As for this coming season at Rochdale Hornets, things continue to progress off the field and the club continues to put the building blocks in place that will see the big improvements throughout in the future. The club is self sustainable and we have a very hard working group of players and staff, and we have set a target of improving on our league position from 2010. It is certainly going to be a tough task with so many clubs strengthening either through the playing squad or with new coaching staff, but we will look forward to that challenges that lie ahead.
With that in mind, I have taken a closer look at the teams that will compete for Championship 1 promotion in 2011;
Keighley Cougars will no doubt be hoping to return to the Championship at the first opportunity and will certainly be one of the teams expected to win the league outright, but losing Head Coach Barry Eaton after five successful years will definitely have an impact across the club. Add to that, the loss of their two halfbacks from the 2010 season and I’m sure that on field continuity will be affected somewhat. Jason Demetriou has come in and the question is how long it will take him to make his own mark on the team, but having such an experienced squad to work with will see them have a strong season.
Whitehaven are a club with a point to prove after a disappointing 2010 campaign which saw Ged Stokes lose his job. A player clearout has also taken place at first team level, but with the reserves having a fantastic season and winning the league, are we likely to see some promotions for the coming season? They have a new Head Coach in David Seeds, who has Whitehaven written right through him, and I’m sure that pride in the shirt won’t be a problem for the players. Travelling to Cumbria and getting the win is always a big ask and when you consider the stature of the Cumbrian lads, it takes some effort to gain anything from a trip away from home.
Oldham have recruited young and exciting talent across the board and with Tony Benson still in charge, I’m sure that he will get the very best out of those youngsters, as he did with Joe Chandler in 2010. Losing talented centre Mick Fogherty to a drugs ban will be a major blow to the squad, but will give other players the opportunity to be a part of the team that went the 2010 season unbeaten away from home. The experienced players such as Roden and St Hilaire, have re signed and they will expect to be as strong as last season but will home to make it fifth time lucky and gain promotion to the Championship this time around.
Workington were arguably the toughest team to beat in 2010 and although they were beaten in the first round of the play offs, they could look back and say that they had a very good season. For the losses that they incurred last season, they were able to pick up a bonus point in all lost games which shows a determination that is synonymous with the Cumbrian sides. With one of the competitions largest packs and experience throughout the team, and with very knowledgeable local coaches in charge, they will look forward to their home fixtures for 2011. On their travels, they will definitely be looking towards Jarrad Stack to further his own development and continue to lead the team forward and turn those bonus point losses into wins.
South Wales Scorpions surprised a few teams last season with both the teams’ style of play, and the ability and talent of the individual players amongst the squad. They have a new Head Coach in charge in Aled James, who will combine playing for the team and picking the side, and they will look to go one better in 2011 and get past the first round of the play offs. The question remains as to whether they can improve and it is quite probable that they will again rely heavily on the Dual Registration link with Celtic Crusaders which saw them use a whole host of local born Welsh players in 2010. Steve Parry and Christian Roets will no doubt be the stand outs again this season and they will be looking to rely on their hard working pack to grind out the results.
Swinton are another team that have appointed a new Head Coach for the new season in the shape of the vastly experienced Steve McCormack. Having worked extensively with Steve at Widnes, I can certainly say that he will bring the club much needed stability after a disappointing 2010 by their own standards. They have recruited excellently with the signatures of Mark Smith and Martin Ainscough, and will be a major challenger for promotion in 2011 but it remains to be seen whether a move to The Willows at Salford will be a positive for the teams’ style of play. The pressure will be on them again this season but with Steve’s Grand Final experience, I’d expect them to perform nearer the top of the table this time around.
Doncaster, with Tony Miller in charge will be looking to continue from where they left off at the back end of 2010. With some very talented individuals, and a great stadium, they will be looking to at least achieve a playoff spot this season and with players like Shaun Leaf within the squad, it is certainly achievable. Lunt, who was a major positive in 2010 is still unsigned for the coming year but if they can convince him to go again, then they could be a good bet for the top half of the table.
Gateshead are another club with a new man in charge, with ex Castleford Academy boss, Richard Pell taking the reigns as previous Head Coach Chris Hood moves upstairs to Director of Rugby. They will certainly be looking at an improvement in 2011 after a very disappointing 2010 in which they were beaten far too often by +50 scorelines, but they are likely to approach the ex club of their new Head Coach for some untapped and talented young talent to get them moving in the right direction. One of the few clubs in the division to pay very little in the way of match money, which have a major impact on their recruitment, they will probably have to rely again on local talent and will look to develop those young lads further this season.
London Skolars are the final club in Championship 1 this season and are the last of the clubs to move in a different direction and appoint a new Head Coach. Ex player, Joe Mbu is the man that they think will take them to the next level, and with some exciting local talent they are a sure bet to improve on 2010. They showed glimpses last season of the individual talent that they have in their squad and its a matter of pulling all those positives together on a regular basis to get back to back results. Travel will continue to be an issue for the part time players, but with ex Wigan junior talent Sam Gee playing at 9 or 13, they will be a team to be wary of.