Hunslet coach Gary Thornton is already grateful for the amount of recruitment he was able to do in the off-season, after being without a number of players for Sunday’s Challenge Cup tie at North Wales Crusaders.
Matty Chrimes (ankle), Ben Heaton (calf) and Keidan Hartley (ankle) were all out injured, while Zach Braham and Zach Johnson were also unavailable due to suspension.
With uncertainty throughout the off-season about whether the club would remain supporter-owned or be taken over and run by an individual, Thornton’s budget was affected, but he still managed to do plenty of business, which has left him with sufficient cover for those absentees.
“This is why we put the size of squad together that we did,” said Thornton.
“We had Anthony Boardman come in as cover for Ben. He had a successful trial with us and this now gives him an opportunity in the first team.
“We have enough strength in depth to cover these scenarios, and that’s probably something we didn’t have last year.
“Staying supporter owned does affect our ability to sign players and offer them contracts, because we are governed by what revenue the club can generate through sponsorship and membership.
“Because of this we have picked up a lot of players on match terms and a lot of players who have been elsewhere but maybe not got the opportunity they thought they deserved. Hopefully they can use that to perform for us.
“We had to be careful with how the money we had available has been spent, so recruitment in the off-season was tough, but I’m really happy with what we have brought in.”
COVENTRY BEARS have given themselves extra options on player availability by signing a dual-registration partnership with London Broncos.
The Bears have a similar agreement with Dewsbury Rams and already have links with the Broncos as their former coach Tom Tsang now heads up the Reserves at the Broncos.
“We’re still looking to strengthen the squad and we’re speaking regularly to Lee Greenwood at Dewsbury,” said Bears director of rugby Alan Robinson.
“Some of the Dewsbury guys have been down training with us and we’re particularly looking at adding to the pack, so there are a couple of forwards from there we are potentially looking at bringing in.
“We’ve also signed a dual-registration agreement with London Broncos, but we’ll be working both ways with them, more so than we will be with Dewsbury.
“We’ll be supporting them with their reserve grade and they’ll be helping us as well. There are a number of players in the Broncos reserves that have been with us before, so they know all about us.
“That’s something else we can look at if we need to and it could give us a bit more depth.
“It’s something we can fall back on throughout the year.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS coach Aaron Wood has said his squad is ready to get their season underway against Hunslet on Sunday.
The Welsh side hasn’t played since their defeat to amateurs Underbank Rangers in the Challenge Cup, but Wood has said improvements have been made since that game.
“Underbank were just too good for us on the day,” admitted Wood.
“It was our first game together and I had though we could win it, but I had hoped we would gel together as a team a bit quicker than we did.
“But it gave us a real good insight into some players, so it was a good reality check.
“We know Hunslet will be a tough game and we’ve been working hard since the Challenge Cup game to gel even more as a group.
“We know this first month or so is going to be tough while we still have new guys coming in, but if we get in everyone that we want, we can be a good team and hopefully pick up some wins.”
Wood also confirmed that Army duo Emosi Nadaubale and Robert Matamosi will return to the club this week, and will be joined by Army prop Alex Hickens, who has signed a deal with the Raiders.
“The Army boys will be back with us from this week and will be available now for the rest of the season,” added Wood.
“They are big guys with a bit of experience in key positions, so it’ll be great to have them back.”
WORKINGTON TOWN have added more local talent to their ranks by snapping up Adam Ramsden from Wath Brow Hornets.
The 28-year-old backrower has spent six seasons with the Hornets and is now ready to make the step up to the professional ranks after having spent the last few weeks training with the League 1 club.
“I’ve made no secret about having the majority of the squad made up of the best Cumbrian players and the recruitment of Adam is another positive indicator of this,” said Town coach Chris Thorman.
“He’s a backrower by trade but is also capable of playing in the middle. He has good late footwork and will complement our already versatile pack. He has got some hard work ahead of him, having missed a good chunk of pre-season, but he has a good attitude and a willingness to learn.
“We’ve already made some short term goals which should produce fairly quick results and see him competing for a place in our squad soon.”
LONDON SKOLARS have added another name to their squad ahead of Saturday’s League 1 opener against North Wales Crusaders.
Incoming is Australian hooker Ryan Cane, who has signed a one-year contract with the capital club.
The 23 year-old has previously played for Cabramatta, Western Suburbs Magpies and East Campbelltown in Australia, before relocating to London last month.
“Ryan is a very small player but comes with a massive character,” said Skolars head coach Jermaine Coleman.
“He is really exciting and dynamic at dummy-half, adds another threat to our attack and will add some pressure to the current hookers that we have.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray has admitted he may be forced into the recruitment market sooner rather than later.
Going into Sunday’s Challenge Cup game against Hunslet, Murray was without Jack Holmes (broken hand), Karl Ashall (double hernia), Joe Ryan (pec) and Matt Reid (hamstring) and he can ill-afford further injury blows.
“That is four influential players we have sidelined at the moment,” said Murray.
“It means we’re down to small numbers squad wise. We’ve still got 19 or 20 fit players who have all trained hard in pre-season, so if they manage to stay free of any more injuries they will all get a chance to play in the coming weeks.
“But by the same token, we need to start thinking about adding to what we’ve got available and if right players become available, we’ll take a look at bringing them in.”
DONCASTER coach Richard Horne has offered an injury update of three influential members of his squad.
Brad England (ankle), Rory Dixon (shoulder) and Jordie Hedges (knee) have yet to feature this season, but for two of them at least the end of their time on the sidelines is in sight.
“Brad and Rory aren’t too far off now,” said Horne.
“It’s probably just another couple of weeks for them, which is good.
“Jordie still has a way to go though. He had a full ACL repair, so we’ve always known he wouldn’t be back until July at the earliest before he’d feature again.
“But we also know it could be later than that if he has any setbacks.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS coach Rhys Lovegrove believes his side did not get the reward their efforts deserved as they exited the Challenge Cup at the hands of Newcastle Thunder.
The Cougars went down 16-12 in poor conditions as Storm Dennis swept the UK last weekend. They subsequently enjoyed a weekend off ahead of their league campaign getting underway at Workington on Sunday.
“We had two or three clear-cut chances where, if we just had pushed in the right space, we could have taken advantage and got a few more points on the board, especially just before half-time,” Lovegrove told the Keighley News.
“In terms of the second half, we controlled the game well but couldn’t get over the line, so credit to Newcastle because they defended really well.
“I feel more disappointed, though, for the playing group. They played some really attractive footy in the worst conditions you could ever wish to play in, so I’m disappointed they didn’t get the result that reflected the way we played.”