Five things to look out for this weekend in the Betfred Championship

1) TV times for the Championship

The new season begins and it does so with regular televised coverage, following Premier Sports’ highly welcome deal to broadcast matches across the season and show what a fantastic competition the Championship truly is.

Premier have chosen an excellent game to kick things off as well, with two of the division’s most ambitious clubs going head-to-head when York City Knights host Featherstone Rovers.

The broadcaster’s line-up has been announced this week and welcomed warmly, with Emma Louise Jones as presenter, Mark Wilson as commentator, and first-week pundits Kevin Brown, Leon Pryce and Jodie Cunningham.

But the quality of the production will be important if Monday night Championship action is to become a new Rugby League tradition, so it will be interesting to see how well Premier do in their opening show.

2) Are Centurions ready for battle?

Of the 14 teams in the Championship, none have undergone as much change as Leigh Centurions in the off-season. Following their relegation from Super League, just five players have remained on board with 16 new faces coming through the door so far.

With a new head coach in Adrian Lam as well, it would be understandable if it took some time for this side to reach their peak, even if it seems inevitable they will be around the top come season’s end.

Their promotion battle is likely to be with Featherstone though – their opponents in round two. Considering Rovers missed out on a home Million Pound Game by losing only once last season, any slip-up could prove crucial, even this early.

Leigh will need to be in good shape from the off then, and have a good gauge in the opening week against Whitehaven, surprise play-off finalists last term and now under the charge of Jonty Gorley.

3) Emulating success

Toulouse and Featherstone were the undisputed frontrunners in last season’s Championship competition but the ‘best of the rest’ mantle went to Halifax Panthers and Batley Bulldogs, who finished third and fourth respectively in the table before reaching the play-off semi-finals.

Both performed well against some better-resourced clubs but the challenge will be to repeat the feat and be in the end-of-season mix again in 2022, and an early indication of their chances will come when they go head-to-head at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium on Sunday.

At first glance, Halifax might look the team of the two to back. They have strengthened well, with pivots Cory Aston, Joe Keyes and Louis Jouffret alongside exciting winger Lachlan Walmsley, experienced hooker Kyle Wood and more.

Their recruitment might have been less high-profile but Batley don’t mind being the underdogs, and with much the same squad as last year they’ll be quietly confident of rattling cages again, starting with Halifax.

4) Cumbrians look to put down roots

The promotion of Barrow Raiders and Workington Town from League 1 last season made it a clean sweep of Cumbrian clubs in the Championship for 2022, joining Whitehaven in the second tier and likely hoping to match their accomplishments in earning a top-six finish last term.

Both will want good starts and both will consider an opening-day win achievable, with home ties against the two sides who finished eleventh and twelfth in last season’s Championship standings.

Barrow, third-tier title winners last season under Paul Crarey, begin at Craven Park against Sheffield Eagles, who have made major changes to their squad in the hope of a more comfortable season.

Chris Thorman’s Workington, meanwhile, kick the whole season off with an earlier 2pm kick-off on Sunday for their match against Newcastle Thunder, who underperformed last season but now have an entirely full-time squad. If performances are to match the budget then Newcastle must win these games, but Town will fancy an upset at Derwent Park.

5) London break new ground

A new location will be pinned to the Rugby League map from Sunday when London Broncos welcome Widnes Vikings to their latest new home, sharing AFC Wimbledon’s Cherry Red Records Stadium in the south west of the capital.

It will be their tenth ‘permanent’ ground in 42 years of existence, leaving Ealing for what is also a new era in 2022 for the switch from full-time to part-time status.

As a result there’s a very different look to the squad, with just six players retained and a new head coach in Jermaine Coleman, and no great expectation of a challenge towards the top end of the table.

This weekend’s opponents Widnes have had their own fall from Super League and full-time life but look to have finally made the readjustment after finishing eighth last season and recruiting considerable Championship experience and talent to a squad which should be capable of a play-off challenge.


Sunday 30 January 
Workington Town v Newcastle Thunder, 2pm
Barrow Raiders v Sheffield Eagles, 3pm
Batley Bulldogs v Halifax Panthers, 3pm
Dewsbury Rams v Bradford Bulls, 3pm
Leigh Centurions v Whitehaven, 3pm
London Broncos v Widnes Vikings, 3pm

Monday 31 January 
York City Knights v Featherstone Rovers, 7:45pm – Premier Sports