Betfred League One news round-up

CORNWALL added four more players to their squad last week and head coach Neil Kelly is confident they will have a team built by the season opener, but admits they will not be in ideal condition.

Former Swinton Lions, Keighley Cougars and Oldham outside back Harry Aaronson (left) and the Cornwall-based former Leigh Miners Rangers utility player Jake Lloyd bring Rugby League experience to the club.

Local threequarter Decarlo Trerise has also played League previously for Cornish Rebels, while former Exeter Chiefs and Wasps rugby union prospect Aaron Thomson has switched codes.

Those additions bring Cornwall up to 13 players, and Kelly said last week their squad numbers could go up to 19 if offered contracts were signed.

However, he warned that they might struggle to compete at first having started recruitment and pre-season much later than most other League One clubs.

“There’s a reason teams have 12, 14, 16-week pre-season programmes, because it’s necessary,” said Kelly.

“We’ve had a very truncated pre-season up to now.

“If you ask me will we be ready by the time we kick off on the second of April, I’d say no.

“But will we be there, putting a team out to play against North Wales? I’d say yes.

“We’re having to do that same programme but some of it will overlap with the actual start of the season.

“I’d love to think I’m a miracle worker but there’s a reason teams have long programmes.

“I don’t want to diminish the competition but when we go through the first month, it’s almost like using the first month as pre-season for us, which isn’t ideal but it’s where we are.

“We just have to go through the necessary process to get to the stage where other teams probably are already, given they’re already in competition in the Challenge Cup.

“But given the time we’ve had to put a squad together, I don’t think we’re in a bad place.”


HUNSLET will have a strong squad available for the trip to North Wales Crusaders with a number of players in line to make a return to the team for this weekend’s Challenge Cup clash.

Alan Kilshaw’s side go up against their League One rivals for a place in the fifth round of the knockout competition and, after impressive results against Keighley Cougars and Siddal in previous rounds, his team selection could be even stronger on Sunday.

“We’ll hopefully get a few bodies back,” said Kilshaw. “Wayne Reittie was struggling with a back injury and that’s easing off, he’s into some light training so hopefully that will pick up this week.

“Liam Carr hurt his shin against Leeds, he should be back in full training this week. Matty Stableford, who broke his hand in our (practice) run against Parkside should be fit for the Crusaders game as well.

“Cam Berry missed the last two games from a concussion and not being able to pass his head test protocols, but he’s passed that now.

“We won’t be far off having 27, 28 players to pick from, which is a headache for me but a welcome one at this stage of the year.”

Kilshaw says there are still things to work on but has been most pleased with Hunslet’s defence in their matches to date.

“There’s still a long way to go and we’re nowhere near the finished article, but there were a lot of promising signs,” he said.

“The positive at the minute is our defence, we’ve only let in one try in both cup games and one try against the Rhinos (in a pre-season friendly) as well.

“Our attack needs work but we will become more cohesive once we play more together, play more together, and the weather dries up a little bit.”


LONDON SKOLARS boss Joe Mbu insists he isn’t too worried by their Challenge Cup exit to amateurs Hunslet Club Parkside, but is keen to bring in more experienced players.

Skolars were beaten 28-6 on their own turf against National Conference League opposition in the third round.

“The opposition played well, take nothing away from them,” reflected Mbu. “They came with an intent to fight and outcompete us and I think that’s what they did.

“The result may look from the outside like a worrying result. I’m not one for making excuses, but we had one substitute middle on the bench because we had two injuries and one middle who wasn’t able to be selected for medical reasons.

“We ended up with three middles to select from. That was the reality of what we had.

“I’m not concerned about the result because everything that happened was out of our control, apart from the competitiveness that we lacked at times on the pitch. It’s one of those things, you live and learn by it, and you move on.

“The camp is in good spirit. We’ve looked at the video and learned lessons from the game. I think we can all agree as a team there’s a lot of work to be done and we’ve just gone back to the drawing board and ripped in in training.

“The recruitment is still ongoing, and probably will be for the rest of the year. It’s the experience we’re lacking. We’re looking, working hard to put things in place to give us the best chance possible.”

Mbu also hopes to arrange up to three friendlies or opposed sessions before the league season starts.

A session with League One rivals Midlands Hurricanes is being lined up, while Skolars aim for two other friendlies including opponents for the postponed Capital Challenge, which is usually played against London Broncos.


NORTH WALES CRUSADERS all-time leading try scorer Rob Massam will miss this week’s Challenge Cup clash with Hunslet and faces a race to be fit in time for the start of the league season.

The winger broke his finger in the Crusaders’ impressive third-round victory over Swinton Lions, and joins a growing injury list for head coach Anthony Murray.

“I’m just hoping to get some bodies back off the injury table,” said Murray.

“Rob Massam broke his finger at the weekend. Tommy Johnson’s not played yet, he’s getting back into full training. Jack Houghton has done his ankle.

“There’s a little bit of a list which is creeping up. We’ve got a week off to rest some bodies and try and get them back into training, and for the Hunslet fixture we’ll have to wait and see.

“Rob Massam will be out for four-to-six weeks. Reece Briers won’t be available, he’s still a couple of weeks off. Alex Eckley probably won’t be available. The others we’ll wait and see over the next week.”

The number of absentees only made North Wales’ win over Swinton, a Championship side last season and one of the favourites for promotion this year, all the more impressive, and Murray hopes the same spirit will get them through against Hunslet.

“It was a good performance, a real gritty performance,” he said. “Swinton put us under a lot of pressure and our guys rose to the challenge and defended the try line really well. We managed to sustain our energy levels and grab a couple of late tries.

“I’ve no doubt who we have available for us will give a really good account of themselves like they did at Swinton.

“There’s the possibility if we do get through Hunslet to get a good tie (in the next round) and we’d be delighted with that, but the focus at the moment is on Hunslet and trying to get past them. That’ll be a tough game.”


DONCASTER head coach Richard Horne is looking forward to a step up in opposition when Whitehaven visit in the fourth round of the Challenge Cup.

After victories over amateur sides Thornhill Trojans and Rochdale Mayfield in the previous rounds, the Dons will pit their wits against Championship opposition this Sunday at the Eco-Power Stadium.

“We’ve looked at the Cup as progression into the start of the season, building for March 27,” said Horne.

“There’s no bigger challenge for us now than going against Whitehaven. It’ll set us up really nicely and we’ll get to find out where we’re at.

“They’ll be four games into their season so they’ll be more match-fit than we are. It’ll be a test of the boys’ mentality and grit and determination to stay in there with them.

“It’s really good prep for us, and that’s how we’re seeing it. If we get through to the next round, it’s a bonus again.”

Horne was most pleased with how his players dealt with the horrendous conditions in the last round against Mayfield to win 20-0.

“Game management was the big focus for us and I thought we did that really well,” he said.

“Greg Burns and Connor Robinson controlled our sets really well and probably made the difference.”


KEIGHLEY COUGARS prop Dalton Desmond-Walker made his first appearance of pre-season for Bradford Bulls’ Reserves side on Friday.

Desmond-Walker has missed much of pre-season with a back injury and made his first appearance since last October’s play-off defeat to Doncaster.

He was one of three Keighley players to line up for the Bulls in their Reserves’ season opener, as part of an agreement between the two clubs.

Also lining up for Bradford last week at St Helens were two new signings in Anthony Dyne and Anesu Mudoti, who both got game time on the back of debuting for the Cougars in their Challenge Cup exit to Hunslet last month.

Meanwhile, the club have announced a friendly fixture against fellow League One side Swinton Lions at Cougar Park on March 13.

Keighley have an eight-week gap between competitive fixtures, having left the Challenge Cup at the end of January with their league campaign starting at Oldham on March 27, so the Swinton fixture will provide valuable game time.


MIDLANDS HURRICANES boss Richard Squires says that their pre-season clash with Bradford Bulls’ Reserves was just the test they needed.

After their Challenge Cup second-round exit at Rochdale Hornets last month, the Hurricanes got some extra game time with a hit-out at Odsal and came away with a lot of positives as well as a 16-14 victory in awful conditions.

“It was a last-minute plan for a game,” said Midlands head coach Richard Squires. “We only went in with 16 players and had a couple of illnesses throughout the day.

“Bradford have got 25, with young kids and some first-team in there. After about 60 minutes when normally a team is fatigued, Bradford had ten academy lads on, full of beans.

“So it was a really good test to do the little things really well and keep the intensity up to match them across the board.”

The Hurricanes handed first appearances to a couple of rugby union converts, with Adam Reed and James Phillips both coming off the bench and the former scoring a try.

Reed comes from an amateur union side in Birmingham while 17-year-old Phillips has been part of the Welsh Exiles development set-up.

“They took to it like ducks to water – and it was a lot of water!” said Squires.

“James is a production player who we’ll see reap two or three years down the line.

“Adam is one who could surprise. He adds extra depth to us which we’ll need when we get a few injuries.”


OLDHAM boss Stuart Littler is looking forward to having an opposed session with Salford Red Devils’ Reserves this Saturday.

Having been knocked out of the Challenge Cup last month at Lock Lane, the match will be a valuable opportunity to test themselves against opposition that isn’t merely each other in training.

“We’re trying to book a couple of games in, either behind-closed-doors training matches or games, before the season,” said Littler.

“It’s just different bodies in front of us, and not just a game with ourselves in training where we all know the calls and which way to defend.

“Another team will show different shapes at us and offer different scenarios, so it’ll be good for the boys to put some real scenarios together and deal with that.

“It also gives us a chance to get some footage and some detail into the boys, then we can break that down into individual and team reviews and have a look at what we’re doing well and what we can work on as a group.”

Kian Morgan is yet to play for the club because of a hamstring tear but is ready to start full training, as is Jamie Pye after injuring his shoulder in the friendly against Wakefield Trinity.

Jack Arnold, newly-signed from Keighley Cougars, should be training soon as he recovers from appendix surgery, but Brad Jinks will still be out for a significant time with a leg injury.


ROCHDALE HORNETS chairman Andy Mazey believes the club might have lost to Lock Lane last year, after overcoming the amateur side in foul conditions in the third round of the Challenge Cup.

The Castleford outfit were giant killers in the previous round at Oldham but Rochdale, who failed to make the League One play-offs last season, saw them off 28-12 to book a date at home to early Championship high-flyers Barrow Raiders in round four.

“After having an indifferent year as we did last year, we wanted to start the season positively and we’ve had a couple of good wins under our belt,” said Mazey.

“You can feel a real difference. If I’m being brutally honest, the way we were last year, I think we’d have lost to Lock Lane. There’s certainly a different mentality with a togetherness around us.

“The thing for me that is encouraging is the character in the team. Your team need to show all the right attitudes.

“It shouldn’t be underestimated how much character they showed there to get the victory because it was a tough old challenge.

“The attitude and desire the lads showed to get the result stands us in good stead for the season.


SWINTON LIONS coach Allan Coleman has described their Challenge Cup defeat to North Wales Crusaders as “a kick up the backside” and a warning of how tough League One will be.

The Lions, relegated from the Championship last season, were shocked by a 20-14 home defeat to crash out of the knockout competition in the third round, two weeks after winning 96-0 at West Wales Raiders at the previous stage.

“I’m massively disappointed, as are the players and everyone involved in the club,” said Coleman.

“It wasn’t a great performance by us and the players know that. Fortunately enough it’s come in a competition we know we can’t win but there’s still no excuse for the performance.

“I spoke to the players after the game and the big thing was attitude. We weren’t great with the ball in hand. Defensively we weren’t too bad apart from a couple of errors.

“Full credit to (North Wales), they worked their socks off and that comes down to attitude.

“If people think it’s going to be easy in this competition they’ve got another thing to come. Hopefully they take it on board with that result.

“Every game in this division this year will be like that.

“We’ll be prepared. This game we weren’t, I could see it in people’s eyes. It’s a kick up the backside which we certainly needed.”


WEST WALES RAIDERS‘ squad have been enjoying training under Ash Bateman as the former player takes charge of the team.

Bateman has been leading training since the previous coaching team departed in a major blow before they even started the season in the Challenge Cup.

He was in discussions over the weekend with chief executive Peter Tiffin and co-owner Andrew Thorne about taking a permanent role.

“It’s been good,” said Tiffin. “We’ve ramped up training, we’re now training not just during the week but at weekends as well. Ash has been given control, we’ve got good numbers.

“He hasn’t got his full coaching staff yet. That’s what we’re going to discuss, what he wants going forward.

“We’ve spoken to a lot of players and they’re all very happy with the way Ash is taking over training. There’s some past players now looking to get involved because he’s well known in Wales.”

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