NORTH WALES CRUSADERS are close to naming Anthony Murray’s successor as head coach.
Murray last month announced his intention to step down at the end of the season and chief executive Andy Moulsdale admits the task of finding his replacement was a difficult one.
But that process is now almost complete, and the club hope to be able to confirm their new man in the coming days.
“Finding someone who can bring as much to the club as Anthony has been hard,” said Moulsdale.
“I have always had a great relationship with Muzza both as a player and then when I bought him back to the club three or four years ago. I knew what he was about and what potential we could achieve together.
“What he has done, alongside his assistant Alan, is no fluke, it has been through a lot of hard work.
“On a personal note I’m great mates with Muz and on a professional level I know just what he has added to the club. We didn’t want to find ourselves in this situation, but that is the nature of sport.
“He has done a fantastic job, so it is tough to see him go.”
SWINTON LIONS coach Allan Coleman had more reason than ever to want to win their game against North Wales Crusaders on Saturday.
The two sides went into the game knowing that whoever won would seal second spot in the league and therefore enjoy a week off before the start of their play-off campaign. Thankfully for Coleman, the Lions ran out 38-12 winners.
And a week off is just what Coleman needs as he continues to balance his role with Swinton with that of coach of the England under-19s Community Lions.
“I should have been flying out to Italy with the under-19s on Thursday, but with the Crusaders game on Saturday I had to delay my journey,” said Coleman, who was set to join his young international stars on Sunday.
“Both sides wanted to earn the week off because we’re at that point of the season where most squads are struggling for bodies, so a week off would be massive in that respect. It also gives us home advantage, which is important.
“But the week off would also be better for me because then I wouldn’t have to miss the game at the weekend. I know I’ll miss training, but my assistants Tom (Wood) and Connor (Farrell) will be fine taking that. It will be more of a recovery week than anything else.
“If we did have to play on Sunday, I’d be staying in Italy and would need to miss the Swinton game. I am committed to the Community Lions as well and this tour has been organised for two years, so I wasn’t even the Swinton coach when it was all arranged. I could never go back on my word and the club has been fantastic about it.
“Tom and Connor put as much into team selection and training as I do, so I knew, if it was worst-case scenario, we’d have been in good hands.
“I’m stepping down from the England role after this tour and I was always planning on doing so. I have been on some great tours with that programme, and will stay on as coaching director, but I won’t be committed to the team and any tours. That’ll free up some time now to focus solely on Swinton and family life, which has lost out a lot, given how much rugby takes over.”
As CORNWALL’s debut season in League One comes to an end, coach Neil Kelly has said he is generally pleased with how the new club has handled itself in the professional game.
The league’s newest club travelled to Midlands Hurricanes on Sunday, looking for just their second victory of the season.
And whether they got that or not, Kelly believes the basis is there to go even better next year.
“It has certainly been a season of ups and downs but I have seen improvements week by week,” said Kelly.
“Anyone who watched our first half-dozen games and then watch our last half-dozen games would see significant improvements in both results and performances.
“In the second half of the season especially I feel the players really produced some credible performances – even away at Keighley, when on scoreboard we had our backsides spanked, our buttocks weren’t as raw as some of the other teams that played them this year.
“It would be wrong of us not to recognise the improvements in performances this year and I am really proud of the fact that, whoever we have played, we have given a really good account of ourselves. We have never been an easy side to beat, but we’ve not improved enough to say that on the back of half a dozen wins.
“That win over West Wales was more than welcome, but we need to continue that improvement, increase the number of wins in year two and learn from some of the mistakes from year one.
“Performances, effort and commitment have been brilliant from everyone at the club and we’ve been a bigger bump in the road for some of the more established sides than they might be comfortable with.”
LONDON SKOLARS coach Joe Mbu has paid tribute to Neil Thorman, who was closing in on a major landmark before hanging up his boots after a 20-year career in the game.
Thorman was set to make his final appearance in Sunday’s game at Doncaster, needing just two more goals to draw level with Dylan Skee as London Skolars’ all-time leader. Skee previously landed 230 goals, including one field goal between 2011 and 2013, Thorman went into Sunday’s game with 228, including two field goals, behind him.
Thorman’s goal scoring chances have been reduced this season due to the form of Phil Lyon, who surpassed 100 points for the season through 45 goals and four tries. This means Lyon has scored just under a quarter of all the Skolars’ points this year.
“Dylan Skee was at the club last time I was here and for Neil to be up there with his as a record scorer is testament to him as a player and what he has done for this club,” said Mbu.
“Phil has also been massive for us this season and has been pivotal to all of our success.
“When you have people like Neil and Phil in the side, it does make my job a lot easier. Having those guys out there with the experience they have and the presence they bring to the squad and the dressing room is massive.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS have acted quickly to tie down prop Toby Everett on a permanent deal.
The 26-year-old joined the club on loan from Batley Bulldogs in May and quickly established himself in Rhys Lovegrove’s first-team squad, with his barnstorming runs and hard-hitting style earning him a place in Rugby League World’s latest team of the month.
The Kent-born forward has signed a two-year deal, with the first of that as least spent in the Championship after the Cougars earned promotion as League One table-toppers.
“Toby has progressed well in our environment since his arrival from Batley,” said head of rugby Andrew Henderson.
“He has fitted in with the playing group and we have seen an improvement in his performances over the course of the season, which has earned him a new deal.
“Toby has made the most of the opportunity on loan in showcasing what he has to offer this team going forward.
“I feel Toby has yet to reach his peak as a player and can develop further under the guidance of Rhys and his coaching team over the next two years.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS halfback Rangi Chase is keen to remain at the club next season.
Speaking in the latest issue of Rugby League World magazine, the 36-year-old admits his move to the Crown Oil Arena gave him his love of the game back and wants to keep enjoying that feeling for as long as possible.
“As people say, you’re a long time retired,” said Chase.
“At the moment, I feel like I’m in a good place both personally and playing-wise. I still feel I can be competitive, and I’ve been lucky as regards injuries over the years.
“I snapped my arm last season (on his Hornets debut) and had to have surgery, but other than that, it’s been mainly niggly wear and tear stuff, and I’ve been keeping myself pretty fit.
“As we stand, I see myself playing somewhere next year, and I wouldn’t rule out staying at Rochdale, if they want me to, because I enjoy being around the boys and (chairman) Andy Mazey and (chief executive) Steve Kerr have been really good to me and always gone out of their way to help me with any issues I have had.”
* Visit totalrl.com/shop or phone 01484 401895 to purchase Rugby League for the full interview with Chase.
HUNSLET coach Alan Kilshaw is pleased with how his recent new recruits are combining in key positions.
Halfbacks Pat Walker and Matty Beharrell have joined the club in recent weeks and, while they haven’t had much game time together yet, Kilshaw can see the partnership is working well.
“The halfback combination between Walker and Beharrell is certainly developing,” said Kilshaw after the defeat to Doncaster.
“They’ve only played together three times, and they’re increasingly effective, while Jordan Paga worked well with them at fullback.
“New signing Jamie Greenwood looked good at hooker, so our spine is looking strong.”
Kilshaw did, however, lament a lack of strength in depth elsewhere on the field following the loss of Wayne Reittie to injury during that defeat.
“That was a blow in itself,” he said.
“But there was a knock-on effect as our plan was to introduce substitute Cole Oakley at loose forward. He had, instead, to go on in the centre – if he’d been in the middle, he would in all probability have prevented the soft tries by the Dons’ halfbacks Ben Johnston and Connor Robinson.
“On the other side of the coin, when Doncaster’s Watson Boas was injured, they were able to replace him with Robinson, which illustrates their strength in depth.”
DONCASTER forward Dean Roberts knows his side still need to improve as they head into the play-offs.
Prior to Sunday’s visit of London Skolars, the South Yorkshire club had won nine out of their last ten games, losing only to Champions Keighley Cougars.
The last of those victories was a second-half comeback win over Hunslet and Roberts believes like that could be telling over the next few weeks.
“We kept our composure (against Hunslet) and knew our quality would tell eventually, but we know we have to be better going into the next few games,” he said.
“The play-offs are massive for us and we have to use these recent games as stepping stones to build ourselves a bit of momentum.”
MIDLANDS HURRICANES coach Richard Squires has hinted at where some of the club’s new recruits for 2023 could come from.
A handful of players have made their debuts for the club in recent weeks after stepping up from the amateur game to cover some of the injury losses, and Squires has been pleased with what he has discovered.
“One of the advantages of this season is that we have brought some lads in from the amateur game to have a look at,” said Squires.
“We have found in the last couple of weeks that there is some real talent in the NCL and we will potentially look into that moving into next year.
“Dom Flanagan, who made his debut at centre against London Skolars, is a big thing and could be a prospect for us moving forward.”
OLDHAM assistant coach Brendan Sheridan publicly praised his players for their resilience ahead of Sunday’s crunch clash with Hunslet.
Whoever won that match would take the final play-off spot – something that looked unlikely a few weeks ago after a poor start to the season.
Their injury hit season continued as they lost Johnny Openshaw and Emmerson Whittel in the recent defeat to Swinton Lions, so they can be proud of their achievements in 2022 according to their assistant coach.
“Massive raps to the boys. Down to twelve men with no subs left for the last 20 against a quality Swinton Lions,” posted Sheridan on Twitter.
“No-one gave us a chance this year, and we are one game from the play-offs! Love these boys! Up the Yeds!”
DEPARTING West Wales Raiders utility player Callum Mulkeen believes the future is bright at Stebonheath under the guidance of coach Ashley Bateman.
The 31-year-old’s three-year association with the club came to an end with the 102-4 defeat at Rochdale Hornets.
“It has been a good three years,” Mulkeen said on Twitter.
“I have spent a lot of time at the Raiders with various players and it’s looking good for the future with the stability of having Ash Bateman as coach.
“Having that stability is going to bring us on in the next few years.”
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