazey come in and try to rebuild the club.
“I am really excited by what Andy Mazey and Matt Calland are doing here,” Moores told the club’s Repeat Set podcast.
“It feels like things have come full circle again.
“The feelgood factor around the club is similar now to how it was in my first season here when we went on a good run in League 1 and won the division.
“It’s also similar to then in that we have got a good squad coming together and there is a lot of positive stuff being done off the field.
“We’ve got a good mix of experience and youth in the squad and it’s good to get some of the old lads coming back to the club.
“We have some great players this year and we’re going to be competitive. I don’t see why we cant be up near the top of whatever league we’ll be in.”
HUNSLET chairman Kenny Sykes has reassured the club’s supporters that they remain in a stable financial situation going into 2021, despite the changes the new season will bring.
“Our playing budget for 2021 was based on a twelve-team league, generating revenue from eleven home games,” said Sykes.
“The decision by Ottawa to defer their entry until 2022, coupled with a club moving to the Championship, means this has already been reduced to nine home league games.
“However, discussions are ongoing with the RFL around the fixture structure for 2021, and there are likely to be 1895 Cup and Challenge Cup games in advance of the league season starting.
“Whilst that reduces the chance of having to play league games behind closed doors it does not eliminate the possibility – and any game played behind closed doors risks reducing our revenue even further.
“Despite that uncertainty we remain confident that we can ride out the storm. We are currently in a stable financial position, thanks in no small part to the loyalty shown by season ticket holders and members in 2020, but we need that to continue throughout 2021.”
DONCASTER chief executive Carl Hall admits plans are in place for a return to training, but is not sure if that will be implemented at all before the new year.
With the furlough scheme extended to March, Doncaster have taken advantage of this as the Coronavirus pandemic continues to rumble on.
“We’ve been busy doing all the return to training paperwork and getting everything in place so that when Rich (Horne – coach) wants to get back in, we’re good to go,” said Hall.
“We’ll see what happens when lockdown ends, but the boys are all still on furlough. Once Rich wants to come back we’ll probably be able to put them on the part-time furlough and allow them to train.
“But I don’t think it will be this side of Christmas. They may get together if we can, but we haven’t even got a start date yet to work to.
“I’m pretty sure they’ll all be keeping themselves ticking over until we get back.
“The later we can leave it for me will be the safest option with what’s happening. Health is paramount over rugby.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS assistant Dean Muir has said that the coaching staff are prepared for every scenario once they get the go ahead to return to training.
“As a coaching staff we’re sitting down together quite a bit having lots of different Zoom meetings and talking to different players to put different plans in place,” said Muir.
“We have planned for 12 or 13 different eventualities so that when we do start we can look at different intensity levels depending on what we can do.
“As a group we’re well planned, and probably a bit ahead of schedule in terms of our plans to make sure that each individual has the best pre-season to give them the best opportunity to play.
“Hopefully we can start getting plenty of individual gym programmes out and about with public gyms opening back up this week so the players should come back in in good nick to start that.
“It’s just a case of playing things by ear as to what we can do and when, and that’s when Rhys (Lovegrove – coach) and the board will sit down and work out how we can do that.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray is already anticipating a different pre-season to usual as the game gears up for it’s first campaign under strict Coronavirus measures.
“It’ll certainly be a different pre-season to what we’re used to,” said Murray.
“We will all need to find our feet a bit as we go along and know what we can and can’t do while following the measures we have to have in place.
“But I just want to get back training and get some normality back as we look forward to rugby starting. But we just have to wait and see when, and how, that happens.
“We certainly can’t really plan anything.
“It’s funny because this is the first time in a long time that we’re nearly done and dusted with the squad at this time of year, but just can’t get a start date to train. So it’s the other way round for us than usual this year.”
LONDON SKOLARS coach Jermaine Coleman knows a return to training is about much more than just getting his players fit for the season ahead.
The club is still awaiting a definite return date, but for Coleman, returning to some sense of normality is vital.
“It is a bit frustrating for everyone that we still don’t know when everything is going to happen and what’s going to happen,” said Coleman.
“A lot of people are desperate to get back out there and do a bit of rugby and some sport. That gives them an outlet for any other stresses they may have in their other parts of life.
“It’s frustrating that we continue to sit and wait and are continually changing plans, but being able to be adaptable is not a bad skill to have.
“People want, and people need, to be part of a team and that small club community for their own mental wellbeing as much as for their physical health.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS‘ student international forward Charley Bodman is looking forward to learning from some of his childhood heroes when the game returns next year.
The 18-year-old will join the likes of Gavin Henson and Rangi Chase in the Raiders squad in 2021 and knows there are few better people to learn from if he is to develop his own game.
“I grew up watching people like Gavin and Rangi on TV so it will be great for me as a learning experience to be alongside them,” Bodman told Raiders TV.
“They have skills in their own game that can help take me to the next level.”
Bodman joined the Raiders ahead of the 2020 season and featured in all three games the club played before the season was cut short.
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