HUNSLET coach Alan Kilshaw is hoping his new squad of players can form a strong base for the club for many years to come.
The former Rochdale coach has handed an opportunity to a lot of young local players for 2022, whilst also retaining a number of more experienced heads. And he hopes that will be the perfect recipe for success this season.
“When I first came in and I spoke to the club about moving forward and the budget cuts, we put a plan together and I’m delighted with what we have recruited based on that,” said Kilshaw.
“We’ve got a really good balance to the squad and I’m really pleased with how we’re developing.
“We’ve gone for some younger guys but there are some great players in there who have all come through great systems. We wanted to give some of these local lads a chance and an opportunity at this level and with guys like Jason Mossop, Wayne Reittie and Duane Straugheir in there as well it gives us a really good balance.
“One compliments the other as well. The more experienced lads are helping and mentoring the younger lads, but the younger lads are also pushing the older ones in training.
“It would be great if we could keep some of these 19 and 20 year-olds for a while and progress them as players as well as the club progressing through the divisions with them. At this age they are going to improve year in year out both in physicality and how they play.
“The longer term aim is rather than just having them for one or two seasons, it would be good to have some stability going forward and then build on that consistency.
“These signings were made with that in mind.”
OLDHAM have taken their 2022 squad up to 24 players with the signings of experienced forward duo Emmerson Whittle and James Thornton as well as beating competition from elsewhere for young St Helens prop Jamie Pye – the son of former Roughyed player David.
Whittle returns to the club following a spell living and playing in Australia, while Thornton joins from Dewsbury Rams but has previously also featured for Hemel Stags, Featherstone Rovers, Sheffield Eagles and North Wales Crusaders.
Whittle scored four tries in 24 appearances during Oldham’s promotion winning season in 2019 but rejected the chance to play in the Championship, opting instead to take up an opportunity with Rockingham Sharks in Perth. He later joined Cairns Brothers in North Queensland but arrived back in this country last month. And while he is still looking for a new job, his rugby future is secured with the Roughyeds.
“Emmerson’s work rate made him a stand-out player in the promotion year,” said coach Stuart Littler.
“He was tough, aggressive and he’ll take us forward as a team. He’s been playing at a very good standard in Australia, so his game will probably have developed a bit too in the last two years.
“He’s another who is coming for the right reasons. He shares our vision for the club and what we are trying to do and I’m really looking forward to working with him.
“James is another experienced forward who knows what the Championship and League 1 are all about.
“Jamie is a big lad with loads of promise. He’s been involved in top systems at Saints for several years and he won England honours.
“We faced a lot of competition to get him, but he chose to come to us. He’s been training at Bradford, but he’s seen what’s going on at Oldham. Perhaps we are a different proposition than we were two months ago and Jamie wants to be part of it.
“The club deserves massive credit for what we’ve done so far. From a standing start, we are now at the stage where we can talk about shirt-challenging and competition for places.
“I’m really excited about the squad we’ve put together so far.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray has said plans are in place to give his players the best possible preparation for the new season, despite the potential of having a two-month gap between their first competitive game and their second.
League 1 clubs enter the Betfred Challenge Cup in the second round, which will be played on the weekend of January 30th, with the next three rounds played on alternate weekends before the League campaign kicks-off at the end of March.
A good cup run therefore gives teams plenty of game time ahead of the new League 1 season, but an early exit could leave sides short on match experience.
“It’s a bit of a strange situation,” admitted Murray.
“But we have a couple of friendlies lined up for January before the Challenge Cup gets underway and then hopefully we’ll be in a couple of the early rounds and we can almost use them as some warm up games too.
“We also then have something pencilled in with another club for a friendly in March for before the league season kicks off.
“That all means we should have some games running into each month to try and cope with having the first game in January and then potentially having nothing then until the end of March.
“Those games we have pencilled in should allow us to gradually build ourselves up and be ready for the start of the League games.”
Elsewhere the club have announced the signing of Reece Briers, son of former Wales international and Super League star Lee Briers.
The young halfback came through the system at Warrington Wolves, the club where his father enjoyed a 17-year career, and has featured in the Academy side for the last couple of seasons. But he is now ready to gain some experience at senior level.
“I can’t wait and I’m really looking forward to the experience of playing against men,” said Briers.
“I want to earn the respect of my team mates and hopefully get as much experience as I can. For me, it’s going to be about working hard and aiming to get my way into the team.
“Working hard is all I do and I’ll make sure I do that for my team mates, the coaching staff and the club.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS have finalised their squad for 2022 after adding three names to the roster last week.
One of those is a new recruit in Newcastle Thunder Academy graduate Anthony Dyne, while both Spencer Darley and Aiden Scully have re-signed with the club.
Winger Dyne, who joins following a spell with Montpellier Sharks in France, is coach Rhys Lovegrove’s seventh new recruit following the arrivals of Lewis Young, Myles Tate, Harvey Spence, Chris Cullimore, Nathan Roebuck and Anesu Mudoti.
The deal will also see Dyne, who hails from the north east relocate to the town and work within the Cougars Foundation’s school’s programme, while also trying to help the Cougars fulfil their promotion hopes.
“It was clear from speaking with Rhys Lovegrove and Andrew Henderson that the club had high expectations of success for the season with promotion to the Championship, and I wanted to be a part of that,” said Dyne.
“After playing most of my Rugby League at Newcastle Thunder and Northumbria University, I am looking forward to starting a new challenge and a new chapter in my career down at Cougar Park.
“It’s a very exciting time to be involved with the club as the players, coaches, and staff behind the scenes are all of the highest quality.
“I am looking forward to being a part of the squad and doing whatever I can to help us reach our goal of promotion.”
Both Darley and Scully will be hoping to finally make their mark on the side after finding opportunities limited recently.
Darley initially joined the club on loan in 2019 and impressed Lovegrove enough to earn a permanent deal for the following season. With the pandemic wiping out most of 2020, 2021 was also disrupted for Darley as he had to step back for periods to protect his partner and now new-born son from the virus.
Scully made his debut for the club with a single appearance in July 2017 but personal issues and the club’s financial difficulties saw him take some time away from the game the following year.
Following a spell with Stanningley in the NCL, Scully returned to Cougar Park, initially on trial, ahead of 2021 and earned himself a fresh deal.
And four years on from his debut, he took to the field for his second appearance for the club in June’s home victory over London Skolars at Cougar Park.
ROCHDALE HORNETS will have some real experience in their ranks this season after both hooker Sean Penkywicz and forward Fuifui Moimoi re-signed for the club.
Penkywicz will turn 40-years-old in May, while Moimoi is 42, but head coach Matt Calland still believes they both have a role to play at the club.
“Sean has agreed to do one more year with us, which is brilliant because his experience is invaluable in this division,” said Calland who worked with Penkywicz at Halifax and then made him captain on his arrival at the Hornets.
“He is a proven match-winner and a great person to have around the club so we’re hoping we can look after him a bit better than last year.
“Fui is great to have around and is a larger-than-life character defying all odds by playing at his age.
“He was one of our best performers last season giving us real impact off the bench. He leads from the front and doesn’t say too much but he certainly leads with his actions he’s really enjoying his rugby at Rochdale and that shows in his performances.”
At the opposite end of the age scale is Fin Stewart, who has also signed for the club ahead of the new season.
The young winger has joined from Huddersfield Giants’ Academy side and will be looking to make his mark in the senior ranks in 2022.
The double signing of Penkywicz and Stewart takes Calland’s confirmed squad to 23, which includes the likes of Rangi Chase, Gregg McNally, Gavin Bennion and Joe Taira.
DONCASTER have brought Jack Sanderson back to the club on a permanent deal ahead of the 2022 season.
The 23-year-old outside back spent much of the 2018 season at the Keepmoat Stadium while on loan from Super League side Hull FC and hit a rich vein of form, scoring 12 tries in 21 games.
Following his time with the Black and Whites, Sanderson enjoyed a season as Castleford Tigers and then spent 2021 in the Championship with Bradford Bulls.
“When the option came up to come back to Doncaster it felt like a really good fit at this stage of my career,” said Sanderson, who is looking forward to renewing old relationships with the move.
“When I was here on loan a couple of years ago that was probably my best and most consistent period of my career so I want to get back to those levels.
“From my time here before, I was treated really well and I’ve got a good relationship with Richard Horne and Carl Hall.
“I’ve grown up a lot as a person and a player, and I’ve learnt a lot over the past year or two which will stand me in good stead.”
Sanderson is the fourth new recruit to arrive at Doncaster following the signings of Connor Robinson (Halifax), Greg Burns (Sheffield) and Leon Ruan (Wakefield),while Misi Taulapapa has become the latest member of last year’s squad to re-sign for the club.
Elsewhere the club have confirmed they will face Castleford Tigers in a pre-season game at the Keepmoat Stadium on Sunday, January 23.
MIDLANDS HURRICANES have added more League 1 experience to their ranks by signing AJ Boardman from Hunslet.
The 32-year-old came through the ranks at Dewsbury Moor but had a spell out of the game in his teens, when he switched his focus to Mountain Biking. It was in that sport that he represented his country at two World Cups, but having never lost his passion for Rugby League, he later returned and has spent the last two seasons with the South Leeds club.
He is a a player Hurricanes coach Richard Squires knows a lot about, so he is excited about what the latest acquisition will add to the side.
“I’ve known AJ for a number of years through being involved at the same amateur club and I have always known his ability,” said Squires.
“AJ is an honest and hard-working individual and realises he still has a lot to learn, but his willingness and eagerness to be better and improve himself means he will be a valuable asset for us in a range of positions.
“He is another individual that prides himself on being aggressive in defence and doesn’t miss one on one opportunities. I’m looking forward to seeing how he progresses this year and proving to people he is more than capable at competing at this level.”
LONDON SKOLARS have handed a first-team opportunity to London Broncos Academy graduate Alex Deery.
The 19-year-old former Skolars junior can operate at fullback as well as his preferred half-back position and is looking forward to the challenge of stepping into the semi-professional ranks for the first time.
“I am really excited for my next Rugby League chapter with London Skolars,” said Deery.
“As a young player, I am looking forward to challenging myself in League 1 and hope to gain lots of knowledge that will aid my development.”
Another player taking his first step on the professional ladder with the Skolars is Northumbria University product Connor Flanagan, who has signed a one-year deal with the club.
Able to operate in several positions including fullback, centre and winger, Flanagan will offer versatility to head coach Joe Mbu.
Fullback Richard Wilkinson has also re-signed for the club taking him into his third full season with them.
WEST WALES RAIDERS have made last season’s co-vice captain Joe Burke their first confirmed face for 2022.
Burke returned to the club last season after taking some time out of the game to set up his own business and went on to make 16 appearances.
While it was another tough year on the field for the Raiders, Burke is confident better things could come this time round.
“I’m pleased to re-sign with the Raiders,” said the former Oldham forward.
“There were many positives from last season that I’m looking forward to building upon both on and off the field.
“There are many talented players here in Wales and with the right coaching staff and experienced senior players we hope to reward the loyal fans with the results they deserve.
CORNWALL will start announcing members of their inaugural squad this week, according to commercial director Rob Butland.
The new side have joined League 1 ahead of the upcoming season and look set to have a mixture of recognisable and new faces take to the field for their opening game against North Wales Crusaders on Saturday, April 2.
“It’s only been a month since we launched and we have been working all day everyday since doing what we need to do,” said Butland.
“We’re making really good progress and we’re currently talking to a lot of people and we’ll start making some announcements very soon.
“We’ve been getting as much interest from established players as any other club. We’re a good option for players to come, play in a good league and come and live in a really lovely part of the world.
“We’ve had plenty of interest from players down here and they have signed up for the trials. They believe they are good enough to come to us so it will be exciting to see what’s there.”
SWINTON LIONS coach Allan Coleman has said he is perfectly happy with the squad he has assembled for the upcoming season and can see no reason yet for adding anyone else to it.
The signing of Lewis Charnock last month took Coleman’s squad to 25 players, and while he knows there would be room to bring in further players, he currently has no plans to do that.
“The main thing for us was to get the squad done early and getting everyone on board we wanted to before it became a bit of a rat race of everyone trying to get signatures,” said Coleman.
“We were able to do that so were really happy to get it done nice and early.
“The club have been brilliant and asked me what I needed and who I wanted. I feel like I have covered all areas and we’re strong with competition for every position.
“I know the club would back me if I asked for someone else to come in, but at the moment I am confident that what we have got will be enough to do the job this season.
“25 is quite a high number when you can only pick 17 each week. I know we’ll pick up injuries and people will get knocks and others will be unavailable, but I’m quietly confident that even if I lost three or four players one week that I would have plenty of strength in depth that would cover that and still leave us relatively strong.”
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