FEATHER EYEING LANDMARK APPEARANCES
KEIGHLEY COUGARS favourite James Feather still has an eyes on becoming the club’s leader for most appearances amongst players active in the summer era – despite his new contract with the club focussing more on a coaching role.
The hooker will go into the 2021 season with 341 appearances for the club under his belt, just two behind fellow Hall of Famer Phil Stephenson. The majority of Stephenson’s appearances came after the 1996 switch, with just 80 coming while the game was still played in winter.
Stephenson sadly lost his battle with motor neurone disease a year ago.
The 36-year-old initially planned to retire at the end of 2017, but the club’s financial difficulties the following season saw him pull his boots back on to help see them through a tough period. He has remained in the squad ever since, but admits this deal is a nice transition to the next phase of his career.
“The boots are kind of hung up now,” admitted Feather.
“But because I am so close to that landmark of appearances I will still be available to play when the right games come along, or if I’m needed because of injuries.
“It will be really special if I can get those final few games. It would have been easy to walk away and leave that record as it stood, but having lost Phil recently I want to do this with him in mind, which gave me an extra kick to chase those three games.
“He was such a big part of the club for so long and it would be a massive honour if I can emulate him in this way.
“I am really grateful to the club for allowing me to start making that transition away from playing, whilst also still being around the lads and giving me a chance to get this career record.
“I’m looking forward to taking the next step into a coaching career and seeing things from the other side.”
The new role means Feather will also give up the number nine shirt he has worn for many years.
This will now be taken by captain Kyle Kesik, who has put pen to paper on a new two-year contract at Cougar Park.
Halfback Ben Stead has also signed a 12-month extension to his contract.
Sharratt on the comeback trail
BARROW RAIDERS coach Paul Crarey is confident that 2021 will be the year former St Helens Academy player Joe Sharratt finally gets his career back on track.
In December 2018, Sharratt was assaulted outside a Manchester nightclub and was left with a bleed on his brain.
He returned to light training with the Saints Academy team the following March, and earlier this year joined the Raiders with a view to playing regularly.
He didn’t get chance to turn out for his new club before the season was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but he did enough in training to impress Crarey and earn a deal for next year.
“To get Joe back playing will be massive for him, and for the club,” said Crarey.
“The reaction we’ve had to re-signing him has been huge from the fans. They know what he’s been through.
“It’s taken a lot of courage to get to being back involved in the game and we are very cautious around his medical stuff, but he is adamant that he wants to play, so we’re going to give him a go.
“He’s a great lad and has fitted in well with all the lads.
“He wants to stay with us for next year, which speaks volumes. He could have gone and played at another club, but we’ve looked after him this year and we’re going to give him a crack at the game.
“I can’t wait to see him in action in the pre-season games.
“I think he’s a real gem who, given the chance, can get back to where he was going in the first place.”
Meanwhile the club has also handed new deals to Ryan Duffy, Nathan Mossop and Danny Morrow.
Shirt offer for Dons fans
DONCASTER chief executive Carl Hall had a busy week last week speaking to a number of season-tickets holders to make sure they don’t miss out on a chance to be immortalised on the 2021 playing shirt.
As part of the Crowd Funder scheme set up to help the club through the difficult times brought about because of the Coronavirus pandemic, anyone wishing to purchase a season ticket for next year can also have their name featured on the 2021 playing shirt.
However, with the shirt due for manufacturing, time is running out to take advantage of this offer and Hall doesn’t want fans to miss out.
“A lot of our season-ticket holders have said they will still buy one anyway for next year, even though we have said we’ll honour this year’s in 2021,” explained Hall.
“But if they are going to buy one, we are also given them the chance to get their name embossed into the new playing shirt.
“Knowing our fans, many of them would wait until November or December to get their season-ticket when the shirts are available, but the shirt needs signing off by October 1.
“That is the only deadline we have with any of the benefits on offer with Crowd Funder and I don’t want them to miss out, so I phoned each one about it.
“It was nice as well to have a chat with the fans and see how they’re getting on.”
As well as fans getting their name on the shirt, the club is also looking for one more sponsor to get involved after space became available.
Meanwhile, on the field, the Dons have signed forward Ross Whitmore from the Huddersfield Academy set-up and re-signed Alex Holdstock – both on one-year deals.
Fans wanting to get their name on the shirt can visit the club website for more information.
Job scheme could be beneficial, says Finnigan
NEWCASTLE THUNDER coach Simon Finnigan believes the Government’s new Job Support Scheme could benefit those Rugby League clubs that still need to bring their players off furlough.
The furlough scheme ends in October and will be replaced by the new scheme, which will top up the wages of employees who will lose hours due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the scheme, employees who can work at least a third of their usual hours will receive pay from their employer for that time, with the employer and the Government each then covering a third of the worker’s lost pay.
Finnigan does not know yet the details of what this means for his players, but his initial reaction is that it could work well as he looks to get the squad back in for pre-season training.
“I’ve only briefly spoken to the club about what this means for us, but as with furlough I think we need to stop and take a breath and look further into it to see how it affects each business,” said Finnigan.
“I’m sure the club will take stock of all the information they get and make a decision from there.
“But looking at it without knowing too much, it looks like it could be beneficial towards Championship and League 1 clubs.
“I’m not going to sit here and say I know what I am talking about, but on the surface it might be good for us and we can get back to training.”
LEGAUE 1 ROUND UP
WEST WALES RAIDERS coach Aaron Wood has tipped star signing Gavin Henson to feature for Wales in next year’s World Cup, even if the tournament is not yet on the mind of the player.
“I know the club has spoken to Gavin about the World Cup, but his focus for now is on West Wales,” said Wood.
“At the moment he’s just taking small steps. He just wants to play Rugby League, and the main thing on his mind is just enjoying it.
“But when you enjoy what you are doing, good things happen and you get the chance in big teams.
“I don’t know if he’s thought about the World Cup yet, or even wants to play for Wales, but I’m guessing that if he’s doing the right things and playing well, I’m pretty sure Wales will have that conversation with him.
“Personally I’d think he’ll be a shoo-in for a spot.”
Meanwhile, the club has also signed Army wingers Jefeti Vakalalabure and Eparama Francis Boginisoko, as well as junior Welsh international Marcus Webb, who was most recently with Hunslet in 2019.
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray is delighted with the way his squad for 2021 is shaping up after two more key players committed their futures to the club.
Record appearance maker Tommy Johnson and centre Earl Hurst have both signed new one-year deals.
“It’ great,” said Murray.
“We’re on the front foot for a change and it’s looking like we’re able to keep the majority of the squad together.
“Everyone bought in to what we want to achieve at the Crusaders last year and that has been highlighted again by almost all of the squad wanting to stay with us.
“We have also added a few new faces to add some competition for places. So all in all we’re taking some very positive steps.”
HUNSLET have kept hold of another four members of their squad ahead of next season.
Young prop Harvey Hallas, second rower Danny King, threequarter Matty Chrimes and back Keidan Hartley have all committed themselves to the club for 2021.
“Harvey has a terrific work ethic and goes about his business without any fuss,” said Hunslet coach Gary Thornton.
“He has a terrific engine for a frontrower and suits the modern game really well with his athleticism and fitness levels.
“His attitude is first class; his approach to the way he trains and plays is a real credit to him.
“Danny was a little low on confidence when he first joined us from Dewsbury, but once we gave him the opportunity to show what he could do, he quickly gained in confidence and fitted into our group really well.
“He offers something a little different with his size and offloading abilities, and I’m hoping he can develop even further next season.
“In the short time Matty was with us he made enough of an impression for us to ask him to stay for next year.
“Although he has proved his ability and value on the wing, he also has some really good utility value in our outside backs.
“Keidan immediately stood out and impressed the coaching staff in training and trial games with his pace, strength and footwork.
“That earned him a starting spot on the wing, where he showed his ability and skill set.”
COVENTRY BEARS have announced a raft of new signings, which includes two players with recent League 1 experience, a former North Wales Crusaders prop and a Commonwealth Games power lifter.
Incoming are Newcastle Thunder Academy product Dan Coates, and Elliott Townsend, who featured for Doncaster and Hull FC reserves in 2019. Former Crusaders forward Andy Joy has also made a return to the game, while power lifter Dan Bedford, who has previously been on the books at Sheffield Eagles and Rochdale Hornets, has also joined.
“Dan (Coates) is held in high regard,” said Bears coach Richard Squires.
“Game time week in, week out is what we can offer him and he will flourish if given the opportunity.
“Elliot will provide us with no-nonsense performances. He does the bits people shy away from and will have a big influence on the group off the field, which is also important for us this year.
“Andy has bags of experience and has great intent with his carry, work ethic and his willingness to put the team first.
“Dan Bedford’s numbers in the gym are freakish and he has the ability on field to lift us when needed. I’m looking forward to seeing him back on the pitch and seeing what he can do.”
Also arriving at the club for 2021 are two locally based younger players in prop Delaine Bedward and centre Jack Dawson.
“Delaine is still young for a prop forward, but is eager to learn,” added Squires.
“He’s currently studying at Coventry University which gives us a little bit more time to develop him into the player we want.
“Jack has been playing for Midlands Rugby League partner club Derby City Elks and has been turning some heads.”
WORKINGTON TOWN coach Chris Thorman has again stayed local when adding to his squad for next season.
A new face arriving at the club is former Salford and Whitehaven forward Lewis Brown, while Conor Fitzsimmons and Tom Curwen have penned new deals with the club.
Brown, a Seaton Rangers product, has recently had some time away from the game due to work commitments, but will now return to action with his hometown club.
Fitzsimmons initially spent time on loan at the club in 2017, and joined the club permanently ahead of this season, following two years with Newcastle Thunder.
“Lewis is another signing that highlights the importance of recruiting the best local young talent,” said Thorman.
“He has had a little bit of time out of the game, but is refreshed and looking forward to the challenge ahead.
“It’s great to have Fitzy re-signed.
“He applies himself in all aspects of training and playing and he has his best years ahead of him.
“With the new rule changes coming into effect, I’ve had a couple of good conversations with Tom about how I think he can really evolve his game and we’re both really excited to see him develop that.
“He is of the age now I expect him to be a leader on and off the field, which is something he’s definitely capable of.”
OTTAWA ACES have signed forward Jake Moore from Championship club Whitehaven.
The 24-year-old joined the Wigan Warriors Academy set-up from amateur side Wath Brow Hornets, before heading to Cumbria to join Haven in 2017. After a year there, he spent twelve months with local rivals Workington, before returning to Whitehaven and helping them earn promotion from League 1.
“Jake’s signing is a big coup for our club and he comes from a great system,” said Aces coach Laurent Frayssinous.
“He is versatile and he will bring speed, power and size to the team.”
LONDON SKOLARS coach Jermaine Coleman has said there will be some space in his 2021 squad for some younger players wanting some regular game time, following the cancellation of this year’s Reserve Grade competition.
Many players could be on the look out for clubs next year and Coleman will be happy to oblige.
“The situation with the reserves could work in our favour,” said Coleman.
“Most of the teams in the league have retained the squad and players they had this year and they may not necessarily have as much availability in their group to recruit new players.
“Whereas we had fairly trim squad this year, so we do have a fair amount of room to bring players in and potentially give them an opportunity.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS’ 2021 recruit Josh Jordan-Roberts has said it was the chance to be involved with something new that attracted him to the club.
“I like the whole thing about the club being on a new drive – with new ownership, new style, new players,” Jordan-Roberts told the club’s Repeat Set podcast.
“When I sat down with my dad and starting talking about next year, I wanted to do something totally different.
“I didn’t really know anyone at the club, didn’t know any of the coaching staff and I have never really played at a club over that way either. It’s a fresh start for me and miles away from anything I’ve done before.
“I met the coach Matt Calland and he really sold his style of play to me and it will really suit my game.
“It’s going to be quite a new challenge for me.”