OLDHAM coach Stuart Littler has lauded the recent pre-season trip to Mount Snowdon, believing the exercise was as much for team bonding as it was physical preparation for the new season.
The whole squad battled wind, rain and snow to hike to the summit of the Welsh mountain just over a week ago, and Littler was satisfied with what every member of his squad took from the experience.
“It was a real challenge for the boys and we wanted to achieve something as a group before Christmas,” said Littler.
“We’re a pretty new group so it was really good for the togetherness of the team. Without realising it, they spent a good four hours together.
“As part time players, you usually get two hours here or a few hours there, and there is a lot crammed into those sessions so there’s not a lot of time to build those relationships.
“Some of the other teams in this league have largely been together for a few years now, so we’ve had to think outside the box a little bit to quickly pull this new squad together.
“We’re big on being a family away from our family and we’ll keep building that and getting tighter. A band of brothers will keep looking after each other when the times get tough, and at times it did get tough.
“But they all pulled together and got through it. So it’s a massive achievement and I’m really proud of every one of them.”
One player who took part in the trip was Tom Spencer, despite the fact he was getting married the next day.
His bride-to-be Lauren was understanding of his commitment to the club but told him to make sure he didn’t turn up the following day with a limb in plaster.
ROCHDALE HORNETS coach Matt Calland has added some real experience to his back room staff with the appointment of Gary Thornton as assistant coach and Carl Jennings as strength and conditioning coach
Having previously coached at Batley Bulldogs, York City Knights and Doncaster RLFC, Thornton left Hunslet in July.
He has been named as coach of the year with three different clubs throughout his career and Calland is excited to have that amount of knowledge come to the club.
“Gary brings great experience as a player and a coach,” said Calland.
“I am looking forward to working together to help the team progress from where we left off last season.
Jennings has a long-standing friendship with Calland and has been brought in to develop detailed fitness programmes for the squad.
Physio Hayley Price has also joined the club and will play an important role in recovery and rehabilitation but also in injury prevention.
On the field, the club have also signed two teenagers on dual-registration terms with local amateur club.
17-year-old Scott Parnaby, who trained with the club ahead of last season, and Ben Metcalfe, 16, will be part of Matt Calland’s squad throughout 2022, but will continue to play for Waterhead and Rochdale Mayfield respectively as they wait for their chance to feature in the first team.
The duo have been handed squad numbers 25 (Parnaby) and 27 (Metcalfe) with the number 15 shirt being given in the memory of avid Hornets fan Freddie Lowe, who lost his battle against cancer earlier this year aged just 3-years-old.
1 Gregg McNally, 2 Cian Tyrer, 3 Ben Calland, 4 Tom Ashton, 5 Dan Nixon, 6 Rangi Chase, 7 Lewis Sheridan, 8 Fuifui Moimoi, 9 Sean Penkywicz, 10 Gavin Bennion, 11 Zac Baker, 12 Paul Brearley, 13 Joe Taira, 14 Connor Aspey, 16 James Connaughton, 17 Cobi Green, 18 Luke Fowden, 19 Ben Killan, 20 Joe Howe, 21 Finn Stewart, 22 Louis Singleton, 23 Rhys Davies, 24 Ben Forster, 25 Scott Parnaby, 26 Tom Whur, 27 Ben Metcalfe.
KEIGHLEY COUGARS coach Rhys Lovegrove can go into the Christmas break satisfied with the squad he has put together ahead of the new campaign.
As well as retaining a large proportion of last season’s squad, Lovegrove has brought in seven new recruits – Lewis Young, Myles Tate, Harvey Spence, Chris Cullimore, Nathan Roebuck, Anesu Mudoti and Anthony Dyne.
And Lovegrove believes these changes will allow to the club to go one step further this year as they aim for the Championship.
“I am definitely happy with the squad we have in place,” said Lovegrove. “I didn’t think we were far away last year.
“If you look at where the club has come from, with the huge upheaval at end of 2018, start of 2019, when all hell broke loose before the O’Neills came in and steadied the ship.
“Then there was the change in coaching mid-way through 2019 and losing the 2020 season after three games due to Covid, so we were only finally able to get some continuity throughout 2021.
“As the year we went on we got better. You can see that when you look at the fact we lost six games in the regular season and five of them were in the first half of the year and only one in the second half.
“We were within a couple of points in both play-off games as well as I believed we were on the correct path and Hendo (head of rugby Andrew Henderson) agreed when he reviewed the season.
“But we knew that certain traits really worked within what we were trying to achieve and when you look at the recruitment, it is a lot younger, but also from a better pedigree.
“We have guys like Nathan Roebuck who has been full time at Warrington for the last couple of years and Anesu Mudoti who’s been at Hull KR. Harvey Spence has come through at Leeds and played at Featherstone and Myles Tate has been in the Warrington system for a while too.
“On top of that, we’ve been lucky to pick up Lewis Young, who is an established top-end League 1 and Championship player, but is still within the age range that can learn, develop and be ambitious.”
SWINTON LIONS coach Allan Coleman has decided against naming a leadership team this year, instead opting for the more traditional captain and vice-captain set-up.
Second-row or centre Rhodri Lloyd has been named as captain with Lewis Hatton and Mike Butt taking the role of vice captains.
And for Coleman, handing the honour to Lloyd once again was an easy decision to make.
“Rhodri is a real leader,” said Coleman. “He’s still a relatively young man but he is very experienced and when he speaks people listen. He’s been at some good clubs and in some great systems so it was a no-brainer for me.
“We’ve gone away from a leadership team and named Lewis and Mike as vice captains.
“Leadership team is something Australia brought in seven or eight years ago and some English clubs copied it. It can be a great thing, but at Swinton we had seven or eight players in it, which is over half the team, so it was always a question of who is standing out in that and being a leader?
“I know I have a team full of leaders but I wanted a clear vision of a captain and then if he’s not playing these two will lead us on the field.”
The Lions have released their squad numbers for the new year:
1 Dan Abram, 2 Mike Butt, 3 Liam Forsyth, 4 Max Roberts, 5 Richard Lepori, 6 Lewis Else, 7 Jack Hansen, 8 Will Hope, 9 Luke Waterworth, 10 Lewis Hatton, 11 Rhodri Lloyd, 12 Mitch Cox, 13 Nick Gregson, 14 Matty Wilkinson, 15 Billy Brickhill, 16 Louis Brogan, 17 Jack Spencer, 18 Paddy Jones, 19 Jose Kenga, 20 Deane Meadows, 21 Reece Hamlett, 22 Ben Heyes, 23 Jordan Case, 24 Jordan Brown, 25 Lewis Charnock.
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray believes an extended Christmas break across the game could prove a handy circuit breaker as cases of Coronavirus again continue to rise across the country.
Premier League and EFL football was badly hit with postponements over the weekend as the number of positive case hit new levels, but with many clubs now not training until the new year, Murray is hopeful the situation could shows signs of improvement by the time they return.
“We have been training quite hard so far but it’s time for a Christmas break now,” said Murray.
“They will have the full Christmas and New Year break off and in line with what’s going on at the moment, in terms of the rising cases, that’s probably not a bad thing.
“I would think that it would be the thought of most clubs to have a couple of weeks off now and then hopefully when we get back in in January more people have been boosted and things might be starting to calm down again.”
LONDON SKOLARS coach Joe Mbu is excited about the prospect of a Challenge Cup London derby next month.
The Skolars, who are based just a stones throw away from the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, that will host the final in May, have been drawn at home in the second round and will face the winner of the first round clash between London Chargers and Ellenborough Rangers.
“We’re definitely hoping we can end up playing the Chargers,” said Mbu.
“A lot of the boys at our club and the Chargers know each other so they’ll all be looking forward to going up against each other.
“The chance to see two London clubs play each other in the Challenge Cup can only be a good thing and it would definitely be an interesting game.
“It would be a great opportunity for the game in London.
Elsewhere, Mbu has added another two new faces to his squad with the signing of former Oxford and Hemel Stags player Liam O’Callaghan.
The 27-year-old, who can play at loose forward, dummy half or half back, will return to League 1 after a few seasons away but impressed Mbu sufficiently during a short trial to earn a one-year deal.
Anthony Cox, who previously worked with Mbu and the club in 2015, has also signed a 12-month deal.
MIDLANDS HURRICANES coach Richard Squires believes the club’s move to Birmingham could prove to be a great opportunity to tap into a new player pool.
After rebranding from Coventry Bears, the club will now be based at Birmingham & Solihull Bees RFC’s Forshaw Heath Lane Ground, in Portway, with Squires already seeing potential in the area.
“My weekends are all really busy being out and about,” said Squires.
“I was coaching some rugby union in the off season to keep myself busy, and being involved in different sports and different clubs, you get to go to different places and can see what talent is out there.
“Birmingham, being the second city is a massive catchment area for us that no one else in the game will really tap into so we will be looking around.
“There is some really good potential around and the fundamentals are already there so we just have to go about it in the right way to get them involved and develop them into the game.”
HUNSLET coach Alan Kilshaw has been busy making some changes as he continues his first pre-season in charge at the club.
Kilshaw arrived at Hunslet in July following the departure of Gary Thornton, who had navigated the difficulties of a pre-season hampered by Covid restrictions.
“Having my own pre-season has made things a bit easier as there has been lots of things that I have been able to step on from day one,” said Kilshaw.
“That’s mainly about culture, how I want our attitudes to be and how we train and behave.
“When you come in midway through the year you can’t really change everything you want to and really have to take things week to week. Whereas with a full pre-season in front of us I can put my own stamp on things which will help.
“All clubs were in the same boat last year when they didn’t really have much of a pre-season with the Covid restrictions, but this year we’ve been able to do three weights sessions a week this year and we’ll be able to continue to do that throughout the year. That was something we couldn’t really do last year.
“The facilities really do help us. We can all train on one site at the South Leeds Stadium, where we have got access to an indoor track and gym and access to two fields. We’re blessed at this club so we’ve got to take advantage of that.”
Elsewhere, Hunslet have revealed their squad number for the new season.
1 Jimmy Watson, 2 Wayne Reittie, 3 Jack Render, 4 Jason Mossop, 5 Kiedan Hartley, 6 Dave Gibbons, 7 Jack Mallinson, 8 Harvey Hallas, 9 Harvey Whiteley, 10 Duane Straugheir, 11 Josh Jordan-Roberts, 12 Joe Summers, 13 Jordan Syme, 14 Cam Berry, 15 Ethan O’Hanlon, 16 Matty Stableford, 17 Rowland Kaye, 18 Aaron Jones-Bishop, 19 Charley Booman, 20 Rian Rowley, 21 Dom Horn, 22 Liam Carr, 23 Jordan Paga, 24 Dean Zammit, 25 Tre Webster, 26 Jacob Beer.
DONCASTER have made their eighth new signing for the 2022 season by bringing in Huddersfield Academy graduate Travis Corion.
The 20-year-old made five appearances for Sheffield Eagles last season and joins Connor Robinson, Greg Burns, Leon Ruan, Jack Sanderson, Robbie Storey and Dave Petersen in moving to the Keepmoat Stadium.
“I’m over the moon to be joining the Dons. It was a decision that I found easy to make once I’d spoken to the staff here,” admitted Corion.
“I know Ross Whitmore and Greg Burns so I spoke to them before coming here and they had nothing but good things to say.
“There is a lot of stability here and I know the next step is to go one better than the team did last season.”
Elsewhere Ben Howe, who made three appearances for the club last season, has signed a new one-year deal to take him into a third campaign with his hometown club.
CORNWALL are hoping to add more local players to their ranks after signing winger Harry Symons.
The 21-year-old University of Gloucestershire student hails from Perranporth and has been playing rugby league regularly for their British University and College Sport (BUCS) team.
A string of impressive performances caught the eye of the local representative side as well as League 1’s newest club, who hope he won’t be the only Cornish native to pull on the shirt this year.
Local players can attend an open trial at the Memorial Ground, Penryn on Sunday, January 9 as the club looks to continue its commitment of using Cornish players, along with those that are currently based in the Duchy.
“As a club, we have made a commitment to recruiting Cornish players in our inaugural season, with a view to long term sustainability, developing a clear pathway to professional Rugby League within the county and wider South West region,” said the club’s general manager Gareth Reid.
“We want the club to give local Cornish athletes an opportunity to make the squad and represent their home county and with this in mind, I am delighted to have made history by signing our first Cornish born player, Henry Symons.
“Henry is precisely the kind of local talent we aim to attract to the club. He’s a talented young athlete with a hunger to develop his game and play at the highest level possible.
“He’s already represented the South West England Universities regional team with gusto and we are confident that, under the guidance of Neil Kelly, Henry will go from strength to strength and represent the club and county well.”
Recent WEST WALES RAIDERS signing Fergus Simpson sees his move the Llanelli as the next stage in his development.
The ex-Newcastle Thunder and Scotland halfback said: “I’m really delighted to sign with the Raiders for the upcoming season and challenge myself.
“The club has recruited a highly experienced coaching team who I look forward to working with and learning from. I am excited to get started and feel the club can push to have a really competitive season this year.”
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