A trip down to watch his old side Hunslet led to Nathan Conroy returning to Rugby League with its newest club CORNWALL.
The halfback started out at Bradford Bulls and Huddersfield Giants before spells with Dewsbury Rams, Keighley Cougars and Coventry Bears.
He joined Hunslet ahead of the 2020 season but personal commitments saw Conroy decide to step away from the sport at the end of last year.
The 27-year-old returned to the South Leeds Stadium at the beginning of May to watch Hunslet host Cornwall, as they secured a 52-16.
But Conroy saw signs of promise from the Choughs in defeat – enough to make him get in touch to join himself.
“I went along to the recent match against Hunslet and that just re-ignited something for me,” said Conroy.
“I thought the game went well from a Cornwall point of view, but I could also see why the game was lost.
“We were missing some experience at halfback and even though I am only 27, I have been around a bit.
“I felt at the time watching at Hunslet that I could offer that on-field structure and help what is an exciting team by guiding them around the pitch.
“I had a chat with (Cornwall winger) Harry Aaronson who is a good mate of mine. We played together at Keighley and we have remained close since then.
“Harry put me on to the club and here I am, ready and raring to go.”
Cornwall’s losing start to life in League One was continued by a chastening home defeat to fellow strugglers West Wales Raiders the weekend before last.
Head coach Neil Kelly hopes that Conroy’s addition will make a significant impact to their attack after a second Penryn nilling in a row.
“I am very confident that having Nathan in our side will help us no end,” said Kelly.
“We had some really good field position against West Wales but couldn’t find that spark with the football in our hands to unlock a stubborn Raiders defence.
“This is a challenge we will face throughout the rest of the season so Nathan’s arrival is going to give us a real boost.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS head coach Rhys Lovegrove gave credit to Jake Webster for reaching the milestone of 350 career appearances, even if his landmark game against Rochdale Hornets did not go as planned.
Webster made his 19th appearance for Keighley to add to 49 for Melbourne Storm, 18 for Gold Coast Titans, 105 for Hull KR, one for York City Knights, 124 for Castleford Tigers, 25 for Bradford Bulls and eight international caps for New Zealand.
However, he was forced off with a groin injury early in the match, which was forced him to miss yesterday’s game against Midlands Hurricanes.
“It’s disappointing for himself, but that doesn’t take anything away from his achievement,” said Lovegrove.
“The fact that he’s still going shows the quality that he has both on and off the field, what a professional he is and how important he is for our group.”
Meanwhile, even though the Cougars have been scoring freely of late, Lovegrove says the smaller point-hauls are among the most crucial to their wins.
Keighley had scored 182 points in their previous three matches heading into the Midlands clash.
But they were in a tight tussle for a long spell against Rochdale the weekend before last, and only in the final quarter did they pull away to win 40-16.
Jack Miller contributed half of their points tally with a try and eight goals, three of them coming from penalty kicks in a pleasing sign of game management for his boss.
“It’s more a mentality thing,” said Lovegrove. “It’s something I’m trying to instil into the boys, that two is enough. We don’t need six, we don’t need four, two is enough.
“We go down there, we come out of yardage, we get to copy and paste what we’ve been doing.
“Taking the two points on offer resets our process and gives us another opportunity to enact our plan.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS boss Anthony Murray is grateful to have an extended break after a punishing start to the year.
It was the Crusaders’ turn to have a blank round last weekend, after playing eight matches on the bounce and impressively winning them all to top the early league table and set a club record for consecutive wins.
The start of the league campaign came hot on the heels of a Challenge Cup run which saw them progress further than any other third-tier side, reaching round five.
Murray says that the break has come at a good time with a three-week interval between matches, with Challenge Cup final weekend coming up before they return to action against fellow high-flyers Keighley Cougars.
“This break until we play Keighley on 4th June couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Murray.
“We’ve probably played twice the number of games some other teams have played because of our Challenge Cup run.
“It’s taken its toll a little bit on their bodies, just niggles and feeling a bit jaded.
“We’ve given them ten days off now to get over it and hopefully we’ll come back recharged and ready to go against Keighley.”
Murray believes that his side are continuing to improve as their winning run goes on.
“After our first six games we had a group meeting and analysed what we could do better, what things we needed to work on,” he said.
“We spoke about needing to complete more and stay in that arm wrestle more, kick chase more and be more patient, because opportunities will come. For the last two weeks we’ve done it for large periods of the game.
“I’m just delighted that the players, they’ve put a lot of effort in and they’re getting that reward back.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS part-owner Peter Tiffin says their historic win at Cornwall was not a one-off achievement but a sign of the progress under head coach Ash Bateman.
The Raiders secured only their second win since joining League One in 2018, and a first away from home, when they won 20-0 in the Duchy the weekend before last.
Tiffin says that the club have a clear target of how many wins they want to pick up this season, and have been targeting certain matches in particular including the Cornwall one.
He said: “It was something we discussed when Ash came in, he spoke with his staff and he looked at the fixtures and said these are the ones he wanted to target. That was one of them.
“We did think with the results we’d been having early on in the season against Swinton and Oldham (two heavy defeats), was it too soon in the season for us? But fair play to Ash, he’s got things going really fast.
“North Wales (an 84-4 loss) was difficult to take because what Ash was trying to change in training wasn’t happening on the pitch.
“Then we had a home game against Keighley the week before Cornwall and it showed things were starting to click. Everyone was shocked by (the score of) 46-4 but then their supporters said the score didn’t reflect the game, it was a lot tighter.
“Last week from the offset they clicked, with that (Callum Merrett) try after 47 seconds.”
Having earned one win in 2019 and one draw in 2021, the aim now is to earn more results as the season goes on, and Tiffin says they are in a better position to achieve further success.
“Signings are coming in under Ash, people want to play for him now,” he said. “This result changes a lot as well, even more people want to join.”
DONCASTER head coach Richard Horne admits that their indifferent start to the season has left them playing catch-up.
The Dons had won five and lost three of their first eight matches ahead of yesterday’s trip to Rochdale Hornets.
Their inconsistenty was encapsulated in the two preceding weeks, suffering a crushing 46-0 defeat to North Wales Crusaders on their own turf before bouncing back with a 44-12 win at London Skolars.
“To get consistent results now we need to work that little bit harder to be able to catch up with those above us,” he said.
“The London result will help confidence but we know we need to continue to be better and improve.”
Winger Travis Corion is confident that the Skolars performance, and not the one against high-flying North Wales, was the better reflection of their side.
“It was a good response from the Cruasders game as that was not a true reflection of what we are capable of,” said Corion, a former Huddersfield Giants product who joined Doncaster ahead of this season from South Yorkshire neighbours Sheffield Eagles.
“Against the Skolars we knew we were not perfect in the first half but we responded well in the second half.”
HUNSLET are counting on Duane Straughier to continue to have an influence on their team even while out of action with a broken arm.
The club are doing it tough on the injury front after counting the cost of a defeat to Swinton Lions which took down no fewer than three players.
Straughier’s fellow back-row Joe Summers suffered knee ligament damage, while loan prop Dan Okoro is back with Hull KR after breaking his wrist.
Straughier himself is expected to be out of action for six weeks, but the former York and Sheffield man won’t be sitting idly by while on the mend.
Hunslet head coach Alan Kilshaw said: “Straff broke his arm in the closing stages and it was an injury out of nowhere, really, while he was carrying the ball in.
“It’s a clean break and he will be out for around six weeks.
“He had only just returned to action after having recovered from a groin operation, and we are obviously being as supportive of him as we can be.
“And, as an excellent leader and an extension of the coaching staff, he will remain heavily involved as he returns to full fitness.”
They were at least boosted by the expected returns of Dave Gibbons, Cam Berry and Matty Stableford from injury for Saturday’s trip to West Wales Raiders.
LONDON SKOLARS have been boosted by the return of back-rower Matt Ross to the club from Toulouse Olympique.
For the second year running, Ross has been playing with Toulouse’s Elite 1 Championship team, the highest level of French domestic competition.
Following the conclusion of that league, the 29-year-old has returned to Skolars where he has had several previous spells, including making 7 appearances last season.
Ross has signed a deal until the end of this League One season and believes he can add value to the Skolars, who are winless in seven matches heading into this Friday’s clash at the New Rivers Stadium on the eve of the Challenge Cup final.
“I am looking forward to working with Joe (Mbu, head coach) and team-mates new and old,” said Ross.
“I’ve just had two strong seasons in France with Toulouse Olympique and I am confident I can bring the experience of training full-time along with my League One experience, and add value to this season’s Skolars squad.”
Mbu added: “I’ve been getting great reports on Matt from France since I took on the role of head coach at Skolars.
“I feel Matt will be an asset to our forwards pack and the experience he brings will be useful off the field as well as on it.”
MIDLANDS HURRICANES forward Nathan Newbound admits it has been a frustrating start to the season for the club.
Following their off-season rebrand, the Hurricanes had won only two of their first seven games heading into yesterday’s trip to Keighley Cougars.
But a points difference of just minus 28 ahead of that tie, when Dave Scott took charge for the first time in place of suspended head coach Richard Squires, reflected the “nearly wins” that Newbound has rued.
“It’s been a bit frustrating as a team so far this season because sometimes we have been unstoppable in patches, but then we’ve clocked off and let a team in for 20 minutes,” he told the latest issue of Rugby League World, which is out this Friday.
“When we played North Wales Crusaders we really should have won, even their coach said the best team lost that day, but we just couldn’t see it out. If we’d stuck in at Hunslet too we could have won that one as well.
“We need to stop these nearly wins and get some points on the board.”
OLDHAM fullback Owen Restall has been one of the breakout stars of the League One season so far, but he says he’s always looking to do even better.
Restall made the step up from amateur side Underbank Rangers ahead of this season to play in the professional game for the first time.
The former England Community Lions player’s impact has been immediate and impressive, scoring eleven tries in seven league matches to sit joint-second in the division’s try charts ahead of the weekend.
“For me I suppose it couldn’t have gone any better in terms of try scoring, I’m thrilled,” Restall told the Talking Yeds podcast.
“It’s just about the team performance. I haven’t scored for the last two and we haven’t got anything (from the games).
“I reflect on that and think ‘were there opportunities for me to score?’ As a fullback you need to be creating or you need to be scoring.
“I’ve still got loads of improvement. I’ve watched video and seen times I’ve not been where I should be. I’m being critical but maybe I could have had more.”
Having secured only five points from their first seven games, Oldham will look to get back on track this Friday when they head to London Skolars.
They will have Connor Carr in their ranks for the rest of the season after extending the loan of the young Huddersfield Giants centre.
ROCHDALE HORNETS head coach Matt Calland was pleased with the first outings of high-profile additions Jy Hitchox and Rob Worrincy, even in defeat.
Worrincy has come out of retirement to join the club for the remainder of the season, while Hitchcox signed on an initial two-week loan from Leigh Centurions which finished after Saturday’s game against Doncaster.
Both lined up in the outside backs the previous week in defeat to high-flying Keighley.
“I was really pleased with how they went in their first game,” said Calland.
“I thought Jy showed some really class touches out wide; he set up our first try brilliantly.
“Rob Worrincy made some great carries for us and he’ll only get better with every game.”
The game didn’t go as well for the third of their trio of additions, Hull KR loanee Phoenix Laulu-Togaga’e.
The teenager suffered damage to his AC shoulder joint and will be sidelined for at least two weeks, ending his spell at Rochdale prematurely.
SWINTON LIONS boss Allan Coleman believes his side are back on track after a brief slump in form.
After starting the season with three victories on the bounce, defeats to pace-setting top two North Wales Crusaders and Keighley Cougars set the Lions back.
They returned to form with wins over London Skolars and, more instructively, at Hunslet, before tackling Cornwall last Saturday.
“We needed to get back on the horse,” said Coleman, who is his first full season in charge of Swinton after stepping up from assistant boss late last year as they suffered relegation from the Championship.
“Our performances haven’t been great over the last three or four weeks resulting in defeats which nobody wants.
“The manner we lost the games we know wasn’t us. It was important we got a result (against Hunslet) and the performance came with it.”
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.