WORKINGTON TOWN coach Chris Thorman has revealed that for the final few weeks of the season he was confident his squad would get the job done and clinch promotion.
Town beat Doncaster 36-12 to confirm promotion back to the Championship – a competition they last played in in 2016.
“There were a number of indicators in the month leading up to the final that made me just know we were going to be alright,” said Thorman.
“You never want to be arrogant, but I was quietly confident that my group were just ready for some good performances.
“I am good friends with Richard Horne (Doncaster coach) and I spoke to him and Carl Hall before the game. They’d effectively already had three back-to-back Grand Finals before they got to the Final against us and that takes it toll. It takes it out of you, especially after what has already been a tough year.
“By deservedly finishing outright second, my group had a weekend off before our first play-off game against Keighley, then we got another weekend off before Doncaster.
“I have always said that the key to play-off Rugby League is having as many fit bodies available as possible and we were able to get that. It told in the end and we put in a very good performance, stuck to our plan and were physically ready for that game.
“All season this squad has just kept their head down, applied themselves and have done everything I asked of them, every day.
“It’s been a tough 18 months for everyone, not just for my group, and we made a lot of sacrifices put in a lot of hard work. But the result against Doncaster made all that worth it.”
IT IS a case of out with the old and in with the new for HUNSLET coach Alan Kilshaw, who continues to add his own touches to the squad.
The coach made minimal changes this season after taking over from Gary Thornton in July, but is now working hard to build a new, younger-looking squad that he hopes will help push the club towards promotion in 2022.
Following Dom Brambani’s recent announcement that he is to retire, the club has also confirmed that Simon Brown, Matty Chrimes, Jy-Mel Coleman, Nathan Conroy, Vila Halafihi, Brad Hey, Harry Kidd, Joe McLean, Alex Rowe, Mikey Wood and Lewis Wray will also be moving on.
In their place comes a number of promising youngsters. Former Featherstone Rovers and Sheffield Eagles back Jack Render returns to the semi-professional ranks after a spell with Fryston this year, while teenage prop Rian Rowley, an England Academy international who has gained valuable experience with both Bradford Bulls and Leeds Rhinos, also joins.
Leeds Rhinos Academy graduate Jack Mallinson has turned down offers from elsewhere to join Kilshaw’s revolution and the coach couldn’t be happier to secure the trio.
“Jack Mallinson was a priority for me as soon as I learnt he wouldn’t be staying at Leeds beyond this season,” said Kilshaw.
“He is a great goalkicker, takes the ball to the line and runs it a lot for a halfback, which I really encourage. He is now at the next phase of his development, and needs to be playing against men. He’s had a great environment at Leeds Rhinos, with some quality coaches, which brings him to us with some good habits and qualities.
“We can give him an environment in which to thrive. I’m excited to see him play, and to see how far he can progress.
“Jack Render had a tremendous campaign for Featherstone back in 2019, playing in the Million-Pound game. Since then he has had some adversity in his career, but still has the enthusiasm and desire to compete and play at a good level.
“I’m confident he will be really good for the team and for the younger lads.”
“Rian is more than ready for the challenge of first-grade football. He plays hard and aggressive and being a local lad he will take pride in representing the club every time he goes over the whitewash.”
Two players from the current squad who are staying put, though, are wingers Wayne Reittie and Kiedan Hartley.
Reittie joined the club on loan from Batley midway through last season, while 21-year-old Hartley is another local player who has impressed since joining the club a couple of years ago.
“Making Wayne a Hunslet player was a priority for me,” added Kilshaw.
“His performances last season were exceptional and, having been a great servant to Batley for so long, to come into a side halfway through a season and hit the ground running shows how good he is.
“Kiedan has really impressed me in the short time I’ve been at the club. He has had to battle a few injuries but returned in some strong form at the back end of the year. I feel with a solid pre-season he can make one of the positions in the outside backs his own, and really kick on.”
BARROW RAIDERS have added further Super League experience to their squad with the signing of Josh Wood from Wakefield Trinity.
The 25-year-old made his Super League debut for Salford in 2015 before spending the last two years with Trinity. In total, he has made 67 top-flight appearance, scoring eight tries.
Coach Paul Crarey has also added Danny Langtree to his Championship squad and will be bring the same sort of firepower to the Raiders that made him so popular with the fans at previous club Oldham, where he crossed for 94 tries in 197 games.
“Josh is an all-action nine with Super League experience,” said Crarey.
“He is a fearless defender and distributor and can also play in the halves.
“Josh comes with big wraps from former teammates and coaches regarding attitude and application and we are delighted to have secured his signature.
“When Danny became available we jumped at the chance to sign him. He can play backrow or middle and is very strong in both attack and defence and is very experienced in the Championship.
“He has a great work ethic and attitude and will be a great addition to the squad.”
As well as the new recruits, the club continues to re-sign current members of the squad, with hooker Nathan Mossop the latest to put pen to paper on a new deal.
“We are delighted that Nathan Mossop has agreed to re-sign,” added Crarey.
“‘Mossy’ has led by example throughout his career with us and epitomises the word professional.
“He often sets the standards for the rest of the group to follow and leads by example on and off the field.”
DONCASTER coach Richard Horne believes getting some regular game time with them helped bring out the best in Jake Sweeting.
The 21-year-old joined the South Yorkshire side on loan from Featherstone in August, having already made two appearances for his parent club, and one each for Hunslet, York and Castleford this season.
But at Doncaster, he went on to make ten appearances and kicked the crucial touchline goal against Keighley to secure the club’s spot in the play-off final.
“Jake is big for a half and is deceptively really quick,” said Horne.
“When he makes a break it doesn’t look like he’s going that fast, but people don’t tend to catch him.
“He settled in really well with us. He’s been bounced around a bit this season and played the odd game here and there. It’s hard to get any sort of form on the back of doing that. But we stuck by him and he’s flourished through playing and being around all the boys.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS coach Rhys Lovegrove does not anticipate too many changes in his squad ahead of the new season.
The Cougars were just moments away from reaching the play-off final, so the former Super League player knows the foundations are there for another promotion push next year, and he believes a level of continuity in the squad could prove a real bonus.
“We weren’t far off this year and we have a great group of people here, so I would like to retain as many of them as possible,” said Lovegrove.
“But I’d also like to bring in one or two players in some areas I believe we can strengthen.
“There are some areas I’d like to improve, because at the end of the day we went quite far in the play-offs, but we didn’t fulfil our goal of promotion.
“If we can retain the majority of our squad we can go into pre-season ready to build on what we’ve done this year.
“Last year (2020) was a complete write-off, so this year was a clean slate as we had no ability to generate any momentum when we’d only played a couple of games at the start of the year. Then it was very difficult to get things going at the start of this year.
“But I feel we really started building at the back end of the year and only lost one game in the second half of the year. We made a real push in the play-offs against some great teams, so the key now is not to lose that momentum, try and build on it and develop it.
“With the right players, I really believe we can do that.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS have added two more names to their squad for next season with forwards Zac Baker and Paul Brearley both agreeing new deals with the club.
29-year-old Baker returned to the club ahead of this season, having spent a year playing for Mullumbimby Giants in Australia, while Brearley arrived mid-way through the season to initially cover for a number of injuries.
“Zac is another great product of the Rochdale Mayfield club,” said Hornets coach Matt Calland.
“He started the season really well and I thought he was our best player in the first couple of games. He then got injured and missed a few games. I thought he was unlucky to get suspended too.
“He has a great attitude and has bags of potential.
“I am delighted that Paul has agreed to play next season. He is great to have around the place and he has great leadership skills.
“He can play in multiple positions and I think we will see the best of Paul next season.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS chief executive Andy Moulsdale has revealed that many of the upcoming squad announcements will be about retentions.
After finishing third in the league behind promoted Barrow Raiders and Workington, many of this year’s squad have already voiced their intention to stay at the Zip World Stadium for 2022 – even if they could have signed more lucrative contracts elsewhere.
“We’re in the latter stages of tying everyone down, so it looks like we’ll keep the nucleus of the squad together, which will be good for next season,” said Moulsdale.
“It’s not been easy with the cut in funding, but we’re lucky in the fact that we’re quite a close group and none of the lads wanted to leave, so that made it easier.
“It’s a big help when you’re in the sort of environment that is not all about who pays the most. The lads here know what they’re getting with me, Muz (coach, Anthony Murray), the club and each other and we’ve created an environment that means the lads want to be a part of it.
“Some of them have had bigger offers to go and play elsewhere, but we’ve kept them and that’s testament to how hard everyone has worked this year.”
Two new faces have joined the club, however..
Following the recent signing of Harry Swarbrick from Barrow, the club has also announced the capture of former Rochdale and Oldham winger Dec Kay.
“Dec is a good signing for us,” added Murray.
“He comes with a bit of experience and has been in some good systems. He’s had about 18 months out of the game and I’m sure he’ll come in looking to cement a place in the side.
“I’m sure he’ll fit into the environment we have here at the Crusaders very well and I’m looking forward to seeing him play for us.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS co-owners Peter Tiffin and Andrew Thorne have begun the process of finding a new head coach for 2022.
The post became vacant when Aaron Wood and the club mutually agreed not to extend his contact.
With the deadline for applications now passed, work can begin on finding the best man for the job.
Whoever they do take on will be working alongside former Wigan Warriors prop Ben Flower, who was named as an assistant coach earlier this month.
“Applications have ben coming in fast and I have actually been quite shocked by how many we’ve had,” admitted Tiffin.
“We’ve had a very wide range of applications and a lot of interest from a wide range of coaches, so now we just need to look through them and decide what we want in a coach.
“We haven’t got long though, because we want to be back in for pre-season in early November. We’re still not sure on when the season will be started, so we’re planning for the earliest scenario.
“We’re not going to rush the decision though, we’ll look at all the candidates and then take the process from there.”
COVENTRY BEARS winger Reece Rance couldn’t be happier that for the first time in his Bears career he was an ever-present in 2021.
The 28-year-old joined the club ahead of the 2018 season and featured in eleven of the 29 games that season. The following season wasn’t much better, with injuries restricting him to just 15 appearances.
“This season is probably the best season I’ve had physically, as in previous seasons I have been quite injury-prone,” Rance told the club’s ‘Bear Necessities’ podcast.
“But this season I played every game, so I’m pretty chuffed.
“I don’t know what the difference has been. I don’t know whether it’s that I’m getting older and learning the game a little bit more, or staying out of certain things in games.
“It might also be that my metabolism is slowing down a bit and I have a bit more weight on me now.
“In terms of style of play, it’s been the same, I’ve not changed anything.”
LONDON SKOLARS have announced they will host near neighbours London Broncos as the Capital Challenge returns to the Honourable Artillery Company in the new year.
The sides will meet in a pre-season fixture on Friday, January 14th and will be preceded by an outer-London school’s tournament.
Up to six schools usually take part in a Tag Rugby competition, which gives young people the opportunity to play rugby at a unique venue.
“After not being able to plan the event in 2021, it is wonderful to confirm that we are now working with our friends at the Broncos and the HAC, to make the 2022 version of the Capital Challenge the most successful one to date,” said Skolars general manager Charlie de Haan.
“In my mind, there is no better celebration of Rugby League in the south east than this event.”
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