NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray has said very little would have prevented Tommy Johnson from turning out against London Skolars on Sunday.
The match was Johnson’s 200th for the club, a landmark no other player has reached for the Crusaders, and Murray was full of praise for the fullback, who also holds the record as the club’s leading points scorer.
“I think Tommy would have played with no legs,” said Murray.
“It’s such a great landmark for him to reach. Not many players will play 200 games for one club, so it’s a great achievement for him and testament to him wanting to play for this club.
“I’ve no doubt he’s had opportunities to play elsewhere, but he just wants to play here and stay loyal to us and that is what Tommy is all about.
“He’s everything a North Wales Crusaders player should be. He’s a real team player and a very good person. He always puts the team first and leads by example.
“He’s the unsung hero of the team; he’s very quiet person but behaves around his rugby to the very highest of standards.
“He works hard coming out of yardage and always wants to be on the right side of plays and puts us in good ball.
“He’s Mr Dependable, very rarely makes a mistake and always puts his hands up to make the hard yards.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my time here to have Tommy at fullback. He’s our captain and is fantastic to have around the club.”
SWINTON LIONS coach Allan Coleman believes the League One table is taking shape now that all the teams are over half way through the campaign.
Coleman’s side went into Sunday’s visit of Doncaster in second spot, four points behind leaders Keighley, and two points ahead of North Wales Crusaders and Rochdale Hornets in third and fourth.
And while some favourites for promotion are starting to emerge, Coleman knows that a lot could still change between now and the end of the season.
“The table is starting to take shape now,” said Coleman.
“Keighley are looking like the team to catch while North Wales have performed well also and will be up there with us and Rochdale.
“That’s the four I think the title race will come down to, but there are still a lot of clubs that could improve throughout the rest of the season. Doncaster will certainly be one of them; they’ll come good with calibre of their players and Hunslet, Oldham and Midlands will all be fighting for that play-off spot as well.
“There is still a lot to play for this year, but we just have to focus on us and hopefully we’ll end up with what we want to achieve from the season.”
To help their push for promotion, the Lions have signed teenaged centre Alex Sutton on loan from Wigan Warriors.
The 19-year-old, who made his Super League debut against Huddersfield in May, has had a previous loan spell with Championship side Newcastle Thunder this year and is highly rated by the Warriors.
“It’s great to have Alex on board,” added Coleman.
“He comes from a top club, has played Championship Rugby League this season, and can cover multiple positions in the backs.
“I’m looking forward to seeing him in a Lions’ shirt.”
Former MIDLANDS HURRICANES owner Alan Robinson believes he has left the club in the best hands after selling his shares to Mike Lomas, who is now the sole owner of the club.
Lomas came on board in November when the club rebranded from Coventry Bears but has now upped his initial co-ownership role to 100 per cent ownership, leaving Robinson to focus on other avenues away from the game.
“Mike expressed an interest in fully owning the club and we have come to a mutual agreement for this to happen,” said Robinson in a club statement.
“Due to this I have made the decision to take a break from the professional game and focus on other interests and my family.
“I believe Mike and his team will take the club forward successfully in the future and allow it to grow and flourish into a great success for the region and indeed the sport. I wish the current staff, players and supporters the very best for the rest of the season and the future and I will continue to support the club in every way possible.”
Mike Lomas added: “Alan is an important and respected person in the development of the sport of Rugby League across the country and the work he has done in the Midlands region has only improved the outreach of an already fantastic sport.
“I thank him for his assistance in developing the Midlands Hurricanes and his co-operation with enabling the sale of his shares.
“I am keen to maintain a good relationship with Alan and the Coventry Bears going forward to grow the Midlands region collaboratively.”
HUNSLET coach Alan Kilshaw is confident there is still more to come from his side, despite their mixed first half of the campaign.
The south Leeds club have won six and drawn one of their opening twelve league games and will be hoping that a run of four straight games now until their next weekend off will result in a run of positive results.
“We’re continuing to show lots of resilience, with local lads such as Jimmy Watson, Wayne Reittie, Harvey Whiteley, Matty Stableford and Josh Jordan-Roberts setting an example that the others very readily follow,” said Kilshaw.
“There are areas we need to improve on but they are little details and if we can fix those up there’s no reason why we can’t make an impact towards the end of the season.
“The stop-start nature of the last four weeks has not been ideal and now we have a consecutive run of games, week in, week out, which can really help us get some consistency and form leading into the business end of the season.”
Kilshaw’s squad for Saturday was boosted by the return of Joe Summers (leg) and Dave Gibbons (shoulder) from injury. However captain Duane Straugheir remains a couple of weeks away from recovering from a broken arm, while centre Nathan Mossop is still suffering from a groin tear, with an unspecified date set for his return.
Kieran Moran was also unavailable as he recovers from emergency appendix surgery, which will likely see him out for some four-to-six weeks. Joe Sanderson is ruled out for a similar period through a shoulder injury, while Fraser Stroud is still seeing out a three-month ban after being sent off in a Student Rugby League game. Kiedan Hartley and Richard Wilkinson, meanwhile, are unavailable indefinitely through work commitments.
CORNWALL coach Neil Kelly has lauded the club’s first ever win as one of the biggest moments in his career.
League One’s newest club were finally victorious at the eleventh time of asking when they travelled to West Wales Raiders and ran out 24-4 winners at Stebonheath Park last month.
But Kelly also appreciates that the full impact of the win may only be felt if the club can now build on it.
“The magnitude of this victory in historical rugby terms for Cornwall to win their first ever game is not lost on me,” said Kelly.
“This win is up there with any other achievement I have in rugby. The season has been difficult and even the build-up to this game was difficult.
“This victory shouldn’t hide the fact that we are still learning and finding our feet as a club, both on and off the field. That said, to earn a victory, it energises you to face the day-to-day challenges that come with starting a brand-new team and club.
“I always said I wanted to be part of a development side and it has been tough. However, when you get your first win, it makes it all seem worthwhile.
“The win could be massive for the club and it’s great that we have won away from home.
“We are earning a lot of credibility that way too and the respect we are earning from other teams, especially those from the heartland areas, is probably the biggest cause of pride that I feel.
“The next stage is to back our first win up week in and week out because that is what professional Rugby League is all about.”
Following on from that famous victory, the club has signed local rugby union forward Brad Howe, who has most recently played for Redruth, for the rest of the season.
“Brad will definitely play games for us.” Kelly added.
“He has shown up well in training and has got some explosive speed. It is one thing being strong in the middle, but another having power. By Brad’s own admission he has plenty to learn but we feel the basics of a very good Rugby League player are there.”
OLDHAM coach Stuart Littler believes there is more to come from centre Calvin Wellington over the second half of the season.
The 26-year-old joined Oldham over the winter but found game time hard to come by in the opening months of the campaign due to several factors. But he has recently had a run of games with the side and that resulted in a call up to John Kear’s initial 30-man Wales squad for the game against France last month.
He missed out on the matchday squad, but Littler is confident the former Workington Town man can have a big impact on his squad.
“I knew all about Calvin when we signed him,” said Littler.
“He’d been involved in the professional game before coming to the club but has since been very unlucky with a couple of injuries and an illness. But he’s back firing now and has a few games under his belt. I can only imagine he will get better every week now.
“I have had a conversation with Calvin about what he brings to our side and how we intend to exploit his attributes.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS have acted quickly to sign experienced forward Kyle Trout after his release from Championship side Featherstone Rovers.
The prop forward has signed an 18-month deal until the end of the 2023 season and will add even more Super League and Championship experience to Rhys Lovegrove’s pack.
Head of rugby Andrew Henderson is delighted to get the deal completed ahead of the registration deadline later this month.
“I brought Kyle to Rhys’s attention recently and after watching and speaking to him, we were we both happy to offer him the opportunity to join us,” said Henderson.
“He is a quality person and talented player who we feel will add value to our group.
“Kyle brings a lot of Championship and Super League experience to us and will provide a point of difference in our forward pack.
“I am really pleased that Kyle chose to join us, as I know for certain that clubs would have been interested in him.”
The latest arrival means the club now has eight players – Mo Agoro, Dane Chisholm, Jack Miller, Eddy Pettybourne, Nathan Roebuck, Brenden Santi, Trout and Lewis Young – already contracted for next season.
ROCHDALE HORNETS Chairman Andy Mazey admits he is delighted with the impact two of the club’s big-name signings are having on the side.
Winter recruits Gregg McNally and Rangi Chase have been among the star performers in recent weeks, but that is nothing less than Mazey expected.
“You always know what you’re going to get from Gregg,” said Mazey.
“He has been around the game a long time and has played a lot of Super League and top end Championship games. He’s an experienced player and is tried and tested, so he’s always going to do what he does best.
“It’s been great to have his experience and influence around the younger lads as well.
“And Rangi is Rangi. He’s getting back to his best now fitness wise and it’s all positive signs now.”
LONDON SKOLARS welcomed prop Christian Gale back into the squad that travelled to North Wales Crusaders on Sunday.
The 22-year-old missed the 48-22 defeat to Swinton Lions the previous weekend due to his involvement with England in the Student Tri-Nations series. Gale featured in wins against both Scotland and Ireland as England won the series overall.
Skolars coach Joe Mbu was delighted to have him available again.
“It is great for Christian to get international recognition,” said Mbu.
“He’s worked really hard all year and he was one of the nine players I had at my first pre-season meeting with the team.
“We had a long conversation that day and he told me what he wanted to do this season. I said we’d work with him to achieve that and build a squad that would allow him to be best that he can.
“That has shown in the way he has played this year. He has been strong and positive in his application when he played. He’s a great impact player and adds a lot when he’s out on the pitch.
“His work rate is amazing and he was a big miss for us when he was away.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS coach Ashley Bateman was forced to pull his boots back on in the recent defeat to Cornwall after going into that game with eleven players unavailable.
The 32-year-old named himself on the bench for that game and could yet be required again as they are still without several faces, including Tom Morgan, who has been handed a one-match ban for a high tackle committed against Cornwall.
“We have a couple of the student boys back with us now and Louis O’Sullivan is back too,” said Bateman, who avoided naming himself in the squad to travel to Keighley on Sunday.
“But we still have quite a few boys injured or away.”
DONCASTER are currently running several Offload workshops in association with the charity Rugby League Cares.
Offload is a men’s mental fitness and wellbeing project run by the charity and the sessions are open to all men aged 16 and over and offer an opportunity with current and former professional players to learn techniques on how to manage mental and physical fitness.
The first workshop was held at the Eco-Power Stadium on Wednesday, June 29 and will run for five more weeks every Wednesday between 6pm and 7pm.
To sign up contact email@example.com.
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.