Betfred League 1 news round up

NORTH WALES CRUSADERS made a big splash on their 10th anniversary by announcing new deals for both head coach Anthony Murray and all time leading try scorer Rob Massam.
Thursday marked exactly ten years since the club were accepted into League 1 by the RFL, and what better way to celebrate than by sharing news of the double retention.
Murray first joined the club in 2014 and led them to the League 1 play-offs and iPro Sport Cup success in 2015 before leaving for Gloucestershire All Golds at the end of 2016. He returned to the club in 2018 and has been in charge ever since.
Massam has been with the cub since day one and has scored 140 tries in 152 appearance.
The duo were named as League 1 Coach and Player of the Year at the end of the most recent season.
“10 years for the club have absolutely flown by and I’m so proud to be associated with North Wales,” said Murray.
“We’re a club that are always striving to succeed and, no matter what obstacles are thrown in our way, we don’t let them hamper us.
“We finished third last season and our aim now has to be to cement a regular spot in those play-offs. That’s always been my aim since I returned as head coach and we just need to make sure we continue working hard together to achieve it.
“For us to keep hold of the League 1 Player of the Year as well shows we’re doing something right.
“I know how much he enjoys, and wants, to play for North Wales and he’s now got so much experience at this level.
“He’s a really good professional and is the type of player we need to keep at North Wales.”
The club have also brought another St Helens academy graduate into their ranks by signing hooker Paul Nash from newly-relegated Swinton Lions.
21-year-old Nash, who has represented England Youth in the past, joins fellow former Saints juniors Callum Hazzard, Brad Billsborough, Ben Morris and Alex Eckley at the club.
It has also been announced that the club will remain at the ZipWorld Stadium for two-years after signing a new agreement with Conwy County Borough Council following the successful move to the area in 2021.

KEIGHLEY COUGARS have re-signed their former hooker Chris Cullimore from Midlands Hurricanes – formerly Coventry Bears.
It will be the 28-year-old’s third spell at Cougar Park having originally signed for the club in 2016 as a member of the Reserves team before heading to Oxford on loan and making his professional debut as he gained first team experience. His performances in that loan spell earned him a contract with Halifax, but after 18-months at the Shay, Cullimore returned to Keighley, initially on loan, midway through the 2018 season. He joined Coventry in 2020 and played 19 times for them.
“When the opportunity of rejoining the club came about, I jumped at it,” said Cullimore.
“The club is fantastic, and Rhys (Lovegrove – coach) plays a great style of rugby.
“In my time away from the club I feel I have progressed within some areas of my game and I’m looking forward to applying this with the talented team that Rhys has already put together.
“Continuing my development alongside the competitive challenge for playing positions was a big factor in my decision to rejoin the club, as well as the great people involved with the club and their aspirations for the team which is something I am excited to be a part of.
“I’m looking forward to what will be a huge season for the club both on and off the field in their push for promotion.”
Meanwhile the Stephenson name will live on for a little bit longer at Keighley Cougars after third generation player Alix signed a new deal with the club.
Following in the footsteps of his grandfather John, father Andy, and uncle Phil, Alix joined the club from Bradford Bulls ahead of the 2021 season. But his time with the club got off to the worst possible start when he suffered a broken leg in a pre-season game against the Bulls.
That put him out of action until August and he then went on to make six appearances, scoring one try – a memorable solo effort in a comeback win against North Wales Crusaders which secured a play-off spot for the Cougar Park outfit.

ROCHDALE HORNETS chairman Andy Mazey has said that he and head coach Matt Calland have always been on the same page when it comes to recruitment and retention for the new season.
Former Rochdale Mayfield duo Lewis Sheridan and Jimmy Connaughton are the latest member of Calland’s squad to put pen to paper on a new deal for 2022.
For Mazey, the process of getting a squad in place has been relatively straightforward.
“I always try to look for the positive in a situation and the one bonus of us not finishing in the play-off places is that we knew where we were early doors,” said Mazey.
“We were able to go out and act quickly then whereas the other teams who did make the play-offs still had things riding on the season.
“We are disappointed that we didn’t make the play-offs but it meant we could sit down with Matt an analyse what was going on, what we wanted to do, who we wanted to retain and who we wanted to bring in.
“We’ve done that nice and early and we’ve done pretty well in the context of where the game is right now.
“As part of an ongoing process you always look at what you’re doing right, what you’re not doing quite right and you have to look in the mirror as well. Regardless of the injuries and Covid we had during the year, we didn’t achieve what we wanted to achieve. It was fairly easy for Matt and I to agree on what we needed to do.
“So we had to be pretty honest and ruthless about how we looked ahead and we are making tweaks across the board.
“It’s always good to be able to map out where we go and hopefully we’re building for the future now.”

MIDLANDS HURRICANES have announced that Richard Squires will remain at the helm of the new club as head coach.
Squires led Coventry Bears eighth-place finish last year, in what was arguably their most successful season in the league so far and he admits it was also his intention to stay loyal to the club that gave his his first shot at being a head coach.
“Alan and the club showed faith in me to give me this opportunity and I was always wanting to repay that loyalty by staying,” said Squires, whose team will return to pre-season action action at York on Friday, January 7.
“There was a moment where I sat and wondered if I should have taken something else, and I could quite easily have jumped ship.
“But I am quite happy to stay loyal to Alan and the club and stay where I am.
“Speaking with the owners, the vision they have for the club and where they want to take it is something I couldn’t turn down and it was an easy decision when offered the opportunity.”
Squires has quickly started to get players tied down too, with Matty and Liam Welham, Peter Ryan and Haydn Freeman all signing new deals. While Ben Stead, who was with the club in 2018, has rejoined from Keighley Cougars.
The club have also confirmed that they will play their 2022 home matches at Birmingham & Solihull Bees RFC’s Forshaw Heath Lane Ground, in Portway, Birmingham.
The venue, just off the M40, M5 and M6, will also be the club’s training base for the new season. However plans are also underway to secure a longer-term permanent base for 2023 and beyond, and are currently in discussions with the owners of the Alexander Stadium, Perry Barr, Birmingham.

Jamaica International Aaron Jones-Bishop believes signing a new deal with HUNSLET was the best possible way to repay the faith they showed in him earlier this year.
The 31-year-old missed the latter stages of the season and Jamaica’s fixtures against England Knights and Scotland after being found guilty of a biting charge against Rochdale in July and subsequently handed an eight-match ban.
The club defended Jones-Bishop through the whole process, but the ban stood and now he is ready to thank them for that loyalty as Hunslet eye promotion in 2022.
“It was hard to take, but there was nothing anyone could do about it, and it certainly wasn’t for the want of trying on Hunslet’s part,” Said Jones-Bishop.
“So I really wanted to stay loyal to the cause – not that I’d have felt any different, in truth, regardless of my ban. I’ve really enjoyed being at Hunslet, there’s a good crack here, and I love playing at the South Leeds Stadium.
“We’ve been making some good signings and my hope this year is that we go one better than we did last season. If we’d done better in the early weeks of the campaign we may well have finished top of the league and been promoted automatically. So we need to start strongly next year.”
Two new young players Jones-Bishop will be looking to help are prop or loose forward Tre Webster, who turns 17 in January, and second rower Liam Carr.
The duo have joined the club from the academy at Huddersfield Giants and Hull KR respectively.

DONCASTER have made former Halifax scrum half Connor Robinson their first new recruit for 2022.
The 27-year-old, who started his career with home-town club Hull KR in 2014, before separate spells at Halifax either side of a four-season stay with York City Knights.
In helping York secure promotion from League 1 in 2018, Robinson was named Betfred League 1 Player of the Year.
He is now looking forward to the new challenge and is hoping for more success with the South Yorkshire outfit.
“There have been conversations going on for a little while so it’s good to have it all sorted,” said Robinson.
“I’ve got a couple of mates at the club who said I would enjoy it here, and once I knew opportunities at Halifax would be limited I wanted to find a new club.
“Every time I’ve played at the Keepmoat I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve got the desire to be a success at the club.”
The club have also confirmed that centre Sam Smeaton and Zac Braham have both agreed new deals.
Smeaton has penned a new two-year contract, while Braham will stay at the Keepmoat Stadium for another 12-months.

SWINTON LIONS have finalised their initial 25-man squad for the 2022 season with one new recruit and four re-signings.
Arriving at Heywood Road is former St Helens, Barrow and Oldham halfback Lewis Charnock, while Liam Forsyth, Jack Hansen, Jordan Brown and Nick Gregson have all signed new deals with the club.
“Lewis is the last signing for us for next season,” confirmed head coach Allan Coleman.
“He has lots of experience at all levels and will give us plenty of options, Lewis can play half-back, nine, or thirteen which is very rare. He has a good attitude and fits in with our ethos. I’m sure he will be a valuable player for us.”
The re-signing of Forsyth means the club will finally get another chance to see the former Wigan and Leigh centre in action.
Forsyth, who made 12 Super League appearance for the Warriors in 2017 and a further one in an injury hit following season, arrived at the Lions from Leigh ahead of the 2021 season. But after playing just once in the Challenge Cup tie against Newcastle, a leg injury in the following pre-season game against Bradford saw him spend the rest of the year on the sidelines.
“We are so pleased to get Liam signed for next season because he is a Super League player in my eyes,” added Coleman.
“He had an awful time last year with injury and we missed him so much.
“I’m confident that he will be massive for us next year and will be a player that other teams will be worried about.”

OLDHAM‘s newest recruit Ryan Wright is looking forward to playing an important role within the club as he aims to pass on his knowledge to the younger generation.
The 30-year-old hooker or half-back came through the scholarship and academy systems at Leeds Rhinos before a brief spell at Bradford Bulls and some time in the Reserves at Wakefield. He then gained much experience at Championship and League 1 level with Dewsbury Rams, Doncaster, Hunslet and Keighley Cougars.
Now the more experienced player in those pivotal positions, Wright knows he can help shape those younger players starting on on their professional careers after leaving Super League academy set-ups.
“For lads of that age, it’s a tough decision if they have to choose between going on into the reserves or pursuing their careers in a different direction,” said Wright.
“Early in my career I went for the reserves option at Wakefield, but with the benefit of hindsight I would have done better to move to a Championship or League 1 club.
“I’ve had a few clubs and been round the block in the last few years, but that’s what Chris (Hamilton – chairman) and Stuart (Littler – coach) wanted.
“There’s plenty of life left in me yet and I’m switched on by the challenge of another move and by the prospect of doing what’s expected of me.”
The club have also signed former Halifax back Kian Morgan and Underbank prop Dominic Newton, to take their squad up to 20 players.

New LONDON SKOLARS coach Joe Mbu has a very clear idea about what he is looking for in his squad.
The 38-year-old returned to the club earlier this month and got to work straight away on signing the players he wants to be involved with the club in 2022.
Abevia McDonald was the first to re-sign having broken into the first team this year.
“It’s all hands on deck right now to get the squad together and we’re getting there with it,” said Mbu.
“We’re trying to retain as many players as possible to keep that continuity at the club.
“I’m also looking more so for the attitude and application on the pitch – that will be the most important thing I want to see from the boys.
“The rest can be worked on. You can always work on skill and fitness, but attitude is something that, as an individual, that you make a decision on how to apply. So a positive attitude is something we’ll be looking for.”

WEST WALES RAIDERS have added more Welsh flavour to their coaching set-up with the acquisition of former Celtic Crusaders forward Geraint Davies.
The 35-year-old featured in Super League with the Crusaders and links back up with Welsh national squad team mate Ben Flower, as well as former player Gareth Davies.
“I have been out of the game for a while but I am really excited to be back involved,” said Geraint Davies.
“I have been keeping an eye on the Raiders over the years and it’s been a discussion I have had previously, but with Ben and Gareth joining it’s the perfect time for me to come on board especially with knowing Ben so well.”

CORNWALL have confirmed their intention to use a large number of local players where their life in League 1 gets underway with a trip to North Wales Crusaders on Saturday, April 2.
“As part of our clubs’ ‘Cornwall First’ policy, we want to ensure that the bulk of our squad is made up of Cornish athletes,” read a club statement that revealed they will be hosting a trial for Cornish and or Cornwall-based, and South West based athletes in December.
“The club is committed to offering at least 10 paid contracts to Cornish or Cornwall-based athletes for the 2022 season.
“Rugby League is one of the toughest, most exciting sports on the planet. It requires strength, skill, bravery, and athleticism. Cornwall RLFC believe these are qualities Cornish athletes have in abundance.
“Cornwall RLFC want the best athletes in the Duchy representing us in Betfred League 1 next season.”

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