Is there room at the top?

Upfront: The League Express opinion – Mon 1st Nov 2021

Halifax Panthers have signed Cory Aston, with the announcement of the acquisition of the former Super League halfback on a two-year contract accompanied by an engaging video on the club’s Twitter feed.

It showed the former London Broncos player alighting a train after it pulled into the station along the road from The Shay, and for some, it will have rekindled memories of the opening scenes of the 1959 film Room at the Top.

Based on John Braine’s novel of the same name, it tells the story of an ambitious working-class lad trying to climb the ladder, both socially and professionally, and is said to have heralded the arrival of the ‘New Wave’ of British movies.

Those opening scenes, accompanied by screech of a train whistle and a jazzy score, show the main character Joe Lampton arriving by rail in the fictional town of Warnley, and they were shot on location in Halifax.

Sixty two years on, the station doesn’t look too different, while it seems fitting that Halifax are among the Championship clubs trying to climb the European Rugby League ladder and find some room at the top table.

In terms of new signings, the weeks since the end of the season seem to have been unusually busy, reflecting not only the ambition of the various boards of directors but also the importance of performing as strongly as possible in 2022.

That’s because we still don’t know the plans for 2023 in terms of the structure of the various divisions, meaning clubs are preparing for next season still unsure of exactly what they will be playing for.

That’s not great, particularly as, against the backdrop of a decrease in central funding, it’s almost certain some may speculate but not accumulate in terms of the league status they desire, and therefore find themselves in financial difficulties further down the line.

For the time being, at least, the recruitment drive at clubs such as Bradford Bulls, Featherstone Rovers, Halifax, Leigh Centurions, London Broncos, Newcastle Thunder, Widnes Vikings and York City Knights is providing plenty of talking points.

It’s also whetting the appetite for another second-tier season that will have an additional twist through the screening on the pay television channel Premier Sports of a string of Monday-night matches.

That’s going to add an additional challenge for part-time clubs in a division that has in recent times been won by full-timers Toronto Wolfpack and Toulouse Olympique and will next season have two of that number in Leigh and Newcastle.

Just as with Super League and League 1, you can stay updated on all the developments in the Championship via League Express.

The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.