DONCASTER captain Brad Foster has said a run of four consecutive games at home could provide the perfect preparation for the play-offs.
Having already faced Barrow Raiders, Workington Town and Coventry Bears at the Keepmoat Stadium in recent weeks, Doncaster bring the regular season to a close with another home game against Keighley Cougars on Sunday.
Foster now hopes that the side will put in another strong performance and be able to hit the ground running as they head into the play-offs.
“We’ve had a bit of a weird fixture list this year with a lot of games away on the bounce, so it’s going to do us a big favour now having this last little run of games at home,” said Foster.
“Our pitch is a little bit bigger than most other clubs so it allows us to play the sort of rugby that we want to play. And when we play at home we also have the fans behind us, which gives us a bit of an extra edge as well.
“We just need to make sure now that everyone’s attitude is on it again and that we’re all doing the right things to try and build some momentum going into the play-offs.”
In recent years Doncaster haven’t had the best record in the play-offs, falling at the semi-final stage in the last two campaigns due to a mixture of injuries and a number of loan and dual registration players no longer being available to them at the business end of the year.
However Foster believes that the club are in a much better position this year to be able to push for a return to the Championship.
“We’re hitting a bit of form at the right time and we’ve got a couple of lads coming back from injury, so hopefully this year we can kick on an take it to that next level,” added Foster, who first joined the club in 2015, before having spells with Dewsbury and Hunslet.
“The last couple of years have been tough, and last time we had to go to Newcastle twice and Oldham in three weeks on the bounce. We picked up a couple injuries and ended up just falling short. But this year everyone seems to be looking good and looking sharp. The loan players are here for the year too, so unless we have any fresh major injuries, we should be able to go into play-offs with close to a fully fit squad.
“It would mean the absolute world to me if we could go on and get promotion. It’s something wanted to achieve since joined the club.
“In my first year here we got relegated from the Championship, so if I could help lead these boys and the club back there it would be massive and something we would all definitely deserve.”
BARROW RAIDERS coach Paul Crarey believes automatic promotion would be no less than the club deserves both on and off the field.
The Raiders went into the penultimate game of the season against Rochdale knowing one victory in their final two games was likely to be enough to avoid the drama of the play-offs and return to the Championship at the first time of asking.
“To be around that top two spot all season is a fantastic achievement,” Crarey told the North West Evening Mail.
“We have had a lot of senior players out and at Hunslet we had 12 local players who did really well and academy players who have had outstanding seasons.
“It is easy for people to criticise but we aim to focus on the positive things. These are people who have done well for the club and we should give them praise and maybe a little slack when the results don’t quite go our way.
“It is not all about winning and losing at Barrow rugby. It is about community and everything that is put in place to create longevity.
“Eventually we will get to where we need to be and we have done the hard yards and I think we deserve to go up as champions.”
HUNSLET will be without Aaron Jones-Bishop for the rest of the year after the outside back was found guilty of a Grade F charge of biting in the recent game against Rochdale Hornets.
The 31-year-old has landed an eight-match ban for the offence, which was not overturned despite an appeal, much to the disappointment of the club who backed their player through the whole process.
The ban also means the Jamaican international will miss the opening games of next season. Jones-Bishop was also charged with punching in the same match, but that charge was subsequently dismissed by the Panel.
“Aaron pleaded not guilty to both counts and the club, having reviewed the substantial video evidence of the incident, supported him,” read a club statement following the failed appeal.
“Hunslet and Aaron presented evidence and a defence of both charges. The biting charge was claimed by Rob Fairclough to have taken place and was denied by Aaron Jones-Bishop, to have taken place. Video evidence did not show any bite taking place.
“The biting charge was upheld by the panel on ‘comfortable satisfaction’ and they also pointed out that they did not have to prove that the bite had occurred ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Jones-Bishop, who has a very good disciplinary record and is of good character, wore a mouthguard throughout the entire incident, and strenuously denies the charge.
“Hunslet appealed the decision and the appeal was a review of the original process taken by the Panel and, despite a number of basic administrative errors by the RFL’s Compliance Officer (for which an apology was given to the tribunal, club, and player) no sufficient breaches of process or law could be proven to overturn the decision.
“The outcome is disappointing and Aaron received the minimum eight-match ban associated with the charge and grading.”
LONDON SKOLARS coach Jermaine Coleman believes the postponement of the World Cup, alongside the likely drop in funding, could see a number of players question their future in the game in 2022.
Coleman, who is also part of the Jamaica coaching set up, has said the chance to play in the World Cup encouraged many players to sign new club deals for 2021. Those players will now have a similar choice to make again, but it will likely be on much different terms making it so much harder to come to a decision.
“Speaking from a Jamaica point of view, we probably have six or seven blokes – guys like Omari Caro, Lamont Bryan, Alex Brown, Greg Johnson, Jy-mel Coleman and Joe Brown – that went round again this year with the World Cup in mind and thinking that was what they were preparing for.
“The postponement of the tournament probably puts significant doubts in their minds now. They’ll be asking if they have got it in them to go round again, especially with funding looking like it’s going to be cut. Can these players afford to play for another year on potentially very minimal money, put their bodies through another year of playing and taking more time off work to be able to do that, in hope fo making a World Cup next year?
“I have spoken to some of our guys about it and they would love to try and go around again next year, but they are coming to a stage in their life where it needs to make sense financially to put their bodies through it for another year and cut back on work to go through it again. I’m not sure how it’s gong to be financially viable for some of these players to do that.
“Yes, they’d be playing on for a spot in the World Cup, but there will be other things for them to consider.
“It’s going to be a hard decision for them and they’ll have to make it for themselves – it’s not something we can answer for them.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS will be hoping for a bumper crowd when they host London Skolars on Saturday in their final home match of the regular season.
The day is being labelled as the club’s Community Day, which sees them offering free entry to all fans as a way to thank them for their ongoing support, especially over the last 18-months since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.
Anthony Murray’s side went into this weekend’s game against Keighley on the back of a seven-match winning streak, equalling a club record set back in 2013, and will be looking to head into the play-offs on a high.
“Since our move to Colwyn Bay, the response from local people has been incredible and we can’t thank our fans new and old enough for making everything go as smoothly as it has,” said chief executive Andy Moulsdale, who saw Matt Reid, Jordy Gibson and Gav Rodden put pen to paper on new deals with the club last week.
“These past 18 months during the pandemic have been challenging for us all and, without our supporters, we simply wouldn’t be where we are now.
“While our Community Day is all about engaging with the local community and introducing them to the brilliant sport of Rugby League, we also wanted to thank all our fans by offering them the opportunity to watch a match on us.
“The coaching staff and squad have done a great job so far in 2021 and it’d be fantastic to see a strong crowd at Stadiwm ZipWorld as the regular campaign draws to a close.
“We had some exciting news last week, with a number of key players committing their future to us, and we have plenty more planned in the coming months as we look to continue developing the club.”
To gain free entry to the game, you can claim your free ticket online to help the club monitor crowd numbers, but tickets will also be available to claim at the on the day.
ROCHDALE HORNETS chairman Andy Mazey had admitted his disappointment at results and performances from the squad this year, but has promised supporters brighter times ahead.
The club had hoped to be pushing for promotion back to the Championship this year, but instead, they will go into their final match knowing that they need to win to even be in with a chance of making the play-offs.
“There is no getting away from the fact that we have had some horrendous luck with unprecedented injuries this year compounded by Covid throughout the campaign,” said Mazey.
“We can’t control this so I don’t want to make any excuses should we fail to achieve our on-field goals this year.
“We have invested way over and above the original playing budget to try and counter these problems pretty much from week one but clearly discipline hasn’t been the best throughout and poor results as a consequence mean our destiny is no longer in our own hands.
“It is imperative whatever happens that we finish strongly and show some fight and leave absolutely everything out on the pitch. We owe this to our sponsors, partners and supporters and ultimately people are playing for futures and contracts as we won’t reward failure.
“Moving forward there will be big changes and huge challenges with massive funding cuts so we intend to hold a fans forum in the next few weeks to update everyone once our position is clear.
“Our supporters should keep faith as in year one of my tenure at Swinton in 2017, it took a season of transition to change the mentality and culture and build a board and on and off field teams completely aligned in thinking. This culminated in the club’s best season in decades in 2019.
“We will get it right here rest assured and the board is fully committed to the challenge ahead but we can’t do it without everyone on the same page and united.”
WORKINGTON TOWN coach Chris Thorman has confirmed forward David Weetman is facing an operation and a long time on the sidelines after picking up a bad leg injury in the game against London Skolars on Saturday.
Play was stopped for around ten minutes as Weetman received treatment on the pitch before being taken to hospital.
“It’s not looking great,” Thorman told BBC Radio Cumbria.
“It’s a dislocated and broken ankle that’s probably going to need surgery.
“You knew something was bad with him because of the reaction of the players around him, but we’re tough lads us Geordies. Credit to our medical staff, London’s medical staff and the ambulance that came to take care of him.
“But it’s now another middle forward that we’ve lost and we’ve only just brought him in. We don’t have many more now – we’ve lost probably seven this year now so we’re doing it tough at the minute.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS coach Aaron Wood admits he isn’t getting too caught up in the uncertainty of next season just yet.
With central distribution funding among the clubs yet to be revealed, Wood has said his main priority is finishing this season off before looking ahead to 2022.
“For now I am just focussing on the end of this year, and then we’ll sit back, evaluate and see what we have planned for next year,” said Wood.
“Every club is in same boat and a bit stressed with the way things stand at the moment, but I don’t tend to take that much notice of things like that. I will do when it comes out though and we know what’s happening.
“Everyone is a bit lost at the minute, but everything happens for a reason and I’m sure it will all be right in the end.”
COVENTRY player-coach Dave Scott has sent his gratitude out to the Bears followers as the season draws to a close.
The Bears are away once again on Sunday when they travel to Rochdale and the season at Butts Park Arena was brought to a close with a convincing 50-18 win over over West Wales Raiders just over a fortnight ago.
Bears supporters have witnessed impressive home victories against Keighley Cougars, Hunslet and the Hornets this year.
“I just want to say thank you to all the fans that have supported us this year,” Scott told the Bear Necessities Podcast.
“It’s been particularly tough, as every one knows, because of the coronavirus but I just want to say thank you.
“I know people have been furloughed and people have lost jobs and been made redundant but they have still been coming down to the Butts Park Arena to spend their hard earned cash to watch us play.
“I just hope we have given them a season to remember.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS‘ injured forward Wellington Albert is on a fundraising mission to help fund cancer treatment for his father.
Albert’s family are trying to raise sufficient funds to send his father to the Philippines from his home in Papua New Guinea for specialist chemotherapy and radiotherapy to treat his prostate cancer.
The full amount needed for the treatment is expected to cost around £40,000 and as well as a fundraising dinner being held in Papua New Guinea, Albert has also set up a GoFundMe page, with a £5,000 target, to raise additional funds.
To donate to the cause visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-my-dad-with-further-medical-treatment
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