Keighley Cougars coach Rhys Lovegrove is delighted to have been reunited with former Robins team mate Constantine Mika.
The 31-year-old former Samoa international has agreed a deal at Cougar Park for the remainder of the season.
He went straight into the squad for Friday’s trip to Coventry after completing the necessary isolation period following his arrival from France, where he was most recently playing for Villeneuve Leopards.
Mika and Lovegrove played alongside each other at Hull KR in 2012 and 2013, before the former returned to Australia. He later signed for Toulouse Olympique where he made 95 Championship appearances.
“Con is someone I know pretty well and have played with during my own career,” said Lovegrove, who believes the new signing will add something unique to the League 1 competition as well as his own club.
“It is a pretty common theme with the sort of people that I want to bring into this organisation, especially at the level of player that Con is, that they have to have a fundamental understanding of who I am as a person and how I coach.
“Obviously Con has that and from a performance perspective on the field, he offers a level of tempo and ability that is rare in League 1.
“But he also gives a level of controlled aggression, the ability to run over blokes and stop people defensively in terms of big collisions. That again is rare in our competition.
“And that is the aspect that I’m looking forward to the most – having Con and his physicality on the field to both nurture and add to the culture we are building and developing at this club.
“The systems we have implemented as a coaching team and the culture that the players have brought together means that it is really difficult to recruit players and the right characters to bring into the group.
“And it is hard in terms of people who are determined to get better, work hard, and bond with the group we already have so for a player of Con’s ability to become available and come into the club is really huge.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS will be hoping to build on what coach Aaron Wood has described as their best 80 minute performance when they travel to London Skolars on Saturday.
While still without a win this season, the Raiders more than held their own last time out against Rochdale Hornets going down 18-30, with a couple of late decisions eventually deciding the outcome.
“We were quite unlucky in the game and a couple of calls that could have cemented out first victory didn’t go our way,” said Wood.
“But the boys stuck to the game plan and we played a bit more expansive so it was a pleasure to watch.
“We’ve had a couple of strong first or second half performances, but that was probably our best 80 minute display, which is a great base to build on.
“We’ve had a week off now to recharge and we know what we need to do in what will be a tough game against London.
“It’s going to be a big ask down there, but it’s a nice, dry track there and it’s fast so that could benefit us.
“I know what the boys are capable of doing and last week was the sort of performance I knew they could produce. We just have to be at that level every week and if we’re not we’ll get beaten.
“We’ll have a bit of confidence going into it, but Jermaine and his boys will be up for it too, so it will be a good battle.”
Wood could welcome some of his more senior players back into contention for the match, but admits that leaves him with some major selection dilemmas.
“There will be some guys coming back, but after a complete 80 minute performance like we had against Rochdale, it will be hard to then drop some of those guys,” said Wood, who expects Welsh international Morgan Evans to be back.
“There will be some hard decisions to make but we’ll sit down and decide on the best possible team with the best harmony in it.”
COVENTRY BEARS coach Richard Squires admits it is getting frustrating that his team are still not getting the plaudits they are showing they deserve.
Following their recent win over Hunslet, many people referred to the result as a ‘shock victory’, despite them also defeating Rochdale Hornets earlier in the year.
They were both results Squires knows they have always been capable of, and hopes other realise this soon too.
“It’s getting a bit tedious now and there were few comments on social media after the Hunslet win that were a little bit disrespectful,” said Squires, who celebrated his birthday on Friday with another impressive win against Keighley.
“If some of those comments were targeted at me, I’d be fine, I can take it, and so can the players. But the fans were brought into it.
“They are a great set of fans who never give in and they have been waiting a long time for results like this to happen so when they get a couple of scalps like this against fancied teams they are going to celebrate. We don’t want comments like that to then bring them down.
“I’m not sure some attitudes will change for a few years yet. Some people have started to take us a bit more seriously, but other still aren’t and that is sometimes coming back to bite them a bit.
“The Hunslet win shows that what we did against Rochdale wasn’t a one off and we can compete in this league. We only lost to Barrow by eight points, we pushed Workington for 60 minutes, so it’s no shock to anyone who’s watched us a few times this season. Results like this have been coming.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS chairman Andy Mazey is hoping he can strike a deal with Super League club Hull KR to extend the loan deal with Will Tate and Tom Whur.
The duo arrived at the club on initial two-week deals and both featured in the win against London Skolars but were forced to miss the trip West Wales through having to isolate.
Despite their limited game time, Mazey has seen enough from the pair to want to keep them on board and is trying to make that happen before Sunday’s game against Workington Town.
“We are looking to keep Will and Tom on board so we are looking to extend those initial deals,” said Mazey.
“I am in talks with Hull KR so I would like to think it will all be in place for this weekend.
“With the injuries and bad luck we’ve had, getting them in allowed us to bring some extra bodies in and freshen things us. They brought enthusiasm into the camp and did really well against London. Will played the full 80 minutes and Tom came off the bench and scored with his first touch, so they both made an impact.
“It’s a difficult time for everyone and with them both being on he fringes of the first team at Hull KR, we’ll just be hoping that they don’t pick up a lot of injuries and call them back.
“Fingers crossed we can extend the deals and keep them at the club for a bit longer.
HUNSLET have found themselves with another senior role to fill following the resignation of chairman Kenny Sykes, just days after the club parted ways with coach Gary Thornton.
The club have reported much interest in the vacant caching position, with interviews set to take place this week.
The club will also make an announcement on Sykes replacement in due course, but in the meantime captain Duane Straugheir has reiterated the message that the current changes at the club cannot distract the squad from the job in hand.
“All the boys were hurting as we felt it was us that had let Gary down,” he admitted.
“But the board have explained the reasons for the decision and we have agreed it is now time for us all, players, the board and supporters to unite and take the club forward.
“We firmly believe this squad is still good enough to get promotion and if we all pull together we can make it happen.”
Sykes stepped into the Chairmanship in February 2020 following the departure of Neil Hampshire, but admits a number of issues have been behind his decision to step away.
“The recent release of Gary has deeply upset me on a personal level,” said Sykes.
“I have been in sport all of my life and see it as something to be enjoyed. Make no mistake, running a rugby club is not an easy task and I take my hat off to everyone in the game who is prepared to get involved.
“I have to say, at times, I am dismayed that a minority of “supporters” regularly seem to go out of their way to run the club down. Hunslet is fortunate to have a dedicated board of volunteers and the countless hours they put into the club is testament to their commitment.
“I have been proud to play my small part in this over the last 18 months.”
DONCASTER coach Richard Horne has every faith that his squad has what it takes to push on and challenge for a spot in the Championship.
The South Yorkshire club travelled to London Skolars on Friday eager to bounce back from their defeat to Barrow Raiders in their previous game.
“It’s a tight competition this year and every team is recruiting at present to have a bigger squad for when it comes to the business end of the season,” said Horne, who has welcomed Jordan Bull to the club on a two-week loan deal from Sheffield Eagles.
“We’ve got a young squad complemented by a handful of experienced players, which puts us in a good position moving forward.
“We’re creating a squad that can push us to the next step, we’ve got players desperate to improve not only themselves but the players around them.
“We know that if we keep our performance levels high, we’ll be right up there at the end of the year.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS have added a second Bradford Bulls player to their ranks with the loan signing of half-back Matty Race.
Ethan O’Hanlon joined the Crusaders on loan from the Championship cub last month and like him, Race will be using the time in Anthony Murray’s squad to get some vital game time after spending the last couple of seasons starring in the Bulls’ academy and reserve sides.
“I’m buzzing and really looking forward to getting some game time,” said Race, who was awarded a first team contract with the Bulls for 2021, but has yet to make his senior debut.
“It’s a step up from what I’ve been playing so I’m hoping to improve as a player.
“Having Ethan there makes things easier as it’s always good to have a familiar face when you’re joining a new club.
“It’s a really exciting time for me and a new challenge that I can’t wait to take on.”
The 20-year-old will be in contention to make his Crusaders debut when they travel to the Mend-A-Hose Jungle to face Doncaster on Sunday.
BARROW RAIDERS coach Paul Crarey will have been glad of the break at the weekend after admitting that the action packed opening to the year finally took its toll.
The Cumbrian outfit were just one of four League 1 teams to take part in the early rounds of the Challenge Cup in March, ahead of the season starting in May. They then went nine matches unbeaten before going down 40-12 to Keighley last time out.
That game was marred by a number of injuries in Crarey’s squad so he’ll be hoping for some refreshed bodies when they return to action against Coventry on Sunday.
“We were second best on the day,” Crarey told the North West evening Mail of the Keighley game.
“And we were forced to make a late change to the line up with Luke Creswell pulling out through illness with Jake Carter being drafted in. We then lost Gary Wheeler, Shane Toal, Brad Crellin and Ryan Duffy all injured and had to reshuffle meaning we also ran out of substitutes.
“But having said that we paid the penalty for too many errors, we lost our shape and after two tough games against Workington and Doncaster time caught up on us and we ran out of steam.”
WORKINGTON TOWN coach Chris Thorman has said the club will look at all possibilities when it comes to rearranging the game against Coventry Bears.
The game was postponed earlier this month after a number of positive coronavirus cases were found within the Town camp.
But with no free weekends in the fixture list, and replay would likely fall in mid-week, something that is always difficult for part-time clubs to commit to.
That won’t stop the club from trying to find a suitable agreement though as they look to continue their push for promotion.
“When you look at the league table, we’ve got a fantastic opportunity and every game is crucial,” Thorman told the Times and Star.
“We’ll do everything we can to put that game on.”
LONDON SKOLARS handed debuts to two new recruits during Friday’s 16-16 draw with Doncaster.
Chris Ball, who has joined on an initial two-week loan from Sheffield Eagles, started in the second row while prop Alex Davidson came off the bench.
Salford Academy graduate Davidson, who has signed a deal until the end of the season, has previously played for Oldham, Gloucestershire All Golds, South Wales Scorpions and North Wales Crusaders.
Ball will also be available to coach Jermaine Coleman when West Wales Raiders visit New River on Saturday, and possibly beyond that as there is the option in place to extend the agreement beyond the initial fortnight.
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.