Loan rangers: How Championship & League 1 clubs are coping with no dual registration this season

There might be no dual registration this season, but that hasn’t stopped the flow of fringe first team players from Super League clubs down into the Championship and League 1.

As of Friday last week and according to the RFL’s official register, 26 players had made moves into the two leagues looking for action at a time where there is again no reserve team rugby for them to feature in.

It’s a number that will continue increasing as the season unfolds, the main difference from the always contentious dual reg being that players now have to spend a minimum of two weeks at clubs.

The move was brought in due to the Covid-related issue of having players train in two different bubbles in the same week, as was usually the case with dual registration. Players ordinarily trained full-time with their parent club before linking up with their Championship or League 1 side closer to the weekend.

Some clubs have been quick to take advantage of the new loan deals, with York City Knights taking four players already in Riley Dean (Warrington), Mikey Lewis (Hull KR), Yusuf Aydin (Wakefield) and James McDonnell (Wigan).

Newcastle Thunder have also signed a quartet of new additions so far, although one of them, Wolves forward Samy Kibula, suffered a season-ending injury in training without playing a game.

Warrington duo Connor Wrench and Ellis Longstaff also signed loan forms with the north east club, as well as Wakefield playmaker Connor Bailey.

He is on a season-long loan at the club (with a recall option in there for his parent team), and others expected to stay for all of 2021 include London’s Chris Hankinson (Wigan) and Ed Chamberlain (Salford), Huddersfield’s Sam Hewitt and Wigan’s Amir Bourouh at Halifax, and Leigh’s Tom Spencer at Swinton.

Last week Bradford signed Ellis Robson from Warrington and Mitieli Vulikijapani from Hull FC.

It’s Robson’s third club of the campaign already, having previously been on loan with Widnes, showing that despite dual reg having disappeared, there will still be players that switch between teams in relatively short periods of time.

The Vikings still have young hooker Brad O’Neill with them from Wigan, and he made a remarkable 61 tackles in the recent defeat to York, and did have Eribe Doro from Warrington before his recent suspension.

Another Warriors junior Aiden Roden has spent time at Whitehaven, alongside Huddersfield’s Ireland World Cup hopeful Ronan Michael.

Oldham have used the system to bring in St Helens’ Thomas Nisbet and Wakefield’s Jack Croft, although the latter was another to suffer a cruel injury blow recently.

Elsewhere, Wakefield’s promising three-quarter Oliver Greensmith stood out on debut for Doncaster against Rochdale recently, and is joined at the Dons by Hull KR’s Anesu Mudoti.

Huddersfield have had more players out than any other club – 10 in total including some at Super League rivals – with George Roby at North Wales Crusaders and Jon-Luke Kirby spending time with Dewsbury Rams.

And Hull FC’s Ewan Badham has been back at his academy club West Wales Raiders on a temporary basis.

Like many things during the pandemic – inside and outside of rugby league – it is probably an imperfect system being used during times we hopefully won’t see again.

What happens next year is anybody’s guess – some Super League clubs seem set on the return of reserve team rugby – which has been pushed back amid the extra financial constraints of the current climate – and others less so.

Whether or not that becomes reality will have a huge say in whether players continue to trickle down from the top flight on a temporary basis.

But for now, expect more to come and go in an attempt to keep players playing, and offer short-term additions of quality to teams with plenty to play for.

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