Championship changes afoot

Gareth Walker looks at the early movers and shakers in the second tier for 2021

Since my recent column on the list of star names dropping down to Betfred League 1 next season, the transfer market in the Championship has started to pick up.

With the majority of clubs having now confirmed that they will not play again until 2021, thoughts have firmly turned to what squads will look like next season.

And although not every club has announced new recruits yet, there has been enough movement for fans to start getting excited about what eventually lies ahead.

Bradford Bulls made the first headline signing by landing vastly experienced playmaker Danny Brough.

The Bulls certainly weren’t the only Championship club on Brough’s trail, but the opportunity to link up again with his former Hull FC and Wakefield coach proved too much of a lure to turn down.

The former Scotland international should certainly enhance the club’s on-field prospects next year.

Elsewhere, both Toulouse Olympique and Widnes Vikings have made a handful of impressive signings.

The French club has brought in Mitch Garbutt from Hull KR in the front row and Ben Reynolds from Leigh at halfback, helping to replace Con Mika and William Barthau.

Less well known, on these shores at least, will be Kiwi-born centre and Niue international Latrell Schaumkel, who has caught the eye of Sylvain Houles playing for French Elite 1 side Villeneuve.

The Vikings have also been making moves in recent weeks.

An early-season criticism of Tim Sheens’ squad had been a lack of steel and experience up front, and that looks to have been a priority with the signings of Matt Cook and Lee Jewitt.

Prolific Halifax centre Steve Tyrer has also returned to the Vikings, who have seen a host of exits to Ottawa Aces.

Super League hopefuls Leigh Centurions and Featherstone Rovers have made one confirmed signing each to date.

The Centurions have brought in Scottish international prop Adam Walker, while Rovers have confirmed that planned 2020 signing Fa’amanu Brown has committed for next year.

Expect both clubs to make further signings in the coming weeks, with Salford centre Kris Welham set to join Featherstone.

Swinton Lions have made four new signings so far – Leigh prop Sam Brooks, Bradford youngster Cobi Green, former Wigan player Nick Gregson and flying winger Jacob Smillie.

But it’s the not-yet-announced move for Leigh stand-off Martyn Ridyard – reported by League Express last week – that will probably have Lions fans most excited, especially after losing Rob Fairclough and Gavin Bennion to Rochdale.

Neighbours Oldham began their recruitment last week, adding Dewsbury’s Luke Nelmes and Tommy Brierley plus Leeds youngster Tyler Dupree, with a third Rams player, Martyn Reilly, also expected to join them.

Fellow promoted club Whitehaven have made their first signing in Australian prop Ryan King, who has been on the books at Sydney Roosters and Cronulla Sharks.

Then Batley kicked off their recruitment with two significant additions in vastly experienced duo Keegan Hirst and Jodie Broughton.

At the time of writing, the remaining five clubs – Dewsbury, Halifax, London, Sheffield and York – had yet to formally announce a new recruit.

But that should change quickly in the coming weeks.

York have been linked with London’s Morgan Smith, Fax with experienced centre Greg Worthington and Sheffield with prop Tyler Dickinson.

Club-by-club guide to Championship recruitment for 2021

The Broncos will perhaps be the biggest enigma as they continue to transition out of Super League and with a number of their full-time squad out of contract and coveted by rivals.

Dewsbury’s Lee Greenwood has stated publicly on a number of occasions that his priority is retaining a squad that started so promisingly in 2020.

And that is a dilemma that will face most coaches – how do they make a decision on so many players from such a relatively short period of playing time?

It should add to the intrigue of what unfolds between now and the start of next season.

You can see the full list of Ins and Outs to date here.

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