Barrow Raiders coach Paul Crarey fears that he could miss out on some more big signings if a decision isn’t made soon on next season’s league structure and central distribution.
Clubs across all three league are still in discussions regarding the make up of the 2022 season, and Crarey would like a swift outcome so he can continue to build a squad for that campaign.
The Raiders have already signed Ellis Gillam from Whitehaven for the new campaign and Crarey knows any further hold up in a decision could affect his chances of signing other players.
“Ellis is a Barrow kid and his agent got in touch to say he wanted to play for us so it was a no brainer to bring him in,” said Crarey.
“We’ve had some other players from the Championship contact us to say they want to join us next year, and we’ve also had some full time players from Super League that have expressed an interest in joining us as well.
“But, four games to go this season and we don’t know what the structure or format of next year is going to be, which makes it very difficult for people to recruit for next year.
“We definitely run the risk of missing out on some of these players who want to come here. People are not going to want to wait around for too long when it’s their future they are looking at and will look at other options.”
On Gillam’s signing Crarey added: “Ellis is a great fit for us and he’ll be good for us. Some of our back rowers may be finishing this year and others will be nearing retirement age next year so we have got to look ahead. We’ll need to replace them eventually and let other lads learn from them before they do finish.
“Ellis has aways had the skill and great attitude. He just needed to mature as a player and he’s done that at Whitehaven. He’s wants to continue to progress and sees playing for us as a way to do that.”
COVENTRY BEARS director of rugby Alan Robinson has sent out a stark message that ongoing discussions about league structure and central distribution funding could lead to dire consequences for the club.
Despite currently enjoying one of their most successful season’s to date Robinson fears 2022 could be a big step backwards for the club depending on the outcome of all the talks.
Speaking to the club’s Bear Necessities Podcast Robinson said: “When we understand what the new structure may bring and what new distribution funds might be, I will be in a much better position to know what we can and can’t do as a club.
“The main concern I have is that the current central distribution we get could be greatly reduced from this year. There has been some talk about how clubs are positioned if they don’t get central distribution. My answer to that is how do you judge a sustainable club? Is a club that doesn’t have any debt, works within its means on a strict budget and is progressing the sport year on year the same as a club that’s independently financed where the financier could pull out at any time.
“We’re a club that’s trying to do things in the right way, trying to grow within the parameters we have set. We don’t own our own ground so we don’t have a lot of ways to generate extra income. But we aways work very hard to do the best we can so we need to see what that brings.
“We have only been in League 1 for six years but we have done everything that has been asked of us. We’ve competed, we’ve improved every year and we’ve grown our community side. We have done a lot more than many other clubs and I don’t know what more we can do to grow our club.
“Our destiny could be hanging in the balance. It’s worrying times, but we have got to stay positive and we have still got a job to do on the field.
“It would be catastrophic for us to say the Bears couldn’t continue as a club from next year so do we need to think outside the box and look at all the options of how we can continue to represent the West Midlands and keep up with what we’ve been trying to do for the last 20 years, not just the last six.
“At the moment the destiny of the club is very much in the hands of the Super League clubs. The meetings we have had have mainly been with championship and League 1 clubs around the potential restructure of the game from Super League down, which obviously Super League clubs have a real bearing on.
“We also have a say on that and the RFL have governance and direction on it in relation to how that will look. They very much want to protect the game and the integrity of the game as a whole, not just the very elite part of the game.
“There are some major decisions going to be made in the next few weeks.”
HUNSLET were boosted by the return of Dom Brambani to the squad that travelled to Rochdale on Sunday and could welcome Simon Brown back from a rib injury for this weekend’s visit of Coventry Bears.
Both players have been out of action since before Alan Kilshaw’s arrival at the club and the coach knows how vital both players will be in the end of season run.
“Dom had been missing for a few weeks because we needed to get him an ECG,” confirmed Kilshaw.
“He was quite poorly when he had Covid, especially for the first couple days, so we have gone through all the right measures and precautions with him to get him back. But he’s come back now and he’s absolutely flying. He’ll be like a new signing for us for the rest of the season.
“He brings out the best in the people around him as well and he’s always out doing extra sprinting and extra kicking before training so real good example for everyone, particularly younger lads.
“Simon has still been at every sessions and probably is getting a bit frustrated but ribs don’t heal quickly and there is nothing more he can do. He did a bit of contact work last week so he should be okay for the Coventry game.
“Someone of Dom’s quality could fit into any team in the league and anyone would want him. So to have him and Browny fit and giving us that tilt to push for the play-off spots is massive for us.”
Elsewhere the club have confirmed that Kenny Sykes has returned to his role as chairman after initially stepping down from the role last month. He had remained involved with the club and Kilshaw is pleased to see him back in the top job.
“I’ve seen at first hand just what Kenny does and it’s tremendous to have him back at the helm,” added Kilshaw.
“It does no harm at all that he is a former Hunslet player, that certainly helps him empathise with the lads. The news that he is back as chairman is certainly a boost for everyone at the South Leeds Stadium.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS coach Rhys Lovegrove has said a fine balance needs to be struck between rushing any injured player back too soon and preparing for the play-offs which get underway next month.
Lovegrove is slowly starting to welcome some key players back with Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e, Robert Matamosi, Alix Stephenson, and Spencer Darley all returning to the squad to face London Skolars on Saturday. Only Matamosi made it onto the pitch as Lovegrove is trying to manage his squad sensibly ahead of the end of season push.
But Scott Murrell (ankle) and Mo Agoro (groin) and Con Mika (ankle) missed out and Lovegrove knows there will be no point using players now before they are ready, and risk them missing more game time in the coming weeks.
“We know we have still got work to do to make the play-offs, but we’re confident we can achieve that,” said Lovegrove.
“But there is no point in getting there if we then don’t have any players fit so we do need to manage things correctly.
“In the play-offs, the team with the biggest number of players fit will have a huge advantage at that crucial stage of the season, so we want to make sure that we maximise that.
“The wrong injury at wrong time or any Covid-isolation, could really hamstring any team’s potential of trying to make a run in the play-offs. We sure as hell don’t want that to happen to us.”
DONCASTER have put aside any uncertainty surrounding next season by tying down one of their biggest stars to a new long-term contract.
With no club yet knowing their budget for 2022, the South Yorkshire club have still managed to secure Watson Boas on a three-year deal.
Boas, who is currently sidelined for the rest of the year following knee surgery, arrived at the Keepmoat Stadium in 2019 from Featherstone Rovers and has scored 10 tries in 25 appearances.
“I can’t thank the owners enough for allowing us to secure Watson’s services for the next three years,” said chef executive Carl Hall.
“They have shown a lot of faith in the player and recognised just how important he is to what we are trying to do at the club.
“Not only that, the board have agreed to fund the deal in a time where the structure of the sport is not yet secured and with a lot of meetings still to take place.
“We are looking forward to supporting Watson through his recovery and can’t wait to see him back on the field.”
Elsewhere, the club secured loose forward Loui McConnell on loan from Featherstone Rovers ahead of Sunday’s game against Barrow.
ROCHDALE HORNETS chairman Andy Mazey believes the recent away win at London Skolars could prove to be a turning point in their season.
The injury-hit Hornets came out 34-38 winners in that game and then backed it up with an impressive 44-8 victory over Doncaster a week later.
“We want to stay in those play-off positions now and try and finish as high up the table as we can so that’s why that London win was so important,” said Mazey.
“It was a real morale boosting win for us in the circumstances. We had a total of 16 players unavailable and six players making their debut, so we were facing some adversity going into the game.
“If we can finish as high as possible in those play-off positions there is a genuine belief that, if we can get some players fit and back on the field, we have got a good squad and can have as much of a crack at the play-offs as anyone.”
One of those key players that had been missing was former Man of Steel winner Rangi Chase, but he returned from a broken arm to be named in the squad to face Hunslet on Sunday.
LONDON SKOLARS coach Jermaine Coleman is expecting another tough week in the lead up to Sunday’s trip to Barrow as injuries and unavailability continue to hit hard.
“I had several players missing from the team that played Hunslet and I had to find a way to replace them and get a team out against Keighley, so it’s not great at the moment,” admitted Coleman, who added Jordan Williams, Jacob Ogden and Jonah Varela to the squad for the game on short term loans from London Broncos.
“We’ve not helped ourselves recently with bans for Kameron Pearce-Paul, Jacob Thomas and Malikhi Lloyd-Jones and on Sunday we had Lameck Juma out injured and Dalton Grant unavailable.
“Lameck took a heavy tackle against Hunslet and was struggling with his neck and shoulder as a result of that. I don’t think he will be back for Barrow, and we already know Judd Greenhalgh is unavailable for the game as is Dalton again.
“Jacob and Malikhi’s bans finish next week so fingers crossed they don’t pick up any niggles or injuries this week to make them unavailable. But it’s going to be another tough week heading into the back end of the season.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS coach Aaron Wood has hailed the impact of some of his recently returning stars.
Within the last month former players Steve Parry and Rowland Kaye have both rejoined the club for the rest of the season and have played their part in getting closer to that first elusive win of the year.
“It’s great that these guys want to come back to us and help the club develop,” said Wood.
“Steve Parry is Steve Parry and he scores every time he’s on the pitch. Rowland has come back from his time in France fresh, he’s another year older, has seen new parts of the world and experienced different coaching techniques and will only be better for that.
“Every player wants to challenge themselves and they have been away and experienced lots of different things that they can bring back to us.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray believes their performance against Barrow Raiders was one of their best this season.
The Crusaders beat Barrow 23-10 and kept the Cumbrians scoreless in the second half, much to the delight of Murray.
“I’m lost for words for how well we defended,” said Murray immediately after the victory.
“We got off the line, the tackle technique was good. We spoke about the quality that Barrow have in their team and they rely on the skill set they have very heavily.
“We matched them and probably outplayed them in large areas of the field so that was really pleasing to see.
“Fair play to my players, they stuck to their task, got on with it, didn’t bother who was in front of them and we looked like we wanted it more.”
The game also signalled Jack Houghton’s first game in two years after recently returning to the club after some time away to focus on his mental health.
“Seeing him back out there doing what he loves doing with his mates again means more than the win,” said Murray.
WORKINGTON TOWN will be sporting a very different look in their final home match of the season against Hunslet on September 12.
Their ‘Let’s go Red for Kev’ campaign will see them don a new shirt to remember two much loved members of the club.
In 2020, before the pandemic struck, the club planned to produce a charity shirt in memory of ex-player and coach Kevin Gartland (Kebsi) and supporter Kev Lever, who had both passed away.
Covid may have delayed the plans, but they are back on track now and the day will be a joint fundraising effort by Town, the Kebsi13 Committee and the friends and family of Kevin Lever. Money raised will be split and donated to causes chosen by each group.
The distinctive red shirt has been designed by Kevin Lever’s daughter Katelyn and incorporates many aspects of both Kevin’s lives and loves.
On the day, spectators from both sides will also be encouraged to wear red in a show of support to both families. There will be bucket collections and an auction of the playing jerseys in the Marquee after the game followed by live music.
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