KEIGHLEY COUGARS coach Rhys Lovegrove has said he has the perfect working relationship with Andrew Henderson, who joined the club in October as head of rugby.
The duo have a long standing friendship through the game and Lovegrove knows that is partly why they have worked so well together since Henderson’s arrival.
“I have know Hendo for a long time now and he’s been really good since coming in,” explained Lovegrove.
“I was good friends with Mark Lennon when we played at Hull KR together, and he was friends with Hendo from when they were at Castleford together so I knew him through that, and then I was playing at London Broncos when Hendo got his first coaching job. So we do go back a long way.
“We’ve always kept in touch and there are a lot of similarities in the way we coach so it has been a real asset to have him on board in an official capacity rather than just me texting or giving a mate a call.
“It’s been great to have someone else on board to create a good foundation around the club, not just with the playing group, but also with the ETP and other little plans that can often be difficult for clubs in League 1 to attain. I always felt we had the opportunity to do these thing so to have someone here who can take those projects on and allow me to focus on coaching has been great.
“When it comes to recruitment as well he has a great knowledge of the game and the players in it, so when I say I’m looking for X, Y and Z for the squad, straight away he could say: “have you thought about this kid or that kid” and can then make contact with them.
“It works really well and it helps that we know each other so well. I’ll admit that I am a control freak in regards to the organisation and what I want to achieve, but the good thing is that me and Hendo overlap.
“My attention to details is all about the progression of players on the field and the style of rugby we play. Whereas Hendo is very much a systems and processes guy and his role within the Cougars is very much about setting things up off the field and making sure that organisation kicks over properly and things are done in the right way.
“It’s been quite exciting to be able to expand some of the plans I’ve had and some of the ways I want to teach.
“We know we’re building the foundations and are making sure we get that right and I’m excited to see what can happen.”
HUNSLET coach Alan Kilshaw has said it could prove quite challenging for the club to arrange any further pre-season fixtures ahead of their opening league game against London Skolars on Saturday, March 26.
The club have already announced the return of the annual Harry Jepson OBE Memorial Trophy fixture against Leeds Rhinos after a year away due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The game will take place at the South Leeds Stadium on Sunday, February 6, and could be the only pre-season game Hunslet can manage with the way the leagues and Challenge Cup are structured this year.
“Arranging friendlies this year has been difficult,” admitted Kilshaw.
“The Championship clubs kick off at the end of January, and we probably wouldn’t really be ready for a game before that and then the Challenge Cup gets underway.
“Super League kicks off in early February as well so we wouldn’t really be able to get anything there either so we probably need to have a good cup run to get some games in before the season starts.
“But when we’re limited to just 17 players in those games, it will make it hard to see everyone in action.
“We’ll just need see what happens. There is a chance we could set up some games with some reserve teams and we might even look at getting some of our younger players a game with a reserves or local sides to top them up and give them the game time they need.
“We do have the Leeds game lined up though and we’re very grateful to the Rhinos for once again agreeing to this fixture, especially so close to the start of the Super League season.
“The fixture has a rich history and it’s a privilege to be involved in it. I’m sure all our supporters will welcome its return to our calendar this pre-season.”
Neil Kelly says that he saw CORNWALL as the “perfect opportunity” to return to the game and is going all-in by moving to Truro.
Kelly has been appointed as their first head coach, having made the approach himself after seeing the club formed.
“I reached out to them and contacted them, said I’d be interested in getting involved in a project like yours,” explained Kelly.
“I was looking around for something to do again in rugby. I’m fortunate that I’m qualified in rugby union and rugby league so was looking right across the landscape, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.
“I’ve never been scared to move away from where I live to find work and obviously I’m moving away to go to Cornwall but I’m happy to be doing so and I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”
The first player signed up to the squad is Anthony Mullally, a former Grand Final winner in 2017 with Leeds Rhinos.
The prop has been out of the game since Toronto’s demise and is already based in Cornwall having moved earlier this year to pursue a business opportunity.
Kelly said of the 30-year-old: “He’s a fantastic player, and what a coup for the club being able to attract a player with that sort of pedigree, and who still (has) some oil in the tank.”
OLDHAM are spearheading a movement that it is hoped will see the game grow and prosper at all levels across the town.
The club’s first ‘Partners’ meeting was held last week with representatives from across the local game in attendance. There has not always been harmony among the game across the town, but it is hoped that by working together, the club, Rugby Oldham (Supporters Trust), YEDS (the new Roughyeds Supporters Group), the (Past) Players Association, the Oldham RL Heritage Trust, the Oldham Amateur League and Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council can achieve much more by working together, providing a united front and letting bygones be bygones.
Oldham Council’s chief executive Harry Catherall, was also present at the meeting and Oldham chairman Chris Hamilton believes this to be an indication of the local authority’s interest in playing an active role in the future of the sport in Oldham.
“We were delighted to host the first meeting of the ‘Partners’ Group,” said Hamilton.
“The common denominator is we all want to see Oldham Rugby prosper.
“A thriving professional team is the catalyst for so many things that follow on from that, as reflected in the diversity of the partners.
“It was also encouraging to have with us Oldham Council’s chief executive Harry Catherall, who clearly demonstrated an understanding of the importance of Rugby League to the town of Oldham.”
The group will continue to meet on a regular basis and continue to work together for the benefit of Rugby League at all levels in Oldham, to show pride in the sport, pride in the town and pride in the town’s rugby league heritage and history.
SWINTON LIONS’ Allan Coleman has praised the spirit around the club as he continues to get stuck into his first pre-season as head coach.
The Lions squad returned to training last month with Coleman, who took over from Stuart Littler in August, working with his own ideas and a squad of his own.
“As exciting as last year was, I was working with something that wasn’t quite my own,” Coleman said.
“I enjoyed every second of last year, but this year will be a bit easier now I get to implement my ideas from the start. My coaching team and I have planned everything out how we want to do it.
“I have brought some new faces into my coaching team and I have some new players who I think will be a really good fit for us so it’s exciting times for us at the minute.
“We’re all pulling in the same direction and every player and member of staff have the same goal. We all want to get back to the Championship and as tough as that is going to be, when you all share that same vision it gives you more focus on what you want to achieve.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray is confident that a much more settled pre-season this year will see his side progress even further in 2022.
The Crusaders finished third in the league last season behind promoted Barrow Raiders and Workington Town, but lost both of their play-off games.
That all came in a season affected once again by the Coronavirus pandemic, which Murray hopes will have a lesser impact this year.
“It’s looking like we might get a normal pre-season this year,” said Murray.
“The last one was a bit strange with all the restrictions we had to follow, but hopefully this time around we’ll be able to have what would be classed as a normal pre-season.
“We did really well last year despite all that disruption so I’m hopeful that with everything being much more settled we can go even further this year.
“Everything is positive around the club just now. We have a new deal at stay at the stadium in Colywn Bay and we’ve put a really nice squad together so I know we can be competitive again.
“The aim has always been to be in the play offs and that won’t change.”
DONCASTER have retained some key experience ahead of the new season with Ben Cockayne signing a new deal.
The 38-year-old returned to his first professional club in August and went on to make nine appearances as the Dons reached the League 1 play-off final.
“I enjoyed what we achieved last year and just falling short gave me the motivation to come back and have another bite of the cherry,” said Cockayne.
“The players that have stuck around from last year will remember how it felt to lose in the final, if you can bottle that up and use it in the right way it can be a massive positive to take that next step.”
The club have also signed former Hull KR, Bradford Bulls, Sheffield Eagles and York City Knights forward Dave Petersen and 22-year-old second row or centre Robbie Storey, who featured for Dewsbury Rams last season having started his career at Castleford Tigers.
Former Welsh international Steve Parry will once again run out for WEST WALES RAIDERS after agreeing another new deal with the club.
The 33-year-old stand off or hooker started his career at the South Wales Scorpions before spending four seasons with Gloucestershire All Golds.
He then returned to his roots with the Raiders for their inaugural year in League 1 in 2018 and over the following two season he made 34 appearances, scoring 13 tries.
After not being named as part of the squad for the Covid-hit 2020 season, Parry made a return to the club mid-way through last season and went on to make two more appearances for the club, one of which was the impressive 24-all draw against Doncaster.
That brief spell has made him hungry for more.
“I really enjoyed the games I was involved in at the back end of last season especially the great draw against Doncaster,” said Parry.
“It’s definitely given me the feeling that I want to get back on the pitch with the Raiders and keep helping the team progress.
“The guys have brought in a massively experienced coaching team that should help the team take the next step to being more competitive in League 1 and hopefully towards a lot more wins during the season.
The club have also announced a new deal with Ireland winger Aedan Coleman, who played eight times for the club last season, as well as the signing of former Newcastle Thunder half back Fergus Simpson.
MIDLANDS HURRICANES have announced the next four members of last year’s squad that have committed to the cause again for the new season.
Incoming are former All Golds and West Wales Raiders back Phil Cowburn and up and coming prop Aaron Stephenson, while Will Budd and Elliott Windley, who both made nine first team appearances last season, have signed new deals.
Budget cuts left the club needing to make some big changes and find new investment ahead of the new season, and while that was all confirmed last month, it meant head coach Richard Squires was someway behind other clubs in the league when it came to building his 2022 squad.
“With everything that was going on, we did leave it late to get started on preparing for the new season,” said Squires.
“But having players hang on for positive news and being able to sign them back up pretty quickly when that came has taken some of the stress away.
“Peter Ryan, for example, had three Championship and four League 1 clubs offer him terms, but he knows that this club gave him an opportunity and he wanted to repay that.
“He can also see what direction the club is going in and also knows best chance of being involved in the World Cup with Ireland is to be playing week in week out with a team that’s hopefully competing.
“So he waited for us and that was great to see from him and many others.”
LONDON SKOLARS have confirmed another double re-signing with Leighton Ball and Jerome Yates both agreeing terms for the new League 1 campaign.
21-year-old club product Ball failed to break into the first team last season, while Yates featured on five occasions. It is hoped that under the guidance of head coach Joe Mbu 2022 will be a breakthrough year for both players.
“Leighton has been in and around the first-team set-up for a while and has come through our Junior ranks,” said general manager Charlie de Haan.
“He is working very hard to get more playing time this season.
“We are looking for Jerome to continue his progression and take on a more senior role within Joe’s squad.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS’ longest serving player Ben Moores has not ruled out a future return to the game after confirming he would not be re-signing for the club for the coming season.
Warrington Wolves Academy gradate Moores first signed for the club in 2016 following a stint in Australia with Sarina Crocodiles and has gone on to score 21 tries in 105 appearances.
But with newborn twins at home, the 28-year-old hooker has decided to take a step back from the game to focus on his family and work commitments.
“The birth of my twin boys Arthur and Edward and growing work commitments are my reasons for stepping away from the game,” said Moores
“I won’t call it a retirement as you never know, but for now I’m looking forward to getting stuck into parenthood.”
Moores is one of 13 confirmed departures from the club.
Rob Fairclough has been released from the second-year of his contract by mutual consent following an ACL injury last season that limited him to just a handful of appearances, while Jordan Syme and Josh Jordan-Roberts have already signed for Hunslet.
Jack Higginson, Callum Ogden, Shaun Ainscough, Sam Freeman, Declan Sheridan, Danny Yates, Adam Hesketh, Lee Registe and Shaun Robinson have not been offered new deals.
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