Hock Signs New Deal at Featherstone

Featherstone Rovers have agreed a new deal with former Great Britain and England player Gareth Hock, he’ll remain at the club until the end of 2019.

Hock has played for both Wigan and Leigh and has so far scored three tries in 14 appearances for Featherstone.

He said on signing his new deal: “I am over the moon to have signed for Featherstone for another year, it is fantastic to be staying with such a great club.

“I have loved every minute of my time here so far, despite it taking me a bit of time to get going due to the injuries I suffered last year. I feel fit now, though, and am improving with every game, the fans have been superb and I cannot wait to rip in for the rest of this season and next. We want to nail our place in the top four and have a good go in the Qualifiers.”

Rovers head coach John Duffy commented: “Gareth has been great and has really bought in to what we are trying to achieve. It has been fantastic to have him around the club and he is getting better every time he steps onto the field. He is a born winner.

“He leads by example in everything he does and is very popular with the players and staff. With a full pre-season under his belt, Gareth will only get better. He is focused on finishing this season on a high and he knows where we want to be.”

Betts Leaves Whilst Cummins Takes Over

Widnes Vikings have parted company with long standing head coach Denis Betts who has been with the club for eight years.

The Vikings have decided that Francis Cummins will take interim charge until a permanent replacment can be found.

On the departure of Betts, James Rule, CEO of Widnes Vikings, said: “Denis can be proud of his contribution to this club over the past eight years. Whilst it is regrettable to lose someone of his experience and commitment, we believe that it is now the right time for a change in leadership. Denis leaves with the absolute best wishes of everyone at the club for the future.

“Naturally, it will take time to identify and recruit a long-term successor for the role. However, we are grateful that Francis Cummins will be stepping up as our Head Coach, on an interim basis. Francis has proven himself to be a talented, dedicated and knowledgeable coach, and has earned the respect of staff and teammates from across the club for his contribution since joining Widnes Vikings in September. His appointment brings stability to the team at an important stage of the season and allows us to plan for 2019, whilst offering him the chance to make his own mark on the team. We are thankful to our Stronghold Members, supporters and partners for their support at this time.”

Denis Betts commented on leaving the club: “I have been grateful to have had the opportunity to lead Widnes Vikings, as Head Coach, for eight years. It is with sadness that I leave the club, but I feel proud of what has been achieved during my tenure, and of the contributions of our players and back-office staff.

“I would like to thank everyone who I have worked alongside during my tenure at the club, and all who have supported the Vikings both on and off the field. The club has many reasons to be positive for the future, not least the ongoing emergence of its young talent, and I give my best wishes to those who continue to lead the team in the future.  I hope that the club continues to progress in the seasons ahead.

“I am looking forward to my next chapter in the game and I am grateful for the considerable experience that I have gained with Widnes Vikings.”

On becoming interim head coach Francis Cummins, added: “It is never easy to take on a role in circumstances like these, but I am ready to step up and support the team at this time. On behalf of myself, and all of the coaching, playing and back-office staff, I would like to thank Denis and wish him every success in the future.

“In stepping up as Interim Head Coach, I will be looking to support our players to fulfil their potential, to express themselves on the field, and to grow in confidence. The backing of our Members and supporters is absolutely vital to achieving this. We have a number of tough away fixtures coming up, before our next home game in July, so this collective unity and support will be key. I am hoping that everyone can rally around the team, to support them to have a strong finish to the season.”

Kelly looking forward to Summer Bash

Dewsbury Rams head coach Neil Kelly was delighted with his team’s performance and result against Halifax.

The game ended 22-22 in what was an exciting game in which the Rams dominated for long parts – which meant a happy day for any Rams backers who used the bet365 bonus code.

On the game against Halifax, Kelly said: “I think just about everyone in the game would forgive me when I say, woopee.

“I thought we were good value for the point, Halifax fought tooth and nail and had their time in ascendancy. I thought we showed the character which has been missing in recent weeks in the last 15 minutes of the game, when we had to drag ourselves through the fixture by our boot straps.

“I have to say that I thought our middle’s played superbly well, especially playing the ball quickly, I thought Shannon Wakeman’s input into the game was superb.

“When your 14-0 up and you’ve lost your previous eight or nine games obviously it’s going to be a bit worrying about the confidence. Then when your opponents come back and take a slender lead with about 15 minutes to go, then you worry about your team’s ability to drag yourself back into the game.

“That is why I am really impressed and pleased with the character and spirit we showed in that last 15 minutes, clawing our way back into a game that maybe in previous weeks we would have put a white flag up and be beaten by the inevitable. What this shows is that we can fight against the inevitable and it doesn’t have to be the inevitable.

“It is brilliant that we have managed to stop the run of defeats, but now we have laid a platform or a bench mark of what the minimum has to be for us here on in. This has to be the minimum of performances and character going forward. If we now get used to playing at that pace and at that level then we’ll have more good times than bad times.”

On Paul Sykes’s performance and crucial kick to put the scores level, Kelly commented: “I thought he led the side really well, especially for someone who isn’t 100% fit, he has been out with a hamstring injury. If anyone out there who’s had a hamstring injury will know it plays with your mind as well as the body. His kicking may need to improve but I thought character wise and defensively wise he led the side back through that difficult period in the game.

“Whilst they were preparing for it I was thinking did we come here for a draw or a win and for a brief second I thought let’s go for broke and go for the win, because they were shot as well. Certainly when the ball left Sykes’s foot I thought we should have tapped it, but it managed to crawl across the bar.”

The Rams face local rivals Batley Bulldogs at the Summer Bash in Blackpool next weekend, and Kelly says that the team should take great confidence from the draw against Halifax into next week.

He said: “We should have a lot more confidence going into the Summer Bash next week than what we did going into this game against Halifax.

“We can look at those games in a different light, yor not going into them with a bit of a monkey on your back with all the previous defeats.

“I’m looking forward to it, they’ve had the Indian sign on us over the last few times we have met. However when we played at Batley earlier on in the season I think we created a situation where it was easier to win than lose, but we managed to lose. That’s indicative of how we have been over this period, but again you have to do the right thing, 85% completion rate in the first half is now the bench mark going forward.”

Magic Weekend 2018 preview: Who plays who?

“Warrington Vs. Wigan Scrap” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by roblawton

St James’ Park in Newcastle hosts rugby league’s Magic Weekend for the fourth consecutive year on the weekend of 19-20 May.

All 12 teams in the Super League will play a match on Tyneside over the two days which opens with a Championship clash between Canadian club Toronto Wolfpack and French side Toulouse Olympique.

The Magic Weekend has produced already produced thrills, spills and drama aplenty in its 11-year history, so what will happen at the twelfth edition of this event designed to promote rugby league to a wider audience? Here’s a brief overview of the six Super League encounters on show.

Widnes Vikings vs. St Helens

League leaders St Helens have Australian back Ben Berba in blistering form with his tries and assists for centre Mark Percival a key factor in their strong start to the season. Kicker Danny Richardson has also been prolific with his boot.

When they met Magic Weekend opposition Widnes away on Easter Monday, Saints ran in six tries during a comprehensive 28-6 victory. Vikings had injuries to contend with then, but that’s impacted their campaign.

St Helens, meanwhile, are already odds-on favourites in rugby league betting on who will finish the regular Super League season top and 7/4 to win the Grand Final.

Wigan Warriors vs. Warrington Wolves

Two of the top four and local rivals meet in what could be the game of Magic Weekend 2018. Wigan and Warrington have to contend with kicking off at the same time as the FA Cup final at Wembley if you’re thinking of watching on TV.

There are lots of subplots surrounding this derby encounter, including former Warriors wing Josh Charnley back in Super League with bitter rivals Wolves after a finding crossing codes to rugby union with Sale Sharks a difficult transition. Wigan and Warrington met at the Magic Weekend last year and honours were even thanks to Joe Burgess’ hat-trick.

Wolves ran out 16-10 home winners over Warriors back in February and this is a repeat of the 2016 Grand Final which Wigan won 12-6. They are 3/1 to go all the way again, with Warrington available at twice that price.

Castleford Tigers vs. Leeds Rhinos

Another top six encounter rounding off Saturday, 19 May is a White Rose battle between the Tigers and Rhinos. Just a single point in favour of Castleford separated these Yorkshire rivals at Elland Road back in March.

Last year’s Super League man of steel Luke Gale kicked four goals and a drop goal back then. These proved decisive despite braces from Leeds duo Kallum Watkins and Ash Handley.

Salford Red Devils vs. Catalans Dragons

The Red Devils can move further clear of the bottom four when they clash with struggling Catalans in the lunchtime kick-off of Sunday, 20 May.

Wing Jake Bibby and the kicking of Robert Lui will be key for Salford and was over Easter when they ran out 32-16 winners over Dragons.

Wakefield Trinity vs. Huddersfield Giants

The second Yorkshire derby of the Magic Weekend gives Wakefield the opportunity to trounce lowly Huddersfield again, having done so 22-4 in March. Ben Jones-Bishop bagged a brace in that match and is Trinity’s main try threat.

The Giants have looked anything but their name in Super League this season but have Scottish veteran Danny Brough still kicking points. No team has lost more matches than Huddersfield, however.

Hull KR vs. Hull FC

Super League wouldn’t be the same without Hull’s two team doing battle in derbies. KR’s promotion back to the top-flight for this season means there’s a Magic Weekend matchup to look forward to.

Although KR centre Thomas Minns hit a hat-trick in the first Hull derby of the campaign, FC ran out 30-22 winners thanks to two tries from Fetuli Talanoa and the kicking of Marc Sneyd.

Thorman can turn Giants around

HUDDERSFIELD Giants Head Coach Chris Thorman believes he has learnt a lot whilst being interim boss.

Thorman took over first team duties after the Giants sacked Rick Stone. Thorman says the role is different to just being an assistant.

He also insists that he can help change the club’s fortunes around, saying: “I’ve enjoyed it. It’s very different being Head Coach compared to an Assistant, you can imprint your own philosophies on the team, not that I’ve had a great deal of time to do it because of the Easter period.

“I’ve had some acknowledgement from the group and I just think that if we can get some bodies back and stay healthy then we can go places and I honestly believe that.

“We’ve got a lot of good players missing but at the same time I’m aware of the situation and it’s really important that performances pick up.

“We did against Leeds and just dropped off against Catalans in the last 25 minutes but we’re going to stay positive and will keep fighting our way through it, that’s all we can do.”

Worrincy speaks about Dewsbury’s brilliant start

Dewsbury Rams winger Rob Worrincy is confident that the team can get a result against the Swinton Lions on Sunday and contiue their good start to the Betfred Championship season.

The 33 year old has had a positive start to the campaign, scoring three tries so far for Dewsbury, the latest being a spectacular solo run from his own try line. That came in the club’s latest victory which was against the Rochdale Hornets last Monday evening.

On the upcoming game against Swinton, Worrincy said: “We’ve been looking at the things we did wrong from Monday night in training and we will be looking to put those things right on Sunday against Swinton.

“It’s really important that we continue this good start because that’s what it has been – but that’s all it’s been.

“We have to make sure we capitalise on this now and go into Sunday’s game with a real hunger to win the fixture.

“You have to win these sorts of games, especially against the teams that you think might be around you come the end of the season.

“I know that if we put in a performance and we are on our game we can give any team in this league a run for their money.”

The Rams’ good start comes 12 months after their winless start to open the 2017 campaign.

“It’s a better start than what we made last year,” said Worrincy.

“Neil has made the point to us that we want to be looking up the table and not down it. It’s really nice to not worry about what other teams are doing and just concentrate on ourselves.

“It was good to go to Rochdale on Monday and get the win, especially after the disappointment of losing to London.

“When looking back on it, we had chances to win it but just didn’t take them.

“On Monday night, we put that right. It was important that we went there and put a good performance in for the full 80 minutes,

“We wanted to get back out there and put some wrongs right after the game against London.

“The game was moved, but mind if it was a Monday, Sunday, Wednesday or Friday, or whenever, we just want to play.

“The tries we scored on the night were overall good but I thought it was the defence we put up which got us the victory.

“The guys in the middle did a really good job on keeping them out and defending with a real tough attitude.

“That gives the players like me on the fringes the platform to go and do our stuff at the right end of the field, so it is a real team effort all the way through.

“And credit has to go to the forwards for the kind of carries they carried out on the night.

“We have worked hard on the defensive side of our game during in the off season and now it’s coming to fruition, which is great.

“Once you get the defence right, then we know we have players who then can go and hurt the opposition.

“The only negative from that game was that we didn’t manage to nil them, however I really think that will come in time.

“Zeroing someone can be more rewarding than scoring 38 points, and I think we aren’t too far off from doing that this season, hopefully it’ll come sooner rather than later.”

Worrincy was also happy to reflect on his length-of-the-field effort on the stroke of half-time that had the travelling Rams fans on their feet.

“The guys in the middle were fronting up, so I hadn’t really made a tackle at all up to that point in the game.

“So I just concentrated on giving the forwards a helping hand with carrying the ball as far and as fast I could up the field.

“For that score, I just saw this open space and went for it, thankfully I got to the line before I was tackled but when you get an open space like that you just have to open up your legs and go for it, and hope that you can make it to the other end of the pitch.

“When the ball went to ground, I saw Paul Sykes edging towards it and then thought I’m going to get in a position where I can make a difference.

“The move worked and I was happy to score the try.”

Jukes resigns as head coach of Leigh

Leigh Centurions head coach Neil Jukes has resigned from his position at the club, this comes after talks with owner Derek Beaumont.

The club have announced that Kieron Purtill will take over as caretaker coach with Paul Anderson acting as his assistant while the club appoints a new head coach.

Jukes has a long association with Leigh, having played, coached and now led the club in his various positions at the club. He made his first team debut for the centurions in 1995 having come through the club’s academy system. After his playing career was cut short due to injury, he turned to a life in coaching and went back to Leigh in 2009.

He learnt his trade coaching at the reserve levels before becoming more involved at first team level, and eventually became head coach in 2016, leading the club back to Super League in his first season in charge.

On his departure from the club Jukes said: “Since returning to Leigh I’ve been part of this Club for nearly ten years and I believe I’ve served it with distinction as assistant coach and head coach.

“We’ve had some unbelievably great times that I will never forget and also some bad times, far worse than we are experiencing at the moment. What is important is to get the Club and the playing group to where it needs to be and there comes a time when everyone’s lifespan on the shelf comes to an end.

“I’m a genuine local guy and no one will be more pleased than me if we achieve our Super League goal this year. I’d like to thank all the loyal fans for their support in good times and tough times and to those fans I’d say please continue to support the Club and support the finance that Derek puts into the club.

“People will only realise how important Derek is to the club when he stops putting in his own money. I’ve been involved at the club before he came and after he came and the difference is like chalk and cheese.”

Leigh Centurions owner Derek Beaumont commented: “It’s a sad day for me and, as I put in my programme notes a couple of weeks ago, Neil has the best interests of the club at heart. When he thought he was the man who could no longer deliver he would let me know before I got in the position to have to sack him.

“We had a really interesting two hour conversation that I found very emotional, seeing a guy I know cares so deeply about this Club so much that he wants to leave the position open to a guy he believes will be better than him to take the Club forward.

“Neil has been an outstanding ambassador during my time at the Club and has served Leigh Centurions with distinction, remaining extremely professional at all times.

“My greatest memory of being involved in Rugby League was gaining promotion to Super League and for that I’ll be eternally grateful to Neil.

“I’ve had many a great memory with Neil, probably the highest being when we visited Australia earlier this year. Neil has been more than an employee and I class him as a personal friend and I’m sure he will continue to be that long after not only his involvement in Rugby League ends but also mine.

“I must admit that after hearing our fans boo and applaud the opposition I too considered my position at the Club as I do not welcome people booing our players. I fail to see how that will get them to perform for the shirt. I had a very good meeting with the players this morning and they are up for the fight.

“I would ask those supporters who are also up for backing the Club to come and support us in our next home against Featherstone Rovers this coming Sunday, and those that want to boo us please stay at home.

“I would rather take this fight on with one thousand people who back us than people who just turn up to support us in the good times.

“I firmly believe that Leigh Centurions has the ability to have a strong future in Super League and be competitive with a good youth structure behind us.

“As long as I believe that I will continue to invest my time and money to achieve that goal. We have got off to a bad start but it is how we finish and the fight is not over.”

Kelly Fearful Of Future For Rugby League

DEWSBURY Rams head coach Neil Kelly insists that a number of Betfred Championship clubs should be worried over the direction the RFL are moving and the depature of Nigel Wood from the organisation.

It has been suggested that a number of Super League sides want to take control over TV revenue and other decisions that will affect the way in which the game is run. Kelly believes that if this happens it could mean that the lower divisions of rugby league could be badly affected, and also says that it could lead to less money falling down the league structure.#

On the changes at the top of the sport Kelly told The Press: “Judging by some of the reports, a lot of people in our division and the division below are a little bit concerned. There is the concern about what direction the RFL are going to go in now that Nigel Wood isn’t there.

“Everybody at this level should be a little bit worried, there have been some press reports saying that there have been moves to try and take the finance away from the Championship. I think that would be detrimental, not only to our division, but to the game as a whole.

“The game needs a thriving level of competition below Super League, so it is worrying what direction the game is going to take.

“When I was at Dewsbury before, we lived through one period that was like the current situation, the game fought hard to stay together against some forces within that tried to break away.

“Now it seems that we are back to where we were then, hopefully that isn’t the case and we can look at ways to take the whole game forward. I’m as concerned as anybody else, as the noises coming out suggest we are going to be where we were 10 to 15 years ago.

“I think, overall, that Nigel Wood has done a good job, on the face of it he has been an advocate for this division.

“I have seen some of the names that people are pushing, for example Wigan, who seem to be at the front of the breakaway situation, promoting Phil Clarke and players who have played at Wigan.

“I can see there being a bit of a divide at Super League level with the clubs that are trying to take the money from us, and the ones who have developed the clubs to such an extent that they are independent, free-standing clubs that can survive without the extra money.

“I think that Kevin Sinfield has been touted for the position but I think it needs to be a neutral person who goes in there, rather than a significant player. It is better to take away the parochial side of the game and really look at getting an independent person in, who obviously has the capabilities but without close ties to any club.”

Kear Happy With Bulls Appraoch

BRADFORD Bulls head coach John Kear is happy with the hybrid approach the club is taking, and says that Bulls made the right decision to mix, full-time and part-time players together in one squad.

Kear told the Telegraph and Argus: “I believe we will be fitter than any other part-time team with our part-time players. Our full-time players will obviously be fitter, so straight away that gives us an advantage going into a long, tough season.

“The club was quite right to adopt this project, if you had gone full-time, you would have missed out on some really high quality part-time players who we feel will help us achieve our quest for promotion.

“Like Matty Garside and Elliot Minchella, they would have been lost to us, it’s a sensible thing to do with regard to the quality of player you can attract.

“Matty Garside has got a good job, when you’re knocking out £30,000 a year with that and have another £12-14,000 playing rugby, to make it worthwhile to go full-time you’re looking at a £45,000-50,000 contract. We can’t do that with the position the club is in, so we have to work within our means.

“I don’t think there are many clubs that have done this and it was one of the challenges that appealed to me.

“I’ve been full-time for a vast number of years, I went part-time at Batley and then returned to full-time with Wakefield, all I’ve tended to do is attempt to combine the best of both worlds.

“Obviously the full-timers can get in a bit of extra work in terms of analysis and conditioning and skill development. I’ve tried to emphasise the fact that it is a team, we make sure we have enough team sessions to grow as a unit together.”

Cougars Canadian Deal

KEIGHLEY Cougars have entered into a historic partnership with the Canadian Rugby League Association. The agreement will see a number of initiatives change between both organisations and will look to enhance the club’s status.

On the partnership, Canadian Rugby League Association Board Member and Keighley Cougars supporter Darren Mabbott said: “The new board of directors at Canada Rugby League wanted to form some new partnerships to expand the brand of Canada and hopefully Keighley aswell.

“Because of the early 90’s during the height of Cougarmania people in Rugby League still have a soft spot for Keighley. Rugby League wouldn’t be what it is today without the Cougars and the level of popularity the club still has, means this partnership can only go from strength to strength.

“The overall aim though for the partnership is more publicity for the Canadian game and the Cougars and form a working partnership for players in the Canadian domestic game and have some of them come to the UK and train with Keighley.

“The Cougars faced the Toronto Wolfpack last year and the Wolfpack have taken Rugby League in Canada up to a completely different level in terms of the standard of the game.

“Outside of the Wolfpack, there’s 12 teams across Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia in the domestic competition but this link with Keighley will hopefully make the domestic game stronger and produce a better quality of player.

“The 2025 World Cup is a major event for Canada and the United States as it’s not a traditional nation and will take the profile and standard of the game in both countries up. It will increase as it will provide valuable for experience for everyone involved to test themselves against the top nations such as Australia, England and New Zealand.

“It was my suggestion to forge the partnership with the Keighley Cougars as I’m a supporter of the club for 30 years and after speaking to Craig Lingard, things are looking good.”