Betfred League 1 news round up

Doncaster chief executive Carl Hall expects stand off Watson Boas to be fit and raring to go for the club’s opening match against Keighley on Sunday, May 9.

The 26 year-old is still training and playing down under with PNG Hunters, after a deal was struck between the clubs when Boas was unable to return to the UK due to Coronavirus restrictions. But Hall has revealed plans are firmly in place to have him back in South Yorkshire in plenty time for the kick-off.

“Watson has still been playing with the Hunters in Brisbane, but we’re looking to get him back over towards the back end of April,” said Hall.

“He’ll probably play his last match with the Hunters this weekend and then we’ll look at getting him on the next flight back here.

“With them being based in Brisbane at the minute that makes things much easier to bring him back over, than it would have been if he was in Papua New Guinea.

“When he is back and done his quarantine he’ll be fit and ready to go for us, and that was a big thing for us.”

Hall also confirmed Boas will remain as the club’s number one choice at stand-off, despite him being handed squad number 24.

No player has yet been allocated the number six shirt, but Hall has said that doesn’t mean they are looking for another specialist half to come in and fill the void.

“It might look like we’ve kept the space there for someone else to come in in the halves, but really Watson just likes the number 24,” added Hall.

“We just haven’t allocated that number yet, if someone comes in further down the line and takes it, then it’s just a number so there is nothing to read into it.”

Smith glad to be back

NORTH WALES CRUSADERS’ returning favourite Jono Smith knows Sunday’s return to action was about much more than getting the result on the field.

The Wrexham side travelled to Hunslet at the weekend to play their first match in 13-months, and for Smith, who rejoined the club in November, the chance to pull the boots on again could not have come soon enough.

“I’m not the biggest fan of training and pre-season anyway so it’s nice to be back playing and back to some normality,” said Smith, who left the Crusaders in 2015 and has since played for Rochdale Hornets and Barrow Raiders.

“There is a real buzz around the club and we just can’t wait to get going. It’s been a long time coming.

“My last game was for Barrow on March 8 last year and if someone had told me then that we’d be shutting down for over a year I wouldn’t have believed them.

“I thought it would all be over and we’d be back playing within a few weeks. How wrong was I? But safety is paramount and there is more to life than playing sport.

“It was our first game in over a year so there are going to be some sore bodies, but we just needed to get some minutes into the legs.

“You can do as much running as you want in training, but nothing replicates match fitness, or getting hit, getting up to play the ball and going again.

“Results don’t really matter in pre-season. These games are about blowing the rustiness and cobwebs away and to prepare for the league season.

“I have really missed the game, as well as lots of the other things that we haven’t been allowed to do – going to the pub or going out for a meal with friends and the missus.

“It’ll be nice to get back to some normality and getting back out on to the field is a sign that we’re hopefully getting back to that.”

Crarey excited by Swarbrick project

BARROW RAIDERS coach Paul Crarey has said he is looking forward to seeing how latest signing Harry Swarbrick develops as a player in his time at the club.

Swarbrick joined the club on trial in November having been recommended by Adam and Jordan Walne, who were both at Salford at the same time as the versatile youngster was part of Red Devils’ academy.

Swarbrick, who had previously captained Warrington Wolves Academy, later saw his stint with Salford end due to an ACL injury and ended up playing rugby union upon his return to fitness.

However he is now back in league and Crarey believes he has a bright future in the game.

“Harry has never played at hooker before but he didn’t put a foot wrong in the Challenge Cup game against Oldham,” said Crarey.

“Oldham was his first Rugby League game in a while and because of an injury to Jamie Dallimore he ended up playing 80 minutes and did really well.

“After that game he had interest from other clubs, who actually made contact with him, so that shows we’re on to a bit of a winner.

“He’s definitely a project for us, but one that’s worth pursuing because he does have huge potential. He’s a fantastic kid as well with a great attitude. He’s very tough and nothing phases him.

“He came in as a centre, half back or winger, but when we lost Shaun Lunt I said I’d turn him into a nine and he has absolutely embraced that. We know there is still work to do on some aspects of the game, but he works so hard and I’m sure he’ll come out the other side and be very good for us.”

Hornets utilising Officials help

ROCHDALE HORNETS have taken their preparation’s for the new season to the next level, by having RFL match officials cast their eyes over some of their in house training sessions.

The Hornets return to action with a pre-season match against North Wales Crusaders on Sunday, but they have already had a taste of what it will be like playing under the new rules after a slightly unusual approach to opposed training sessions.

This is something chairman Andy Mazey believes will stand them in good stead once the season returns.

“The guys had a session a couple of Saturdays ago where they played against each other in two 20 minutes lots, and another opposed session at Spotland at the weekend, but we had a referee come down for that to try and start getting everyone ready for the new rules,” said Mazey.

“Matt (Calland – coach) was keen to get a referee down and he organised it because it’s not just the new rules to get used to. They have not played in over 12 months so it was a refresher on everything really and getting used to things again.

“You can play as many behind closed doors games against each other as you like in training, but it’s not the same actually playing with someone who is officiating it properly.

“When you do have an official there, everyone treats the session as they would in proper game scenario.

“Hopefully it will prove to be an advantage for us, and the guys will start the season not only aware of the new rules, but be back familiar again with what it is all about again. Any little thing we can do to gives us an advantage is great.

“Want to be as ready as we can for May 9, so this has been a way to get them as up to speed as much as they can without actually playing too many games.

COVENTRY BEARS have signed Bradford Bulls youngster Bradley Ho on loan for the 2021 season.

The 20-year-old linked up with the Bears over the weekend as they prepare for upcoming pre-season fixtures against Keighley Cougars on Saturday and London Skolars a week later.

“We are really excited to add Brad to our group, he is hungry for action and can’t wait to get back onto the field,” said Bears head coach Richard Squires.

Elsewhere, Squires believes there will be a special atmosphere in the Butts Park Arena when fans are finally allowed back in to watch a live game.

The stadium has undergone numerous upgrades since fans were last inside in March 2020, but they could be back in after just one home game behind closed doors.

“When fans are allowed back in, every game will feel like a cup final,” said Squires.

“From what I have heard the uptake on the OurLeague stream of games has been great and hopefully people can buy into the first couple of weeks of our season too.

“It will be great to finally have people back at Butts Park. A lot of people haven’t seen all the work thats been done on it and it’s almost like a new stadium for us now.”

WORKINGTON TOWN coach Chris Thorman used Sunday’s pre-season visit of Barrow to cast an eye over a number of players currently on trial with the club.

Thorman hopes to be in position to offer contracts for 2021 to some of these trialists and believes a tough hit out against one of their league opponents was a good way to test who has the ability to step up into the professional ranks.

“This was the lads’ first game in over a year and there was added spice to that given it is against Barrow – a Cumbrian rival that are now in the same league as us,” said Thorman.

“But what shouldn’t be lost is that it was a pre-season game and it will allow us to get some combinations right and me to look at some people who are going to try and justify a place in the team for Hunslet away in round one of the season.

“One of the most important factors for me is that there are a number of trialists here who have really trained well for the full duration of preseason. This game gave a number of them an opportunity to potentially earn a contract with the club.

“I have an idea of three or four of the trialists that have the potential to step up this year, and if they do the right things they can earn a contract. But there is always the chance that there might be someone else who could really come in and front up in the game.

“You can only learn so much from training, so when you put them in that game environment, you can learn more so it is important that we now get the opportunity to do that against genuine opposition rather than team mates in training.”

HUNSLET coach Gary Thornton has said the fact all his players all have their own reasons for wanting a big season this year has been evident since they returned to training last month.

Having returned with Stage 1 sessions in early March, the club stepped up to Stage 2 and contact work a few weeks ago in preparation for yesterday’s (Sunday’s) visit of North Wales Crusaders.

“I was very pleased with the condition everyone came back in,” said Thornton.

“We have a great group here. It’s varied and they are all motivated for different reasons.

“Some are looking to get in World Cup squads, some are youngsters who are just starting out in their careers at this level and others are probably looking at the back end of their careers and are wanting to go out on a high.

“They have all shown that motivation in the way that they have trained. It’s been difficult when they have been away from the club and had to keep their fitness levels up, but the club were keeping in regular contact with them to do that and I have been really pleased that pretty much all of them did that and came back in reasonable condition.

“Its meant we’ve not had to spend too long on fitness drills, we can concentrate on structure, techniques and skills, which has been fantastic.”
Going into the game Hunslet had lost Danny King from the squad due to work commitments, but have brought in Sion Jones (Halifax), Loui McConnell and Jake Sweeting (Featherstone) on loan.

WEST WALES RAIDERS coach Aaron Wood has said the players who didn’t feature in the Challenge Cup tie against Widnes will get a chance to show what they can do when the side travel to London Skolars on Saturday for a pre-season fixture.

Only 17 members of Wood’s squad have seen any competitive action this year, but the coach is going to try and make sure everyone is ready in time for the opening match of the league campaign.

“I’ve got a squad of 34 players and I need to give some of those some game time to see where some fringe players might get a start,” said Wood.

“So it probably won’t be my strongest team on paper, put there are a lot of players who have put their hand up and want to show me that they are ready for this next step.

“It’s likely that plenty of players who didn’t play against Widnes will play and get chance to show what can do.

“I just need to try and have it so everyone has had some game time so that they are all ready to rock on roll for round one.

Elsewhere, the club have added more experience to the squad after re-signing Ireland international Callum Mulkeen.

The 30-year-old was last with the club in 2019 and has also played with Gloucestershire All Golds, Oxford, North Wales Crusaders and Rochdale Hornets.

LONDON SKOLARS coach Jermaine Coleman admits he is looking forward to seeing big things from local player Christian Gale this year.

Gale, a member of the Sport England Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme, is one of a number of London-born players with the Skolars this year and rejoined the club in February from London Broncos.

“All the boys have all come back in really good shape, but one who has really stood out is Christian Gale,” said Coleman, who can clearly see how much the player has developed in his time away from the club.

“Similar to Iliess Macani, Christian was a Skolars junior and as a 13 or 14-year-old, he went across to the Broncos and joined their academy set up. But due to their Reserves setup finishing, he has come back over to us for this year.

“He very much left Skolars as a young boy, but has very much come back a young man. When he left he possibly weighed 13 or 14 stone max, but has come back as a 15 or 16 stone middle who runs his 1k in 4 minutes and is at the top of the fitness charts in everything that we do.

“It’s now his time to go and get some competitive games against men and see how he fares.

“He’s definitely one for the future and if he continues as he has been then he can have a big future at this club.

“If we carry on true to what we have been doing for the last four to five years, he might even get an opportunity to go back to the Broncos as a full time player in the future.”

Gale is likely to get his first chance to impress on Saturday, when the Skolars host West Wales Raiders in their first pre-season match of the year.

KEIGHLEY COUGARS coach Rhys Lovegrove has said his preparations for the new season are firmly on track as they prepare for their final pre-season match of the year.

The Cougars have already faced Bradford in a pre-season fixture, before returning to competitive action against London Broncos in the Challenge Cup. Now they are preparing to run out against Coventry Bears on Saturday, before League 1 finally returns a fortnight later.

“I am really happy with how things have been going in pre-season so far,” said Lovegrove.

“I always had a plan in my head for how pre-season would go whenever we were allowed to start training again and we were really lucky to be able to incorporate the Challenge Cup into that plan.

“By the time that came around there were a few specific things I was looking for from that London game and I was really happy to see those.

“But now we are back into the training stage and working on the next phase of the plan ahead of the Coventry game and then the opening league match against Doncaster.”

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