KEIGHLEY COUGARS coach Rhys Lovegrove has said that although the club missed out on their biggest aim of earning promotion in 2021, they were still successful in two of their other major goals.
“We wanted to be a competitive team with our own brand of rugby as well as continuing to develop youth,” said Lovegrove.
“When you look at those goals, we saw two of our players nominated for Young Player of the Year Award, with one of them winning it. We also managed to create an exciting brand of rugby and that was exemplified in the play-offs, especially the games against Workington and Doncaster, which were arguably some of the more exciting games of Rugby League played this year – so that was another objective ticked.
“But we didn’t achieve the big one at the end, which was to get promoted. We’re not far off and we have a great group of players here.
“As well as bringing in a couple of new faces for the new season, I also want to bring through the next group of young players. It is still a target for us to continue to develop players and give them the environment needed to come through and kick on with their careers.
That recruitment has started with the signings of Leeds Rhinos academy product Harvey Spence and former Warrington Wolves academy star Myles Tate.
Half-back Spence, who spent 2021 with Featherstone Rovers and on loan at Oldham, has signed a two-year deal with the Cougars, while 19-year-old prop Tate will link back up with former Wolves coach Andrew Henderson.
Another prop, Matthew Bailey has signed a new one-year deal with Keighley taking him into his 10th season with the club. In that time Bailey has scored 13 tries in 144 appearances.
Veteran Jake Webster, 38, has also signed a new deal that will take him into his 23rd season as a professional.
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS chief executive Andy Moulsdale is confident that the move to the ZipWorld Stadium in Colwyn Bay can be an even bigger success next year.
The move to the north coast from Wrexham was announced in April, as Queensway Stadium in Wrexham did not meet the necessary Covid-19 regulations required for when fans were allowed back in.
“In a way our hands were forced when it came to making the move, but going to Colwyn Bay has been really good for us,” said Moulsdale
“We couldn’t have dreamt it would have gone so well at the start of the season.
It was almost a catch-22 situation for us. Results and performances picked up because we were playing an outstanding facility and those performances saw the crowds grow and the Wrexham fan base stayed with us, and kept travelling, because of what we were producing on the pitch.
“It is still a work in progress though. It was at quite short notice that we had to move there so maybe we didn’t do as much promotion and marketing in the area as we would have liked. So it is encouraging that we still have a lot to go at and a few months to really get all that in place and hopefully build the crowd even more.
“Having both the League 1 Player and Coach of the Year at the club is commercially very good for us. For many in Colwyn Bay this was their first taste of Rugby League and they saw success. We won all the league games we had a crowd in, and the two play-off games that we lost, were still both very entertaining games.
“We’ve made a good impression on people in Colwyn Bay, the council there have been really good with us and there is plenty in place to keep building on that next year.”
Building on the field has also continued with three old faces agreeing to new deals at the club.
Kieran Sherratt, who featured for the Crusaders in 2020 before the season was cut short, has returned for a second spell.
Having scored twice in three appearances in 2020 the 25-year-old returned Coventry Bears, and had another strong season with them this year. But he has now opted to link back up with coach Anthony Murray.
Halfback Brad Billsborough and prop Brad Brennan have also signed new deals to remain at the ZipWorld Stadium.
WEST WALES RAIDERS chief executive Peter Tiffin has revealed that the club hope to be able to name their new head coach and more assistants within days.
The vacancy came up when it was decided not to renew Aaron Wood’s contract when the season came to a close.
Former Wigan Warriors forward and Welsh international Ben Flower has already joined the Raiders as an assistant coach and has been a part of the process to find the right candidates to make up the rest of the coaching team.
“We sat down with Ben last week and went through everyone that has applied and the range of interest has been massive,” said Tiffin.
“We’ve had people from Fiji, Australia and Serbia apply as well as the UK so it took a while to go through everyone.
“We’re looking for more of a coaching team that can all work together so that’s why it was important to get Ben involved in the process as he’ll be working with whoever we bring in.
“There is still a little bit to do but we do think we have found the right team to take us forward, and hopefully we can announce that this week.
“The assistant coach will probably be a bit of an unknown to people, but the head coach will hopefully be someone most people in Wales will know of and will see someone that has been involved in he game previously come back into it.”
HUNSLET‘s rebuilding project under head coach Alan Kilshaw continues to gather momentum, with yet more new faces arriving at the South Leeds Stadium.
Loose forward Jordan Syme has joined from League 1 rivals Rochdale Hornets, while 20-year-old Cam Berry has made the move from Championship side Bradford Bulls.
24-year-old Syme scored four tries in 16 appearance for the Hornets in 2021 and had a previous loan spell at Rochdale in 2018 while Kilshaw was coach there.
Hooker Berry is ready for a new challenge after leaving the former Super League Champions and feels Hunslet is the best place to further develop his game.
“Having coached Jordan previously I know what an honest performer he has been at Championship level in the past,” said Kilshaw.
“He has a good passing game and running game and he’s a smart Rugby League player.
“He has played back-row, centre and stand-off in the past but I’m wanting him to hold down the 13 shirt.
“Cam is a very talented number 9 and is more than ready for an opportunity in Betfred League 1. He is lively around the ruck and quick off any fast play-the-balls – and he is also a 40 tackles per game man.
“A lot of interest was being shown in him by other clubs and I’m made up that he has chosen to come to Hunslet.”
Elsewhere Joe Summers, who joined the club on loan from Featherstone Rovers shortly after appearing for them in the 1895 Cup Final at Wembley, has agreed a new one-year deal to remain a member of Kilshaw’s squad, as will captain and forward Duane Straugheir.
“We can all see Joe’s attributes, and what he brings to the side,” added Kilshaw.
“He has already proved what a handful he can be on an edge and I’m hoping that he has a good run, with no injuries, so he can show exactly what he can do.
“I’m expecting him to be a regular starter next season and I’m delighted that Joe has chosen to come to us on a permanent basis.
“Retaining Duane was a key factor within this window. We have lot of younger lads and his experience will be vital for the group. He leads with is actions and he is also a very good communicator.
“He has shown loyalty and commitment to the club, despite a reduced budget and pay cuts, and that should be applauded.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS‘ latest re-signings typify what the club stands for, according to chairman Andy Mazey.
Academy graduates Ben Forster and Dan Nixon were handed first team opportunities earlier this year and have been rewarded for a number of impressive performances with new deals at Spotland.
“These are two kids that Matt (Calland – head coach) has brought through the Academy at Hopwood Hall College that we were able to give opportunities to this year,” said Mazey.
“Ben played eleven games and Dan played ten and keeping them on board is very much within the theme of what we are looking to do here.
“They are local lads and we want to give local lads an opportunity.
“Matt, myself and the club are all about that now. We want to see Rochdale lads in Rochdale shirts and when we do bring other players in, they are brought in to compliment these lads and that philosophy. And those younger lads can also then learn from guys like Gregg McNally.”
OLDHAM have added some youth to their ranks with the signing of two Super League academy graduates.
Former junior England international swimmer Tom Grierson has spent the last four years with Huddersfield Giants after giving up life in the pool. Prop David Mills has joined from Warrington Wolves and, despite being a Littleborough lad, is almost classed as another local talent in Stuart Littler’s squad after spending much of his key development time at Oldham St Annes.
“Tom comes to us as a natural athlete,” said coach Littler.
“He’s a big boy and he’ll provide us with punch on our edges
“Davis is a big lad as well and I’m glad to say we are getting some good, young local lads together. That’s got to be good.
“He’s got some ‘whack’ about him and he plays with aggression.”
The club have also signed welsh centre Calvin Wellington from Workington Town.
“Calvin is an exciting signing and I’m looking forward to working with him. Things are looking good as far as our squad-building exercise is going.
“We’ve reached double figures in terms of signings so we are getting there and I’m happy with where we’re going and Chris is working really hard behind the scenes with agents, other clubs and players.”
Elsewhere the club have condemned the actions of former player Daniel Igbinedion, who has recently been found guilty of assault and coercive behaviour, involving a girlfriend.
In many media reports of the case, Igbinedion was described as on Oldham player, but the club have distanced themselves from the prop forward, who joined the club ahead of the 2020 season.
A club statement read: “The offence occurred a considerable length of time before he signed for Oldham and was subsequently released after playing in only three friendlies and one league game.
“Oldham RLFC does not condone domestic violence in any way, shape or form and had we been aware of the offence we would never have signed him in the first place.”
SWINTON LIONS have brought home one of their own by signing Jack Spencer from Oldham.
The Swinton born 30-year-old’s career has spanned spells at Salford Red Devils, Wests Tigers, Barrow and Halifax before spending the last six seasons with the Roughyeds.
Also joining the club is young Widnes half-back Lewis Else, who has come up through the Vikings’ and made his first team debut for them in 2019. He was also impressive when the
“It’s great to get Jack on board at the Lions” said head coach Allan Coleman.
“He’s someone who the club has been interested in for a number of years and it’s good to finally get his signature.
“His experience will be massive for us as a club, on top of which he’s a Swinton lad.
“Jack is a tough middle who will help lead our young squad next season.
“Lewis is a very talented young half-back and he is definitely one to watch. I am really looking forward to seeing him lead this team around the park, as there’s no doubt that he is a very exciting player who will go far in the game.”
As well as new recruits, the club’s Young Player of the Year Louis Brogan has been further rewarded for a number of impressive performances with a new deal, while Deane Meadows, Paddy Jones and Billy Brickhill have also put pen to paper on new contracts ahead of the new season.
As well as changes on the field, there have also been additions off it with Coleman strengthening the club’s coaching and backroom team.
Former Wigan Warriors back rower Connor Farrell has been appointed as assistant coach, while Thomas Wood, currently the head coach at Leigh Miners Rangers, and performance analyst Daniel Bamber have also joined the coaching team.
These new recruits provide ample cover for Chris Wharton, who has left the club in order to pursue a career elsewhere in the game.
They my have missed out on promotion in the final game of the season, but DONCASTER chief executive Carl Hall has labelled 2021 as one of the best seasons he can remember at the club.
That’s not just down to what they achieved on the field, it’s more to do with the spirit present at the club – something Hall is keen to keep in place, despite a number of players already moving on.
“The boys have done magnificently and I’m really proud of them,” Hall told BBC Radio Sheffield.
“I was just gutted for the boys. They were in tears after the Workington game and that just showed how much this club meant to them. That told me everything when I saw a few of them like that.
“This has been one of the best years we’ve had at the club – the togetherness, what everyone’s been through, some players have been out with Covid and others have had to jump in.
“The one thing we’ve been this year is a team. There’s been no real stand-out individuals, we’re a team across the board, and that’s a massive credit to Richard Horne (head coach) and Chris Plume (assistant coach) and all the backroom team.
“I’ve been around quite a while and in some good clubs and good environments but I’ve never seen anything like the environment we’re in now.
“It’s really hard to get that and we don’t want to lose it. Any players that come in will have to buy into that culture. The coach knows what he wants and we do a lot of background checks on players to make sure they fit the club because if you can get that togetherness it goes a long way to getting you success.”
COVENTRY BEARS coach Richard Squires has revealed that a number of players have recently left the club as uncertainty over next year’s finances continues to go unanswered.
Half back Dan Coates’ move to London Broncos has already been confirmed, as has Kieran Sharratt’s return to North Wales Crusaders, but Kadeem Williams, Chris Cullimore and Jed Charlton have also left the Bears to take up offers from other clubs that can currently offer them a bit more certainty than Coventry can at the minute.
While sorry to lose these five players, Squires does not hold any grudges and understands that players have to do what is best for themselves and their family.
“There is still no answers for us just yet and we have lost a few guys because of that,” said Squires.
“They have decided to move on because we have not been able to offer them that security. They wanted to know what they were doing next year and what contract they were going to be on because of having young families and such like.
“We have not stood in anyone’s way if they’ve been able to get something elsewhere and we wish them all the best.”
It hasn’t been the easiest ride for the LONDON SKOLARS board over the last couple of years, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be sticking around.
A major reshuffle happened just as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold when Hector McNeil and Terry Browne both stood down. Director of operations Colin Browne stepped into the role of chief executive, while director Adrian Fraine took over as chairman.
Having already had to negotiate the season that never was in 2020, and the challenges that brought, they now have to navigate through the difficulties associated with a major cut in central funding from the RFL.
“We’ve had a few bumps in the road but Rugby League has been facing challenges since 1895 and it’s still here,” said Fraine.
“We’ve hung around at the club for a while through various other pressures and we hope to be around for a bit longer yet.”
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