North Wales Crusaders have added Super League and NRL experience to their ranks in the shape of Patrick Ah Van.
The 33-year-old began his career with New Zealand Warriors, and moved to Super League in 2011, playing one season with Bradford Bulls, before switching to Widnes Vikings.
He joined French club Villegailhenc-Aragon for the 2018/19 season, but returned to Widnes in late 2019 to play for free when the Vikings were working under special measures following their administration.
The Samoan international has most recently been back at Villegailhenc-Aragon, but is looking forward to returning to the British game.
“I can’t wait to get out there with the lads,” said Ah Van.
“They’re a really good set of lads so I just can’t wait to get back out on the park and have a run out.
“I want to get out there, do my best and give a lending ear if someone wants to learn. If I can teach them anything, I’ll try my best.
“There aren’t many teams I’ve been at in the past where I’ve been the older fella, but I can’t wait to play for Crusaders and support the team wherever I can.”
Coach Anthony Murray added: “We’re delighted to add Pat to our squad.
“He has so much experience playing at the very highest level and his signing highlights the positive progress we’re making on and off the field at Crusaders.
“We have a lot of competition for places now and Pat will give us some great options.”
Crusaders will begin their pre-season campaign on Sunday, April 18 with a trip to fellow League 1 club Hunslet.
WORKINGTON TOWN go into their first game in over 12-months at the weekend in the knowledge that their long-term future appears to be in safe hands after coach Chris Thorman signed a new deal with the club.
The former Super League and NRL halfback initially joined the Derwent Park club mid-way through the 2019 season following the departure of Leon Pryce.
At the end of that season Town quickly tied him down on a three-year contract, but his first full season in the game was cut short by the Coronavirus pandemic.
That meant the plans he had hoped to implement at the club were also put on hold, but he will finally be able to put them into action on Sunday, when the club return to action with a pre-season game against Barrow Raiders.
The new deal will see Thorman remain at the club until the end of 2024.
“I’m really happy to extend for a further two years,” said Thorman.
“I’m happy and content here, I love being part of the Town community and I want to continue to help mould the club’s future.
“2020 feels like unfinished business and I want to continue with everything that we’d planned.
“The board have been really supportive and made my job a lot easier so I’d like to give them a lot of credit for my decision.
“I’ve also got an eye on the new stadium and everything that’s planned here in Workington.
“We’re a town and a club on the up and the stadium will help with sponsors, new fans and attracting players to the club.
“I’m really happy to stay – these are exciting times.”
Director Tom McKeating added: “We’re delighted that Chris has reaffirmed his commitment to Workington Town.
“We share an ambitious vision for the club, its role in our community, and for the future of Rugby League. To deliver on that, it’s important that the club is building for the long-term and investing sensibly and sustainably.
“We’ve made big steps in transforming all areas of the club over the last eighteen months – despite the Covid circumstances – and Chris’s leadership will continue to be key to getting us where we want to be.”
BARROW RAIDERS coach Paul Crarey has said Saturday’s pre-season game at Workington gives his side the ideal opportunity to show they have learnt lessons from the Challenge Cup defeat at Oldham.
The Raiders returned from over a year out of action when they went down 20-6 to Matt Diskin’s side.
But they have spent the last three weeks since then focusing on where they need to improve in order to push for league success this year.
“When we played Oldham we were a long way off where we needed to be,” said Crarey, who also has a pre-season trip to Hunslet lined up.
“But we got a lot from the video review session and we have since worked hard on where we fell short.
“We played a bit narrow, the pivots got caught on the short side a lot and we didn’t have any real shape. But we only really got beaten because of a few kicks on last tackle plays.
“We had our own chances to score but we didn’t play square enough and missed out on some opportunities.
“Sunday will be a chance to look at what we’ve done since then to fix that up.
“It was good to get a hit out before the friendlies but now we’re going to give everyone a run. We’ll go to Workington with 24 players and for some of them it will be their first game in over a year, so it will be good for them to get a taste of action again.”
Crarey is still counting the cost of that Oldham defeat and will monitor the fitness of a number of players this week.
“Jamie Dallimore pulled a hamstring in the Oldham game and his prognosis was three to six weeks so I don’t know if he’ll play on Sunday,” added Crarey, who should welcome Luke Cresswell back from an ankle ligament injury.
“Jordan Walne suffered a double concussion and hasn’t been right since and Adam Walne popped a rib.
“If we’d had to play the next week we’d have lost three players so we just need to see how they go this week.”
Meanwhile the club have handed a permanent deal to Harry Swarbrick, who has been on trial with the Raiders during pre-season.
HUNSLET coach Gary Thornton does not think his side’s two pre-season games against fellow League 1 opposition will mean they show their hand before the season has even kicked off.
The South Leeds club return to action against North Wales on Sunday, before hosting Barrow Raiders a week later.
For Thornton, these matches will not represent too closely what the club can offer once the league campaign gets underway next month.
“We’ve got a big enough squad to manage the two games,” said Thornton.
“So I don’t think everyone will play in both games.
“We’re going to have to gradually get back into it because we haven’t played for over 12 months, so we will make sure everyone gets enough game time but not over use them. We’ve got to make sure we don’t overstretch them, but that they are still ready for the league to start in May.
“Playing League 1 opposition means there is a potential that we will show our hand a little bit ahead of the season starting, but we just have to be smart about it.
“It gives us chance to look at them as well, but we will hold somethings back and be making changes between these games and the league.
“The most important thing is that the players get out there together and get some competitive game time together. We have got 24 players and I want to make sure they all get reasonable game time.
“So we can hide some of game plans and tactics behind that at this stage because we are just giving people the opportunity to play.
“We have been watching games on OuRLeague and taking in the Challenge Cup games so it’s been great to watch some live Rugby League.
“We just want to be a part of it now, and until we actually take to the pitch on Sunday and get playing again, I don’t think we really feel a part of it.
“But come Sunday we’ll be in action and that’s when it will sink in that we’re back.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS have added another new face to their ranks for 2021 by signing former Wigan Warriors academy player Ryan Forshaw.
The half-back, who played his amateur Rugby League at Blackbrook Royals came through the ranks at the Warriors and has been training with the Hornets as they prepare to return to competitive league action next month.
“Ryan has really impressed in training so far,” said coach Matt Calland.
“He has a great attitude and comes highly recommended.
“With Rob Fairclough, Lewis Sheridan, Danny Yates and Luke Littlewood, this is a signing that gives me a nice headache in the halves and competition that should bring the best out of each player.”
Forshaw has been handed the number 29 shirt, with the rest of the squad numbers due to be announced this week.
KEIGHLEY COUGARS coach Rhys Lovegrove admits he is not surprised he has been left monitoring a number of his players ahead of their final pre-season game against Coventry on Saturday, April 24.
The Cougars have already returned to action with a pre-season game against Bradford last month, followed by the Challenge Cup defeat to London Broncos.
Lovegrove lost fullback Alix Stephenson to a broken leg in the Bulls fixture, while others are still nursing the effects of both games.
“Alix is the only serious injury, but we had a fair few soft tissue and minor injuries, especially after the London game,” said Lovegrove.
“We will continue to monitor those issues, but hopefully we can get them right so that the guys can get a bit of training time before the Coventry game.
“I would be shocked if anyone expected to go into the season with minimal to no injuries from pre-season. Everyone I have spoken to can envisage lots of injuries this year.
“When you look at teams in the NRL and Super League, they have quite a few injuries themselves. They’re full time and only had a fraction of the time off than we have had. We don’t have the ability to have massages and enjoy all the other luxuries that come with full time Rugby League so it was to be expected.
“It’s just a matter of monitoring the situation and getting through it the best we can, while still doing what we need to do in training to improve the team.”
DONCASTER coach Richard Horne believes his side will go into the league season fit and ready to go, despite the highly unusual pre-season they have faced.
Horne’s side were not part of the Challenge Cup this year and will not have played any pre-season friendlies ahead the league kicking off against Keighley on Sunday, May 9.
“It’s been hard not to arrange any friendlies, but I just wanted the boys to get physically ready for playing again before we actually do play again,” said Horne.
“I didn’t want to bring them back too early and risk injuries before our season even gets going.
“I know it’s going to be tough because Keighley will have had a few games under their belts, so they will be all guns blazing, but it will be a good mark of where we are at and a good indicator to move forward from for the season.
“We’ve been training really well and, as a group, we are where we need to be. So now we have got a month to prepare for the season to start.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS coach Aaron Wood has said the Coronavirus pandemic has made it vital that the club get a bigger than usual squad in place for 2021.
The latest new arrivals at Stebonheath Park are twins Ewan and Ieuan Badham, who have returned to the Raiders, four years after signing for the City of Hull Academy.
“We’ve gone for a big squad this year, partly because of Covid and partly because there may be a fair few injuries this year that will need proper recovery time,” said Wood.
“The smart teams will rest players for full recovery because it has been a whole year without any contact and bodies might not respond to the comeback so quick.
“We’ve gone for depth so that we can turn over and rest players. It’s always good having healthy people in the squad, it makes training much easier.”
COVENTRY BEARS have announced a second pre-season fixture, travelling to New River Stadium to face London Skolars on Saturday, May 1.
The game takes place a week after they travel to Keighley Cougars for their first game in over 12 months.
“It’ll be good to see how far we’ve come in training.,” said Bears coach Richard Squires.
“It gives us a good insight into how we need to be. We need to do all the little things right in the pre-season games especially against a seasoned side such as Skolars.
“We hope to utilise all of our squad in both games to maximise preparation before the season start the week after.
“We believe that playing two games in pre-season will give us the best possible opportunity to be ready for what will be a tough schedule on and off the pitch.”
LONDON SKOLARS coach Jermaine Coleman believes the young, local element of this year’s squad will prove an important aspect for the club in 2021.
“We have got a lot of younger players coming through and a very London-based team now, which has always been important for me,” said Coleman.
“I have always focussed on getting players that are here and able to train all the time rather than ferrying in loads of players from up north once a week.
“That’s going to be big for us this year and myself and Iliess (Macani – assistant coach) have a really big job to develop these players and making sure that we are competitive in games.
“In 2019, we started off fantastic and had a real dip towards the end of the season. But there was a significant difference in the team by then. We had four or five players from the north that we lost and that had a real impact on us for two or three games.
“Unfortunately the players that played at the back end of that season, then didn’t get last year under their belts in terms of experience. So this year is another building block and another opportunity to give those players some more experience.
“If we can get those young players coming through it puts foundations in place for the future.”
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