The 2015 season contained enough memories to last a lifetime, with triumph and tragedy in equal measure. League Express editor Martyn Sadler introduced a new five-part series in Monday’s paper that looks back at the season just gone and picks out the moments we’ll all remember, whether they are big matches, individual accolades or major news stories.
Here, we consider moments 41 to 50, while the next four weeks will see us counting down to number 1, with the top ten revealed in our issue dated 28 December.
To make sure you don’t miss out on moments 40-31, be sure to buy Monday’s edition of League Express, either in-store or with one easy click thanks to our shop.
50 Sean Penkywicz suspended by the RFL for testing positive to an illegal substance
Leigh Centurions star Sean Penkywicz was suspended in August for what UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) claimed was only the second case of its kind in the UK relating to the banned substance GHRP-6, which is usually used by bodybuilders.
Penkywicz insisted he had never “knowingly injected myself with drugs” but accepted his fate after being legally advised to accept the suspension.
UKAD revealed that Penkywicz’s initial sample was clean when it was tested by the drug control centre at King’s College, London, but, after instructing the laboratory to re-examine it in January specifically for growth hormone-releasing factors, it was found to contain GHRP-6.
49 Huddersfield suspend Brett Ferres
Earlier this month Huddersfield Giants suspended their England international Brett Ferres for having had an alleged affair with the wife of a team-mate.
At the time of writing Ferres was still with the club, but with the likelihood that he will be on his way to a new club in the near future.
48 Wigan play a game in London
Rugby League was played for the first time at the home of Millwall FC in London in September, when Wigan Warriors played host to Catalans Dragons.
Wigan defeated the Dragons 42-16 in front of 8,101 spectators. Wigan Chairman Ian Lenagan has said that his club will play another game in London in 2016 as it looks to consolidate its brand in the capital.
47 Gateshead rebrand as Newcastle Thunder and move to Kingston Park
In January, Gateshead Thunder changed their name to Newcastle Thunder in readiness for their move to Kingston Park, which it would share with rugby union club Newcastle Falcons under the joint ownership of Falcons Chairman Semore Kurdi.
“We’re keen to make sure we don’t forget our birthplace in Gateshead, but we have to ensure we move forward and unfortunately that means changing the name,” said Thunder MD Keith Christie.
46 Ben Flower makes comeback after six-month ban
On 16 April, Ben Flower returned from a six-month suspension imposed for his Grand Final foul on Lance Hohaia, helping Wigan to a 30-20 home win over Warrington in one of the games of the season.
Flower came on as a substitute in the 23rd minute to a standing ovation from the Wigan fans, although he felt his warm reception was undeserved.
“I didn’t expect such a big loud roar and a standing ovation. For the fans to stick by me like that is a credit to them,” he said.
“It was lovely for them to do it but at the end of the day I do not deserve that because I let the club down massively.”
45 RFL announces that Toulouse will join League One in 2016
On 13 October, the RFL confirmed that Toulouse Olympique will join Kingstone Press League 1 for the 2016 season, making the competition a 15-team league.
Toulouse Olympique Chairman, Bernard Sarrazain said: “We would like to thank the RFL and its clubs for accepting us into this competition. It will mean big changes for us, with huge financial and sporting challenges. However we thoroughly believe that, after winning the French Elite Championship two years in a row, it is a vital step for the development of our club.”
Toulouse will enter the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup in Round Three but will not compete in the iPro Sport Cup.
44 Coventry Bears’ first game in League One
Professional Rugby League came to Coventry on Good Friday, when the Bears made their debut in League One with a 32-10 victory over Oxford at the Butts Arena in front of 721 spectators, including RFL chief executive Nigel Wood.
Stand-off Billy Sheen scored the opening try, while his team-mate Eddie Medforth touched down twice for a historic victory.
43 Wakefield part company with James Webster and appoint Brian Smith as their new coach.
At the end of May, Wakefield announced that Brian Smith would be their new coach, after having parted company with his predecessor James Webster earlier in the month after a home defeat by Leigh in the Challenge Cup.
“Brian Smith is a worldwide name in Rugby League and he comes with the highest pedigree. It is a real coup for a club like Wakefield to attract someone of his ilk,” said Wakefield chairman Michael Carter.
“We had a really high calibre of candidates but having spoken to Brian it was an easy decision to make.”
42 Widnes open the season by drawing 22-22 with Wigan, but Patrick Ah Van is sent off for a high tackle.
In a sensational season opener at the Select Security Stadium, the Vikings suffered the loss of winger Patrick Ah Van after 23 minutes and the loss of captain Kevin Brown to concussion. But they fought back to earn a deserved draw in a game that set the perfect tone for the new season.
41 Salford Red Devils appoint Tim Sheens
Salford Red Devils first appointed Tim Sheens as a short-term coaching advisor early in the season before making him the club’s Director of Rugby in June.
At the beginning of October Sheens resigned as the Australian national coach in order to accept the club’s offer of a three-year contract as its full-time Director of Rugby, with the club immediately announcing a host of signings for the 2016 season.
And to make sure you don’t miss out on moments 40-31, be sure to buy Monday’s edition of League Express, either in store or with one easy click thanks to our shop.