KEIGHLEY COUGARS have reunited Rhys Lovegrove with one of his former coaches after handing Andrew Henderson the role of head of rugby.
Lovegrove was a member of the London Broncos squad that Henderson led to the semi-finals of the Championship Shield in 2015 and the two will now work alongside each other as the club looks to further develop and once again push for promotion to the Championship.
And they have started that new partnership by bringing in their first new recruit in former Newcastle Thunder outside back Lewis Young.
Young had spent six years in the North East and will add a new threat to both defence and attack to the Cougars.
After three seasons with the Broncos, Henderson became Steve Price’s assistant at Warrington Wolves but will now move to Cougar Park on a permanent basis following a brief stint in an advisory role, after his time with the Super League club ended at the conclusion of their season.
“I’m delighted to be joining a club that is ambitious and looking to develop such as Keighley,” said Henderson
“My main focus as Head of Rugby will be to oversee the Rugby League department of the club. I will be working very closely with Rhys Lovegrove in regards to recruitment and retention of the playing squad and I will certainly be there to advise, guide, and sometimes challenge him on those decisions.
“My role will also involve overseeing the performance department and putting infrastructures and systems in place to improve how we operate as well as supporting the players individually and helping to develop the coaches we have at the club.”
Meanwhile Mo Agoro has signed a two-year contract extension, keeping him at the club until the end of 2023.
The Cougars have also confirmed they have made offers to retain Wellington Albert, Matthew Bailey, Spencer Darley, James Feather, Billy Gaylor, Josh Lynam, Robert Matamosi, Con Mika, Kieran Moran, Taylor Prell, Aidan Scully, Alix Stephenson and Jake Webster and will be hoping all of them agree to the new terms. Jack Miller and Brenden Santi are already on deals until 2023, while Jack Arnold, Dalton Desmond-Walker, Charlie Graham, Kyle Kesik, Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e, Aaron Levy, Scott Murrell, Dan Parker and Josh Slingsby are all currently contracted until the end of the coming season.
Phoenix Laulu-Togaga’e will return to parent club Hull KR, who signed the teenager mid-way through the year but loaned him back to the Cougars. Jack Coventry, Jason Muranka, Ben Stead and Ryan Wright will also move on when their contracts expire at the end of next month, while Bobby Darbyshire and Morgan Robinson have been granted an early release from their contracts to allow them to take up opportunities elsewhere.
ROCHDALE HORNETS have signalled their Championship intent by announcing the signing of former Super League and international fullback Gregg McNally.
The 30-year-old joins the club following an impressive season with Whitehaven that saw the Cumbrian side finish sixth in the Betfred Championship, making the play-offs.
McNally’s professional career began with Whitehaven back in 2008 when he scored a stunning debut hat-trick to help the side to a 26-22 victory over Salford Red Devils. He has gone on to appear for Huddersfield, Oldham, Barrow and Bradford, while also making more than 150 appearances for Leigh Centurions, including featuring for the club in the Super League. He has also represented Ireland on the international stage on 14 occasions, and brings a wealth of experience to the Crown Oil Arena in 2022.
“I remember watching Greg making his debut for Whitehaven as a teenager years ago when I was coaching Halifax,” said head coach Matt Calland.
“You could tell from then he was going to be a special player.
“He knows how to play out the back and will add another dimension to our attack.
“He has also put his hand up to assist coaching, so it’s a win-win situation.”
The club have also added Welsh forward Rhys Davies, who has made the move from Dewsbury Rams, to the squad, while Luke Fowden and Cain Tyrer, who initially joined on loan in August, will remain at the Hornets for another year.
25-year-old Davies can play anywhere in the pack and will be hoping an impressive season with the Hornets might see him earn a call up to John Kear’s Wales squad for the World Cup.
WORKINGTON TOWN coach Chris Thorman has praised the togetherness and spirit of his squad after they celebrated their recent promotion in a rather unusual way.
Within hours of the final hooter of the game against Doncaster, a video emerged of the players marking their win outside assistant coach Neil Frazer’s home.
Frazer had been forced to miss the game because of the need to isolate, so when he couldn’t be there for the promotion party, the squad took the promotion party to him. Frazer got his hands on the trophy in his own garden, while the squad celebrated from a safe distance on the other side of the fence.
“In terms of spirit, there is no better club I have been involved with,” said Thorman.
“I know I have played a part in that, but it is testament to the group of people that we have in the squad and linked to the club.
“I made a point of getting a core of Cumbrians in that care about the club and that are good human beings. Obviously they have got to be good at Rugby League and apply themselves, but they need to be good people and that’s what I have a got a squad full of.
“When you have got a group that share a common goal and care about each other, they will do what it takes and this group has done whatever it has taken every week.
“Being able to do that for Neil was a bit of icing on the cake, because I know how gutted he was to miss the final.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS‘ long serving fullback Tommy Johnson looks set to hit the 200 appearances landmark for the club after agreeing a new 12-month deal.
The 30-year-old featured for Crusaders in their very first match back in 2012 and has gone on to make a club-record 186 appearances – scoring 67 tries and 630 goals.
“I’ve loved every minute of my time at Crusaders and I’m made up to sign a new contract,” said Johnson, who missed most of the 2019 season through injury.
“The club is in a really good place at the minute and we’ll learn a lot from the experience of the play-offs.
“The squad is relatively young and all the lads here are really hungry for success. I’ve played in this league for a long time and, if there’s any advice and guidance I can pass on, I will.
“We’ve had some great ups and a few downs along the way, but it’s been fantastic to play for this club and I can’t wait for 2022.”
BARROW RAIDERS have added more Super League experience to their Championship squad with the re-signing of winger Ryan Shaw and the acquisition of Scotland international Sam Brooks.
Shaw, who joined the club ahead of the 2021 season, had an injury-interrupted season making just nine appearances for the Raiders since his move from Leigh Centurions. In that time though he scored two tries and 28 goals.
The new deal will keep the former Bradford Bulls, Swinton Lions and Hull Kingston Rovers star at the club until at least the end of the 2023 season.
28-year-old Brooks graduated through the Wigan Warriors academy and has since gained Championship experience with Halifax, Rochdale Hornets, Whitehaven, Widnes Vikings, Bradford Bulls, Featherstone Rovers, Leigh Centurions and Swinton Lions. He has also represented Scotland on five occasions.
“Ryan brought a wealth of Super League experience when he signed,” said Raiders coach Paul Crarey.
“He proved his value with his nerveless touchline conversion at Rochdale to pick up the win, which ultimately helped us go on and win the league at home against West Wales.
“Ryan has now moved back to live and work in the area and is fully committed to improving the team.
“Sam is a ball playing front rower, so will fit comfortably in with our systems.
“He comes with a wealth of experience having played at the highest level, including Super League with his time at Widnes. He has been a stand-out forward in the Championship for several years now and will add size and experience.
“I look forward to working with them both.”
Local product Jake Carter has also re-signed for the club on a two-year deal.
HUNSLET coach Alan Kilshaw has continued to stamp his mark on the squad with three new recruits and as well as re-signing Frazer Morris.
Incoming are former Bradford Bulls front rower Ethan O’Hanlon, Dom Horn, who has signed from Batley Bulldogs, and Huddersfield Giant academy graduate Jacob Beer.
“I am really glad to be working with Frazer again and I feel a settled pre-season will only enhance his game and experience at Hunslet,” said Kilshaw.
“He did fantastically well for us coming in last season and showed how much we missed him in the play-off semi when he was unavailable.
“He runs hard and tackles hard and gets through a load of work, he is also smart around the ruck in both offence and defence.
“Ethan was on my radar as soon as I saw his performances on loan with North Wales Crusaders last season.
“He ramps up and carries the ball really strong, and has proved he can mix it at this level in the front row.
“He had a number of clubs chasing his signature so his commitment to us is a real shot in the arm for us.
“Dom has a great attitude and having been at some good clubs it’s now time for him to nail down a place as a regular starter and a senior player with Hunslet. He has all the attributes and is physically a good size. I’m confident he can really progress with us.
“At a young age, Jacob is still very raw, but he has some really good qualities in his game and he also possesses the personal attributes we look for in a player.
“I’m confident Jacob can adapt to League 1 and be a solid performer for us. He’s another local lad he will bring enthusiasm and pride to the Hunslet jersey.”
DONCASTER chief executive Carl Hall believes missing out on promotion could have cost the club more than just a spot in the Championship next season.
The South Yorkshire outfit went down 36-12 to Workington in the play-off final earlier this month, and a number of players from that day have since announced their departure from the club in order to test themselves at a higher level.
Captain Brad Foster has penned a deal with London Broncos, while loanees Jake Sweeting and Ollie Greensmith, along with Ross Peltier and Matty Beharrell have all signed for Dewsbury Rams.
“We wish all of the lads that have been confirmed to be leaving so far all the best, and we respect their ambition to play at a higher level,” said Hall.
“I remain confident that if we had won promotion, then the majority of the squad would have agreed new deals and made us a real force.
“There will be more departures in the coming weeks which shows the standard of the squad myself and Richard Horne managed to put together for last season.
“The focus for us now is on recruitment and retaining the players who want to be here. That work is well underway and we are looking forward to bringing you more positive news when those signatures are secured.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS chief executive Peter Tiffin has said his ideal new head coach could offer a bit of everything that his predecessors have brought to the club.
The process of finding Aaron Wood’s replacement is still ongoing, but whoever does get the job will have former Wigan Warriors player and Wales international Ben Flower as their assistant.
“If you forget about the 2020 covid-hit season, next year will be our fourth season in the professional leagues and this will be our fourth coach,” said Tiffin.
“Each time we’ve gone for something different. First of all we had Jon Ellis, who had taken us through the amateur leagues and did a lot to develop the game in Wales. We gave him the opportunity to step up, but it was a bit too much for him.
“Kim then came over as a big name, who was renowned and had done the job in Australia. He was looking for a new challenge in the UK. Then we had Aaron, who had just finished playing and had been doing some coaching in France, but perhaps this was a step too soon in his career.
“We have looked at every coach we’ve had so far and what bits we’d would like to take from all of them. We have some different options and now we just have to decide what is the best way forward.
“Our ambitions haven’t changed. We still want to grow as a club and be much better and way more competitive again so we need a coach who agrees with that that and wants to work with club to grow it further.”
COVENTRY BEARS coach Richard Squires has every faith that owner Alan Robinson will successfully steer the club through these tough financial times.
Robinson has previously voiced his fears that the huge funding cuts that will hit League 1 could have seen his club struggle to survive, but after a number of positive meetings, things could be looking up for the Bears.
“If there is anyone you want to be in this fight with it’s Alan,” said Squires.
“He dedicates 24-hours a day to it because that’s how much the club means to him. It’s been tough for him with not knowing where we’re at, but we’ve not dwelled on it.
“Some clubs are looking at the situation in a negative way, but Alan has put a different spin on things and is thinking that we’ve got nothing to lose now so let’s just jump in and see what we can do.
“Alan is definitely the man you want to go and sort things out because he is dedicated to the cause.”
LONDON SKOLARS chairman Adrian Fraine is hoping that a bigger prize at the end of the coming season, could encourage some members of his squad to pull on their boots for another season.
With significant funding cuts set to take place across the whole league, many players could be faced with deciding if representing their country is worth more than the money on offer.
“It was a shame for the game that the World Cup was cancelled this year, but it could certainly be an incentive for some people to carry playing in 2022,” said Fraine.
“The salaries that have been paid to players in the past probably aren’t sustainable now, so it will be a case of working through with them if they still want to play on reduced term. Let’s face it, no one ever wants to get their pay reduced – that’s never an attractive proposition at anytime.
“But some of those international games will get huge crowds and it would be a great experience for some of those lads to be a part of. I would think that would definitely be a big incentive for few boys to get bashed up again.”
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