BARROW RAIDERS secured promotion back to the Championship at the first time of asking when they beat West Wales Raiders 76-0 on Saturday.
Theerapol Ritson scored a club record seven tries in the rout against the much depleted Welsh outfit.
Barrow dropped down into League 1 at the end of the 2019 season, but didn’t get the chance to bounce straight back up the following year due to the Coronavirus pandemic curtailing the season after just a few weeks.
Automatic promotion for finishing top of the league means the Raiders have avoided another month of play-off action and coach Paul Crarey couldn’t be happier that the season is now over for 2021.
“We couldn’t have asked for anything else to end the season with – top playing bottom at home – and with it all in our own hands,” said Crarey.
“We have worked very hard as a group this season to get to this point and going up is massive achievement for club and players, especially this year when we’ve used a lot of local players. We have had a lot of injuries this year to star players and the local lads that have come in have been outstanding.
“It looks like the play-offs are going to be really tough for all five teams involved so it will be nice to now get the rest and not have to face them.
“It’s good to let the players have a bit longer off too. If you don’t finish the season until the Grand Final on October 10, you probably only have a few weeks before you’re back in for pre-season, which puts you behind a bit as well.
“So it was important we go up automatically to prepare properly for the Championship, which is a different ball game altogether.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS chief executive Peter Tiffin believes his club is one of the ones best prepared to face the challenges that reduced funding for League 1 will bring.
The club own their own facilities so have the ability to generate extra income that way, and a strong relationship with a local business means they will be less impacted than others if travel expenses also get cut as expected.
The Raiders travelled to Barrow Raiders on Saturday with a much depleted side that relied on a number of amateur players from both Wales and Cumbria to make up the 17. The previous week they travelled to Hunslet with just one substitute available.
Despite these on-field issue in recent weeks, Tiffin is adamant work is still taking place off it to ensure the club continues to grow.
“People have asked about our future, but we’re positive about it,” said Tiffin.
“We’re willing to support and go down whatever avenue we need to.
“It’s difficult for us plan ahead just now, but we are probably one of the most sustainable clubs around.
“Regardless of the cuts, we have a business plan not solely reliant on the funding we get from the RFL.
“We are here to stay and we run the Raiders as we do our other businesses and don’t rely on funding from elsewhere.
“We’re lucky as well because we have a lot of partnerships and sponsorship with local businesses and one of them is a transport company. They support us a lot with our travelling, so if the travel expenses gets cut we still have other ways to deal with that. Edwards have been very supportive and instead of them sponsoring us with funding, they sponsor us in terms of supporting us with transport.
“We still have plans in place to remain in the game, continue next year and we are looking to speak to players and continue to grow regardless of what comes.”
DONCASTER coach Richard Horne has said there is no room for error now as his side prepares to face the play-offs.
Horne’s side went into the game against Keighley on Sunday knowing they could still finish in any position from third to fifth in the league but he said that no matter where they end up, preparations for the next stage of the season remain the same.
A third or fourth placed finish would give them the luxury of a second chance if they lose the first play-off game, but finishing fifth means game one of the series is an elimination clash.
The Dons have fallen at the semi-final stage in the last two play-off campaigns due to a mixture of injuries and unavailabilities, but Horne is hopeful of better luck this time around.
“Depending how results went at the weekend we knew we could have finished the season anywhere from third to fifth, which says a lot about how competitive the season has been,” said Horne.
“All games are big games for us now and we just want to keep some momentum going into the play-offs.
“It would be nice to have that bit of a fall back of another chance for finishing third or fourth but at the end of the day, no matter where you finish, you’ve got to beat everyone to win it. So wherever we end up, we will prepare ourselves for what is still knock-out rugby. Even if you get that extra life it’s still another game you have to play and have to win.
“We’ll be ready for whatever scenario we end up in and all teams will have to work hard against us to get a result.
“One good thing for us is that we’ll have more bodies to select from for these games than we’ve had in previous years and probably won’t have to put one or two lads in there that are carrying injuries. We might still be missing our halves going into the play-offs which isn’t ideal, but the rest of the boys are in good shape and hitting a bit of form, so hopefully we can overcome that and still be in competition when they are ready to come back.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS chairman Andy Mazey has confirmed he remains committed to the task of taking the club forward, despite the challenges that look set to come his way over the next 12 months.
With budget cuts across the game looming large and still no confirmation on how the league will be structured after next season, it is proving very difficult for Mazey to plan for 2022, but that is not putting him off getting the club to where he feels it should be.
“Across the league people are just getting fed up now of waiting and being kept in the dark,” admitted Mazey.
“The bits that we do know don’t look very good. We’re still not fully in the loop on what the exact numbers are going to be, but the models that we’ve been given aren’t great so in terms of starting to nail things down for next year it’s difficult because we just don’t know what’s happening.
“Yes the cut in finances is going to create some challenges, but we can deal with that. What’s most frustrating this for me is the not knowing what we’ll be playing for next year. We are still an ambitious club that wants to get back into the Championship, but I can’t go out and throw money at a squad not knowing if we’ll even be able to get promotion this time next year.
“All we know for sure right now is that there will be plenty of challenges over the next couple of weeks and months, but you can approach challenges in two ways. You can embrace them, have a go and come out the other end successful or you can back down from them and we’re not going to do that. There will be some difficulties, but we’re ready to face them.
“We’re going to be hosting a fans forum in the non too distant future as we really need to rally and galvanise the supporter base because there will be some shortcomings to cover and there will have to be some cuts and changes to how some things are do.
“But as a chairman I remain committed to the job at hand, as do the board and whatever 2022 looks like we’re going to be there and having a crack at it.”
HUNSLET coach Alan Kilshaw has called for clarity on central distribution funding and the 2023 league structure – and he wants it to come sooner rather than later.
But it’s not just so he can start planning for next season – it’s for the wellbeing of his players and those at other clubs.
While no official details have yet been announced it is being reported that League 1 clubs could lose up to around 80 percent of their funding for 2022 compared to this season. That is likely to mean many clubs will need to look elsewhere for investment, with much of next season’s squad plans dependent on funds.
With the structure for 2023 also still to be decided, Kilshaw and other coaches are currently struggling to know what terms they can offer players for the coming seasons.
“It’s frustrating that we don’t know yet what we can do in terms of recruitment and retention for next season because I’d like to start doing that.
“I have already identified players I would like to keep and bring in but I can’t do anything as of yet because we don’t know what the budget will be, what league we’ll be in or what we’ll be playing for the season after. Once all that’s been finalised we can hopefully start making some signings.
“But the big thing is player welfare, which is always talked about. This is a second income for most of the players, and it’s a good income. They sacrifice some hours at work and overtime to play.
“With everyone talking about funding cuts and budget cuts, players will have a lot of insecurities at the minute, so the sooner they know what’s happening the better really.
“I can already see there is some anxiety around.
“Players do rely on this extra money from playing to pay the mortgage or put food on the table, so it’s important to come to a decision sooner rather than later for them and their families.”
COVENTRY BEARS owner Alan Robinson has pleaded with others in the game not to forget about Rugby League away from the heartlands.
Robinson has already spoken of his fear that a drastic cut in central funding could spell the end for his club and feels the Bears could suffer the direct brunt of a reduced Super League TV deal from 2022.
Speaking to the Mirror, Robinson said: “It’s extremely frustrating when this is happening to such a new club doing everything the right way.
“If we’re not going to be a League 1 club then I can’t see where the pathway is for another club in the Midlands.
“If we’re going to be a top five sport and be recognised as a truly national sport that grows the player pool, then Rugby League needs the Midlands and the south. There is huge potential in our region with a huge amount of community participation and we are at the top of that triangle.
“It just feels like none of this is being considered in the bigger picture. Everybody is talking about reducing the number of teams in Super League to make it more exciting, and yes that might be part of the picture. But if we are truly to become a national sport that produces as many players as possible for England, then we need the Midlands and the south to expand in a sustainable way.
“It should be done within our means and growing in the new communities over time, which we are doing. But clearly we need longer.”
LONDON SKOLARS coach Jermaine Coleman has voiced his concerns for the future of the competition following reports that clubs in League 1 could face funding cuts of up to 80 percent.
The cuts are a knock-on effect from reduced Sky money at Super League level and Coleman is worried about what it means for the lower leagues.
“Looking at the decisions being made at the top, from one perspective I understand why they’re being made, but from another I don’t think they understand the impact that it is going to have on the Championship and League 1,” said Coleman.
“We’re looking at a cut of up to 80 percent and I don’t see how that is conducive to players playing at this level, on what will be very low money.
“I don’t think the cuts that are being made bode very well for any team at this level.”
WORKINGTON TOWN forward David Weetman underwent surgery on Friday to repair the badly broken leg he suffered against London Skolars.
The 23-year-old dislocated an ankle and fractured his fibula in the game and had a number of plates and pins inserted.
He now faces a long rehab process and will miss the play-offs, but has already set his sights on being ready for action as the new season gets underway.
Taking to Twitter, Weetman said: “Not the way I wanted my season to end but know the lads will get the job done. Thanks for all the kind messages I have received. Time to get recovered and ready to go for the start of next season.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS hooker Karl Ashall couldn’t be happier to see the progress the club is making both on and off the field.
With a spot in the play-offs already confirmed, the Crusaders hosted London Skolars on Saturday in front of a bumper crowd as they offered all fans free entry into their last regular season home game at the ZipWorld Stadium in Conwy.
“The move to Colwyn Bay has been great for us,” said Ashall.
“Andy Moulsdale (CEO) has been working his socks off for this club, and has been doing a brilliant job and we have a fantastic club.
“We haven’t got the biggest fanbase, but what they are is loyal and are massively supportive of us and everything Andy is trying to do here.
“Everyone loves Anthony Murray (coach) as well and what he’s trying to breed at the club. That’s why he’s getting a load of lads playing well for him
“It feels like we’re finally getting rewards for everything we’ve been doing on and off the field, and long may it continue.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS have continued their recruitment for next season by agreeing a new deal with Italy international Brenden Santi.
Santi follows in the footsteps of Jack Miller by signing a two-year deal which will keep him at Cougar Park until the end of 2023.
Having joined the club at the start of the current campaign, Santi has quickly established himself as a fans favourite, so it’s no surprise that coach Rhys Lovegrove is delighted to keep him on board.
“Brenden has added top level experience to this organisation since joining,” said Lovegrove.
“I have been really excited by the leadership qualities he has brought to us as a club and to see him progress to the next stage of his career with Keighley has been exciting for both myself and the fans.
“When he’s not on the field you notice that we miss certain aspects from our game, and it is not surprising that those aspects are represented by Brenden Santi.
“Brenden is a massive part of everything we do both on and off the field and I’m delighted he sees his future with us here at Keighley.”
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