Hunslet’s new coach Alan Kilshaw got straight down to business on his arrival at the club last week with the signing of Reece Chapman-Smith for the rest of the season, while also bringing in Frazer Morris on an initial two-week loan deal.
Both players arrive from Dewsbury Rams as Kilshaw was eager to quickly make his mark on his new side.
It wasn’t all new arrivals though as Zach Braham has had to leave the club for work reasons.
“I don’t have a pre-season to implement any changes over a longer period of time and I wouldn’t want to change everything overnight as there is a lot of very good things in place here already,” said Kilshaw.
“Before applying for the job I did my research and I have also been doing some media work so have watched a lot of the games anyway.
“I could see we were a little bit skinny on numbers and then we lost Zach. Frazer has come in as a straight swap for him and Reece is a player I have always rated and was on my radar straight away.
“It’s not worked out at Dewsbury for him so he adds to our outside backs.
“We were going to be down to the bare bones for Sunday’s game, but I wanted to get it played, so bringing in these two allowed us to do that.
“Zach has had a promotion at work where he has to manage a site in Stevenage, which means he won’t be around in the week. That decision has shown his honesty.
“He also wanted to play for Jamaica in the World Cup, so he’s having to give up that opportunity as well. He just can’t commit to playing right now and we understand that so he goes with our blessing.
“If anything changes and he can come back we’ll have first refusal on him and would welcome him back.”
Kilshaw has arrived at the South Leeds Stadium following the departure of Gary Thornton, and brings with him an impressive League 1 record.
The 38-year-old joined Rochdale Hornets in 2016 and led them to promotion, and a famous Grand Final victory over Toulouse Olympique, that same year. He remained with the Hornets until the end of the 2018 season and admits this job was the perfect opportunity to get back involved with the game at this level.
“After I left Rochdale there were a couple of opportunities for me, but it never worked out for one reason or another,” added Kilshaw.
“Since then I have done a bit of work with the New York bid, and when this came up it was something I had to pursue because of the history and the structure of the club and the quality of the squad.
“Thankfully the club chose me and it’s great to be back coaching. I feel very privileged to be in this position again.”
DONCASTER have an extra special reason to want to return to the Keepmoat Stadium on Sunday after five away games on the bounce.
Chief executive Carl Hall is hopeful the club will return to training on Wednesday after Covid-19 forced a number of players into self isolation and causing the planned fixture against North Wales Crusaders on Sunday to be postponed.
That match was scheduled to be played at Castleford’s Mend-A-Hose Jungle following pitch maintenance work at the Keepmoat Stadium.
But it won’t just be a return home that is being celebrated against Hunslet at the weekend, it will also commemorate the life of club stalwart Pete Bell, who passed away in March 2020 – just before the pandemic took hold.
“If we get through this week alright, we’ll be back at the Keepmoat on Sunday and it will be first chance we’ve had to pay our respects to Pete with everyone at the ground,” said Hall.
“Pete was with us for years and was well known and well liked around the town as well as the club. We lost him in Covid times, which meant we couldn’t even go to the funeral or anything, so it will be massive day for us all.
“His wife and girls will be there and they’ll be loads of ex-players who will want to come as well. No one had a bad word to say about him and he was a top man.
“He always used to spoil the players rotten, which I always told him off for. He’d get them anything they wanted. He’d get them pizzas for after training, or make them toast before training. He couldn’t do enough for them.
“He was one of the best and we were all close to him. We all miss him and he was a rock for me personally. He was outstanding at keeping this club together through tough times and we’re all desperate to honour him and give him the send off we’ve not been able to do yet.
“If we’re not able to do that this weekend, the next home game after that will be Pete’s day.”
BARROW RAIDERS have secured the services of two of their long-term local talents with both Shane Toal and Luke Cresswell putting pen to paper on new three-year deals.
Toal joined the club from Ulverston in 2015, meaning this new deal will see him celebrate a decade of service to the club and become eligible for a testimonial.
“I have been loving my rugby this year,” said Toal.
“Everyone at the club is working really hard and it shows with the crowds that are coming to watch and the events that they’re hosting at the ground.
“The club is on the up and I’m excited to be involved for the next few years.”
Cresswell came through with Barrow Island ranks before signing with the Raiders and making his debut in 2016 against Toulouse.
“I’m looking forward to the challenges and successes the club will face and excited to be a part of it,” added Cresswell.
“I hope to help the club gain promotion and cement ourselves as a Championship team. With the hard work, support and ambition everyone at the club has been providing, I believe this is more than achievable.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS coach Aaron Wood is hopeful that marquee signing Gavin Henson will make his league debut before the end of the season.
Having featured against Widnes in the Challenge Cup, Henson was then ruled out with a calf injury. But it is now work commitments that are affecting his availability.
Henson currently owns and runs a pub and restaurant in South Wales.
“The pub is taking a lot of time away from Gavin at the moment,” said Wood.
“Commitment in League 1 can be tough as the boys have to work as well. He’s got a big business to run so that’s taking up a lot of his time.
“He is still training on the side though, so hopefully we can get him back soon.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS chief executive Andy Moulsdale is looking forward to attracting another big crowd to their new home when the Welsh derby arrives in Conwy for the first time on Saturday.
Welsh Government Covid-19 restrictions have meant the club have only had a crowd in Stadiwm ZipWorld once since their move there this season. Even then, the club were restricted to just 500 fans, but there will be no limit on numbers when West Wales Raiders make the trip north on Sunday.
“The response we’ve had from fans both old and new has been extremely positive so far,” said Moulsdale.
“We nearly sold out the allocation for the Keighley match and the atmosphere was as good as I’ve experienced since I’ve been involved with the club.
“It was a fantastic occasion and it was nice to hear such positive feedback from people who were watching us for the very first time.
“Tickets have already been selling well for the Welsh derby. It’s a fixture we always look forward to and it’d be great to build on the crowd we had for the Keighley match.”
WORKINGTON TOWN half back Carl Forber will return to action at the weekend with a very special landmark in his sights.
Forber and Town have not played since Sunday, July 4 after seeing two games called off through Covid protocols and the Challenge Cup Final break.
But when he does get back on the field against Barrow on Sunday he will be hoping for a successful day with the boot as he needs just seven goals to reach a total of 1,000 for his career. That figure increases to 12 if the five field goals he has scored over his two spells at Town aren’t included.
To date, the 36-year-old has been successful with 861 goals (including field goals) for Town between 2007-2009 and 2012-2021.
He has also scored 63 for Oldham (2011), 27 for Blackpool Panthers (2009-2010), 36 for Leigh Centurions (2005-2006) and six for St Helens (2004).
KEIGHLEY COUGARS coach Rhys Lovegrove has said his players need a different mentality when the are away from Cougar Park.
The Cougars were on the road again on Sunday when they faced Hunslet, and the defeat to Coventry the previous weekend was their ninth consecutive away loss – a run that dates back to August 2019.
“I’m growing increasingly frustrated with the performances and losses we keep dishing up away from Cougar Park,” admitted Lovegrove.
“It isn’t a physical thing it clearly is a mental thing. These players need to get away from their comfort zones because it is becoming increasingly obvious that at home, they are comfortable, they are confident, they know where they are and what they are doing.
“If I had to pinpoint one factor for the defeat it would again be overthinking the simplicity of winning Rugby League games, which again comes back to our mentality.
“The team works hard physically, they train hard, and I will always back them to the hilt.
“We need that confidence we show at home and transmits onto the field to be shown when we play away.
“These are semi-professional athletes that, for some reason when we play away, allow things out of their control such as the bus being stuck in traffic or their coffee order at the services being wrong, to creep into their performances.
“It then reflects on the field, and we need to nip that in the bud now.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS chairman Andy Mazey admits he has been pleasantly surprised by what he has seen of the competition since taking over at the club in December 2019.
“League 1 is a really competitive division this year and that has been proved by some of the recent results,” said former Swinton Lions chief Mazey.
“Anybody can beat anybody. Coventry beat Hunslet the other week, North Wales have tuned Keighley over and we lost at Coventry, so it’s a really tough competition.
“Even West Wales, I know that they have not won a game yet, but they are far more competitive than they have been in recent years so it’s a really strong competition.
“I have been a big advocate of the Championship in the past because of my previous involvement there, but now being down in this league I didn’t really know what to expect, but it’s a heck of a competition.
“There are some really good games and great clubs involved, so I am really enjoying it and looking forward to getting going again have having a push towards the play-offs.
The Hornets were forced to postpone their game against Workington at the weekend due to a number of players and staff having testing positive for Coronavirus or being required to self-isolate in the last couple of weeks.
LONDON SKOLARS coach Jermaine Coleman knows his side have a crucial month ahead if they are to stand any chance of making the play-offs.
Following on from Saturday’s game against West Wales Raiders, the Skolars face Coventry Bears at home, before a tough run of games leading up to the end of the season.
“On paper the draw against Doncaster looks like a good result and we picked up a point,” said Coleman.
“But like in previous games we were probably a bit disappointing that we had opportunities to get the result but just could get across the line.
“Some of that comes down to confidence. Once we get that one result, it will become easier to get the next so we just need to get over the line in a tough game. If we can do that, we can put ourselves back in the mix.
“It’s nice that we’re in the picture against teams, but we have to start picking up some wins and getting points on the board or we’re going to start slipping away from that pack above us.
“It’s a massive couple of weeks coming up for us. We can either gain some ground on that group of teams just above us, or we can fall away.”
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