Big Preview: Everything you need to know about the 2023 Championship season

James Gordon
2023 Championship launch

Picture by Allan McKenzie/

The 2023 Championship season gets underway on February 4 and it promises to be the most open battle for promotion in recent years.

The majority of the 14 teams will have designs on reaching a top six play-off place, including new boys Keighley Cougars, who return to the second tier on the back of an invincible campaign in League 1.

Relegated from Super League Toulouse and Featherstone will be favourites to finish top of the pile, but below that you can make a case for several sides to be in the mix.

Clubs like Halifax may even fancy their chances of usurping the fancied top two.

How to watch the Betfred Championship on TV

Once again, a regular Monday night match will be broadcast live by ViaPlay UK, the new name for Premier Sports following a takeover.

That starts with Keighley’s game against Featherstone on February 6.

The full list of confirmed games for live coverage so far is:

  • 6 February – Keighley v Featherstone
  • 13 February – York v Bradford
  • 27 February – Widnes v Halifax
  • 6 March – Featherstone v Bradford
  • 20 March – Batley v Barrow
  • 10 April – Halifax v Bradford (kick-off TBC)
  • 8 May – Batley v Widnes
  • 27 May (Saturday) – Toulouse v London
  • 28 May (Sunday) – Featherstone v York
  • 2 June (Friday) – Newcastle v Bradford
  • 21 August – Whitehaven v Barrow

Several games are also expected to be shown via the Our League app, starting with Toulouse’s opening day trip to Barrow on February 4.

Who are favourites to earn promotion to Super League?

It is the last season that automatic promotion to Super League will be in place for Championship clubs, with IMG’s new proposals due to come in to force at the end of the 2024 season.

Featherstone are currently favourites with competition sponsors Betfred, who have them priced at evens to win the Grand Final.

They are predicting that Toulouse, Bradford, Halifax, Keighley and York will make up the rest of the top six.

Newly-promoted Swinton and Whitehaven are their favourites for relegation to League 1.

When is the Summer Bash in 2023?

The 2023 Championship Summer Bash will be held on May 27/28 at the LNER Community Stadium in York.

Only two of the games will be broadcast live by ViaPlay, Toulouse against London and Featherstone against York. It is expected that the other games will be shown live on Our League.

MORE: 2023 Summer Bash fixtures confirmed as York hosts Championship event

2023 Championship club-by-club preview

Check out our club-by-club preview below, including all the player movements and squads.

Barrow Raiders

Head coach: Paul Crarey
Key man: Jarrod Sammut
One to watch: Rio-Osayomwanbo Corkill

Last season: 4th
Betfred Prediction: 9th (25/1)

Ins: Greg Burke, Jack Wells (both Salford), Connor Saunders (Ulverston), Rio-Osayomwanbo Corkill, Ellis Archer (both St Helens), Luke Broadbent (Warrington), Ben Evans (Bradford), Greg Worthington (Halifax), Andrew Bulman (Whitehaven).

Outs: Tee Ritson (St Helens on loan), Hakim Miloudi (Albi), Carl Forster (North Wales Crusaders), Bradd Crellin, Danny Morrow (both retired), Connor Terrill (Villeneuve), Gary Wheeler, Dec Hulme (all unattached).

Squad: 1. Luke Cresswell, 2. Shane Toal, 3. Rio-Osayomwanbo Corkill, 4. Greg Worthington, 5. Ryan Shaw, 6. Jarrod Sammut, 7. Ryan Johnston, 8. Greg Burke, 9. Nathan Mossop, 10. Anton Iaria, 11. Danny Langtree, 12. Jarrad Stack, 13. Jack Wells, 14. Jake Carter, 15. Ellis Gillam, 16. Sam Brooks, 17. Charlie Emslie, 18. Brett Carter, 19. Dan Toal, 20. Ben Evans, 21. Tom Hopkins, 22. Josh Wood, 23. Connor Saunders, 24. Luke Broadbent, 26. Hanley Dawson, 27. Andrew Bulman, 28. Ellis Archer, 31. James Duerden.

Barrow had a superb first year back in the Championship, finishing fourth and taking plenty by surprise. It wasn’t a surprise to those within the club though, and their expectations remain high as the Raiders look to continue their growth towards their ultimate aim of reaching Super League.

Second season syndrome may be a factor as clubs will now know what to expect, and the loss of strike outside back pairing Tee Ritson and Hakim Miloudi is a blow. But they have made some shrewd additions, some with experience and some exciting young players, and the pick up of Greg Worthington is an understated capture. They will undoubtedly be in that clutch of teams pushing for the play-offs.

READ: Shrewd Tee Ritson move is best Championship club can hope for

Batley Bulldogs

Head coach: Craig Lingard
Key man: Josh Woods
One to watch: Aiden McGowan

Last season: 5th (Grand Finalists)
Betfred Prediction: 8th (22/1)

Ins: Elliot Kear, Samy Kibula (both Bradford), Keegan Hirst (unattached), Aiden McGowan (Huddersfield), Josh Woods (Newcastle).

Outs: Luke Hooley (Leeds), Perry Whiteley, Louis Collinson (both Dewsbury), Tom Gilmore (Widnes).

Squad: Luke Blake, James Brown, Keiran Buchanan, Oliver Burton, Johnny Campbell, Nyle Flynn, Adam Gledhill, Keegan Hirst, Josh Hodson, Greg Johnson, Ben Kaye, Elliot Kear, Samy Kibula, Alistair Leak, Tom Lillycrop, Dane Manning, Aiden McGowan, James Meadows, Josh Milthorpe, Dale Morton, Martyn Reilly, Toby Richardson, George Senior, Lucas Walshaw, Michael Ward, Ben White, Josh Woods

Batley have been the best team in the Championship pound-for-pound in the past few seasons and they are very well coached by Craig Lingard. Despite losing full back Luke Hooley to Leeds and half-back Tom Gilmore to Widnes, their replacements in Elliott Kear and Josh Woods are impressive. Aiden McGowan is also fancied to challenge for the full-back spot.

The Bulldogs’ card will be marked following their run to the Grand Final last year, but they will no doubt remain tough to beat – certainly on their famous home pitch. With those below them improving, reaching a second Grand Final would be an even bigger achievement, and perhaps just reaching the top six will be once again a fine accomplishment for a model part-time club.

Bradford Bulls

Head coach: Mark Dunning
Captain: Michael Lawrence
Key man: Jordan Lilley
One to watch: George Flanagan Jnr

Last season: 9th
Betfred Prediction: 3rd (12/1)

Ins: Chester Butler, Michael Lawrence (both Huddersfield), George Roby, Fenton Rodgers (both Huddersfield on loan) Ben Blackmore (Dewsbury), Tom Holmes (Sheffield), Brad Foster (London Broncos), Jack Walker, Bodene Thompson (both Leeds), Max Clarke (Hull FC), Keven Appo (PNG Hunters), Joe Arundel (Halifax), Josh Johnson (Widnes).

Outs: Ben Evans (Barrow), Daniel Fleming (Featherstone), Steve Crossley, Joe Burton, Sam Hallas, Dan McGrath (all Hunslet), Aaron Murphy, Matty Dawson-Jones (Sheffield), Thomas Doyle (Keighley), Anthony Walker (Widnes), Elliot Kear (Batley), Rhys Evans (retired), Elliot Hall (Doncaster), Samy Kibula (Batley), Ryan Millar (Widnes), Dalton Desmond-Walker (unattached), Coby Nichol (Cornwall), Sam Scott (released).

Squad: 1. Tom Holmes, 2. Ben Blackmore, 3. Joe Arundel, 4. Kieran Gill, 5. David Foggin-Johnston, 6. Dec Patton, 7. Jordan Lilley, 8. Jordan Baldwinson, 9. George Flanagan Snr, 10. Michael Lawrence, 11. Brad England, 12. Chester Butler, 13. Bodene Thompson, 14. Ebon Scurr, 15. AJ Wallace, 16. Brad Foster, 18. Keven Appo, 19. Max Clarke, 20. Billy Jowitt, 21. Fenton Rogers, 22. George Roby, 25. Myles Lawford, 26. George Flanagan Jnr, 30. Jayden Myers, 31. Jack Walker, 32. Marcus Green, 33. Bradley Ho, 34. Michael Hoyle.

Bradford have invested in some key signings with Super League experience, including veteran forward Michael Lawrence and full-back Jack Walker. Their Odsal home still seems to be more hindrance than help, and turning that in to a fortress again may be the difference between being in or out of the play-offs.

This may be the year that the Bulls are able to take advantage of the infrastructure they have around them in terms of academy and reserves, particularly with IMG casting their eye over all potential future Super League clubs, of which Bradford will surely be under consideration in spite of the past decade.

Featherstone Rovers

Head coach: Sean Long
Captain: James Lockwood
Key man: Johnathon Ford
One to watch: Thomas Lacans

Last season: 2nd
Betfred Prediction: 1st (evens)

Ins: Chris Hankinson (Toulouse), Mathieu Cozza (Catalans), Thomas Lacans, Brad Day (both Newcastle), Elijah Taylor (Salford), Riley Dean (Warrington on loan), Caleb Aekins (Leigh), McKenzie Yei (Queensland Capras), Kyle Evans (Wakefield).

Outs: Ben Hellewell (Salford), Adam Cuthbertson (retired), Jesse Sene-Lefao (Sheffield), Callum Field (Widnes), Jacob Doyle (Dewsbury), Morgan Smith (Wakefield), Brett Ferres, Loui McConnell (both Doncaster).

Squad: 1. Brandon Pickersgill, 2. Luke Briscoe, 3. Chris Hankinson, 4. Craig Hall, 5. Gareth Gale, 6. Johnathon Ford, 7. Riley Dean, 8. Craig Kopczak, 9. Connor Jones, 10. James Lockwood, 11. Brad Day, 12. Elijah Taylor, 13. Jack Bussey, 14. Matty Wildie, 15. John Davies, 16. Junior Moors, 17. Gadwin Springer, 18. Josh Hardcastle, 19. Luke Cooper, 20. Mark Kheirallah, 21. Joey Leilua, 22. Dan Fleming, 23. Caleb Aekins, 24. Mathieu Cozza, 25. Thomas Lacans, 26. Tyla Hepi, 27. McKenzie Yei.

A season that started full of promise in 2022 ended in not even reaching the Championship Grand Final for ambitious Featherstone, who will be keen to put that right this term. The appointment of Sean Long in his first head coach role is an interesting one, as is the number of players recruited with a French connection. Some of their signings have certainly hurt their main fancied rivals’ Toulouse’s recruitment prospects.

Rovers have lost only four regular season games in the past two seasons, and they won’t be expecting to add many more to that list. While the Championship promises to be more open than in recent seasons, Featherstone will be tipped by most to be head and shoulders above the rest in the top two.

Halifax Panthers

Head coach: Simon Grix
Key man: Joe Keyes
One to watch: Jake Maizen

Last season: 3rd
Betfred Prediction: 4th (12/1)

Ins: Will Maher (Hull KR), Eribe Doro (Widnes), Ryan King (Whitehaven), Ben Forster (Rochdale), Tom Inman (York), Jake Maizen (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Nick Rawsthorne (unattached), Kai Morgan (Leeds loan).

Outs: Joe Arundel (Bradford), Cory Aston, Titus Gwaze (both Sheffield), Elliot Morris, Matt Garside (both Dewsbury), Joe Martin (retired), Brad Knowles (Doncaster).

Squad: 1. James Woodburn-Hall, 2. Lachlan Walmsley, 3. Zack McComb, 4. Ben Tibbs, 5. James Saltonstall, 6. Louis Jouffret, 7. Joe Keyes, 8. Adam Tangata, 9. Brandon Moore, 10. Dan Murray, 11. Ben Kavanagh, 12. Matty Gee, 13. Jacob Fairbank, 14. Kyle Wood, 15. Will Maher, 16. Will Calcott, 17. Ryan King, 20. Tom Inman, 21. Eribe Doro, 22. Jake Maizen, 23. Nick Rawsthorne, 24. Cole Oakley, 25. Ben Forster, 31. Kevin Larroyer.

Halifax have a relatively settled squad and have added to it with some proven Championship signings. They will be quite happy to fly under the radar of Featherstone and Toulouse, and they have the most realistic chance out of anyone to disrupt those in the top two.

Off-the-field, the Panthers have quietly been going about their business to return the glory days back to The Shay. They will have been disappointed by the manner that their 2022 season ended in a home play-off defeat to York, and will be keen to put that right.

Keighley Cougars

Head coach: Rhys Lovegrove
Key man: Luke Gale
One to watch: Brad Walker

Last season: 1st (League 1, promoted)
Betfred Prediction: 5th (12/1)

Ins: Luke Gale (Hull FC), Ben Crooks (Hull KR), Mark Ioane (Leigh), Sadiq Adebiyi, Brad Walker (both Wakefield), Robbie Storey (Doncaster), Ellis Robson (Newcastle), Lloyd Roby (Widnes), Thomas Doyle (Bradford), Keenen Tomlinson (Dewsbury).

Outs: Scott Murrell, Eddy Pettybourne, James Feather (all retired), Junior S’au (Old Glory DC RU), Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e (Sheffield), Matthew Bailey, Chris Cullimore (Midlands Hurricanes), Anthony Dyne (Swinton Lions), Kian Fisher, Spencer Darley, Dalton Desmond-Walker (all unattached), Aidan Scully (Bradford & Bingley RFC).

Squad: 1. Lewis Young, 2. Alix Stephenson, 3. Charlie Graham, 4. Nathan Roebuck, 5. Mo Agoro, 7. Jack Miller, 8. Dan Parker, 9. Billy Gaylor, 10. Toby Everett, 11. Kyle Trout, 12. Aaron Levy, 13. Kyle Kesik, 14. Harvey Spence, 15. Brenden Santi, 16. Josh Lynam, 17. Keenan Dyer-Dixon, 18. Anesu Mudoti, 19. Ellis Robson, 20. Brad Walker, 21. Lloyd Roby, 22. Dane Chisholm, 23. Robbie Storey, 24. Mark Ioane, 25. Ben Crooks, 26. Thomas Doyle, 27. Sadiq Adebiyi, 28. Keenen Tomlinson, 31. Luke Gale, 33. Jake Webster.

Coming off the back of a perfect season in League 1, Keighley have been talked up by many following their recruitment which is highlighted by the recent capture of Luke Gale. The Cougars have built up some momentum and will be expecting to be well clear of the relegation places, and fancy their chances of finishing above local rivals Bradford.

Pick ups like Ben Crooks and Mark Ioane add quality, while Lloyd Roby and Thomas Doyle were both in good form at Widnes and Bradford at times last season. It will be interesting to see how the departure of director of rugby Andrew Henderson to York affects them.

London Broncos

Head coach: Mike Eccles
Captain: TBC
Key man: Alex Walker
One to watch: Emmanuel Waine

Last season: 11th
Betfred Prediction: 12th (66/1)

Ins: Sam Davis, Marcus Stock (York), Jarred Bassett (London Skolars), Marcus Stock (York Knights), Henry Raiwalui (Wentworthville Magpies), Ethan Natoli (Newtown Jets), Dan Hoyes, Jenson Monk and Euan Parke (academy graduates), Emmanuel Waite (PNG Hunters)

Outs: Jude Ferreira (Hull FC), Brock Pelligra, Calum Gahan (both Toulouse), Brad Foster (Bradford), Rob Tuliatu (Newcastle), Ronny Palumbo (released).

Squad: 1. Alex Walker, 2. Paul Ulberg, 3. Jarred Bassett, 4. Dalton Grant, 5. Iliess Macani, 6. Oli Leyland, 7. Rian Horsman, 8. Wellington Albert, 9. Sam Davis, 10. Jordan Williams, 11. Will Lovell, 12. Marcus Stock, 13. Dean Parata, 14. Bill Leyland, 15. Lewis Bienek, 16. Ethan Natoli, 17. Henry Raiwalui, 22. Max Allen, 23. Dan Hoyes, 24. Jenson Monk, 25. Jack Howorth, 26. Euan Parke, Emmanuel Waine.

Mike Eccles steadied the ship at London Broncos last season during a time when relegation to the third tier was a distinct possibility. The new campaign is likely to be a struggle for them too, in spite of a handful of recruits who featured in the World Cup.

Still adjusting to their part-time status and exploring the available player pool, London must start this season better than last and if they do, should have enough to be looking up rather than down.

Newcastle Thunder

Head coach: Chris Thorman
Captain: TBC
Key man: Curtis Davies
One to watch: Nikau Williams

Last season: 12th
Betfred Prediction: 11th (66/1)

Ins: Rhys Clark, Alex Clegg, Jake Lightowler, Alex Young, Curtis Davies (all Workington), Nikau Williams (Whitehaven), Rob Tuliatu (London Broncos), Ethan Lawther, Mac Walsh (both unattached), Marcus Walker (Hull FC), Daniel Okoro, Connor Moore (both Hull KR), Jack Potter (Hull KR on loan).

Outs: Oliver Roberts (Sheffield), Ukuma Ta’ai, Jesse Dee (both York), Josh Eaves (Swinton), Ellis Robson (Keighley), Brad Day (Featherstone), Josh Woods (Batley), Jake Shorrocks (Toulouse), Dan Coates (Midlands Hurricanes), Pat Moran (SO Avignon), Craig Mullen (retired), Isaac Nokes (Ipswich Jets), Nathan Wilde (Leigh).

Squad: 1. Jack Johnson, 2. Alex Young, 3. Marcus Walker, 5. Alex Clegg, 6. Alex Donaghy, 7. Nikau Williams, 8. Jay Chapelhow, 9. Curtis Davies, 10. Mitch Clark, 11. Alex Foster, 12. Brad Gallagher, 13. Connor Bailey, 15. Ted Chapelhow, 16. Rhys Clarke, 17. Robert Tuliatu, 18. Jake Lightowler, 19. Nathan Clemmitt, 20. Gideon Boafo, 21. Evan Lawther, 22. Jake Anderson, 23. Connor Moore, 24. Daniel Okoro, 25. Max Flanagan, 26. Mac Walsh.

It may be a season of re-building for Thunder, who have reverted back to part-time status after their gamble in going full-time backfired. They underperformed drastically last season and the path to fulfilling their big ambitions will now take a different direction.

In Chris Thorman, Newcastle have now got a coach who understands the local area and how important it is to be developing their own players locally and bringing them through. That will be more of a long-term project than a short one, though getting the right players in now to help that process is key. They have seen a lot of changes as a consequence of going part-time, but a season of Championship consolidation shouldn’t be beyond them.

Sheffield Eagles

Head coach: Mark Aston
Key man: Izaac Farrell
One to watch: Ollie Roberts

Last season: 7th
Betfred Prediction: 10th (33/1)

Ins: Oliver Roberts (Newcastle), Titus Gwaze, Cory Aston (both Halifax), Jesse Sene-Lefao (Featherstone), Aaron Murphy, Matty Dawson-Jones (both Bradford), Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e (Keighley), Lewis Peachey (Castleford), Joe Hird, Mekhi Bridgeman-Reaney (both Leeds), Jack Hansen (Swinton).

Outs: Kadeem Williams (unattached), Tom Holmes (Bradford Bulls)  

Squad: 1. Josh Guzdek, 2. Ben Jones-Bishop, 3. Kris Welham, 4. Ross Oakes, 5. Jason Bass, 6. Izaak Farrell, 7. Anthony Thackeray, 8. Brandon Douglas, 9. Vila Halafihi, 10. Tyler Dickinson, 11. Connor Bower, 12. Joel Farrell, 13. Evan Hodgson, 14. Titus Gwaze, 15. Mikey Wood, 16. Blake Broadbent, 17. Liam Kirk, 18. Aaron Murphy, 19. Jack Hansen, 20. Lewis Peachey, 21. Ryan Johnson, 22. Matty Chrimes, 23. Bayley Liu, 24. Ollie Roberts, 25. Joe Hird, 26. Ben Sheils, 27. Jesse Sene-Lefao, 28. Matty Dawson-Jones, 29. Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e, 30. Mekhi Bridgeman-Reaney, 32. Cory Aston.

Sheffield could prove to be the surprise package in 2023 after bolstering their squad with some key additions. With their stadium surroundings now sorted, coach Mark Aston can focus on getting the team back up to the top end of the Championship, which he has done before.

They have more depth than they’ve had in recent seasons and plenty of competition for places. Without the disruption of playing on the road at the start of last season, the Eagles may well have been able to compete for the play-offs, and they look much stronger this year.

READ: From the NRL’s wanted list to the Championship: International forward hoping to find himself again

Swinton Lions

Head coach: Allan Coleman
Captain: Rhodri Lloyd
Key man: Luke Waterworth
One to watch: Ollie Olds

Last season: 2nd (League 1, promoted)
Betfred Prediction: 13th (150/1)

Ins: Josh Eaves (Newcastle), Myles Harrop, Jonny Openshaw (both Salford), Joseph Romeo (unattached), Jake Spedding, Kenny Baker (both Widnes), Gavin Bennison, Scott Parnaby (both Rochdale), Anthony Dyne (Keighley), Morgan Burgess (Warrington), Jordan Gibson, Gavin Rodden (both North Wales Crusaders), Andrew Badrock (Leigh Miners Rangers), Liam Cooper (Whitehaven).

Outs: Jack Hansen (Sheffield), Deane Meadows, Paddy Jones, Matty Wilkinson (all Oldham), Max Roberts, Lewis Hatton (both Widnes), Jack Spencer, Lewis Charnock (both retired).

Squad: 1. Dan Abram, 2. Mike Butt, 3. Jake Spedding, 4. Jayden Hatton, 5. Richard Lepori, 6. Nick Gregson, 7. Jordan Gibson, 8. Gavin Bennion, 9. Luke Waterworth, 10. Kenny Baker, 11. Rhodri Lloyd, 12. Mitch Cox, 13. Louis Brogan, 14. Josh Eaves, 15. Jordan Case, 16. Gavin Rodden, 17. Billy Brickhill, 18. Liam Cooper, 19. Ollie Olds, 20. Morgan Burgess, 21. Jonny Openshaw, 22. Andrew Badrock, 24. Myles Harrop, 25. Scott Parnaby, 26. Joseph Romeo, 29. Anthony Dyne.

Survival will be the name of the game for Swinton this year after they made a return to the Championship via the League 1 play-offs. The trouble with being promoted late is that they had already lost a few of their key players from that team, with the likes of Jack Hansen, Max Roberts and Lewis Hatton having committed to elsewhere for 2023.

It means plenty of player movement for the Lions, though they will feel more equipped than two seasons ago. In Gavin Bennion and Kenny Baker they have brought in experienced forwards, while Jake Spedding could be a useful addition at centre. Picking up former St Helens hooker Josh Eaves from Newcastle via Whitehaven was an unexpected bonus too, and Wales international Ollie Olds is a relatively unknown quantity.

Toulouse Olympique

Head coach: Sylvain Houles
Captain: Harrison Hansen
Key man: Olly Ashall-Bott
One to watch: Calum Gahan

Last season: 12th (Super League, relegated)
Betfred Prediction: 2nd (5/2)

Ins: Sitaleki Akauola (Salford), Reubenn Rennie (Newtown Jets), Josh Ralph (Mounties), Jake Shorrocks (Newcastle), Calum Gahan (London Broncos), Greg Richards (Toulouse).

Outs: Tony Gigot, Maxime Puech (Albi), Matty Russell (Warrington), Justin Sangare (Leeds), Mitch Garbutt (St Gaudens), Andrew Dixon (Salford), Joseph Paulo (Pia), Chris Hankinson (Featherstone), Corey Norman (Lezignan), Romain Navarrete (Catalans).

Squad: 1. Olly Ashall-Bott, 2. Latrell Schaumkel, 3. Reubenn Rennie, 4. Mathieu Jussaume, 5. Paul Marcon, 6. Josh Ralph, 7. Jake Shorrocks, 8. Lambert Belmas, 9. Calum Gahan, 10. Harrison Hansen, 11. Maxime Stefani, 12. Dominique Peyroux, 13. Anthony Marion, 14. Eloi Pelissier, 15. Sitaleki Akauola, 16. Joe Bretherton, 17. Huge Pezet, 18. Guy Armitage, 19. Benjamin Laguerre, Greg Richards.

Toulouse find themselves in a situation they probably never expected to be in, trying to find their way back out of the Championship. The financial toll of relegation will likely be felt by them as much as anybody in recent years, given they’ll have to continue to fork out the best part of half a million quid to simply play in the league. They have a very thin squad which may prove their achilles heel, although they do have the opportunity to bolster their squad once the French Elite Championship finishes in May. The quality of those additions may be the difference between success or not.

When they earned promotion in 2021, they were only able to play on the road due to the COVID situation – whether the small squad can cope with the rigour of playing week in, week out at a sufficient level may be the key challenge to finishing top and being able to set up a Grand Final for promotion in France.


Head coach: Jonty Gorley
Captain: Karl Dixon
Key man: Callum Phillips
One to watch: Daniel Spencer-Tonks

Last season: 10th
Prediction: 14th (150/1)

Ins: Lachlan Lanskey (Brisbane Tigers), Lasarusa Tabu (Carcassonne), Jamie Doran, Marcus O’Brien (both Workington), Josh Rourke, Daniel Spencer-Tonks (both Salford), Sam Freeman (unattached), Lucas Castle (St George Illawarra Dragons Reserve).

Outs: Will Evans (Widnes), Liam Cooper (Swinton), Andrew Dawson, Tom Wilkinson, Geronimo Doyle (all unattached).

Squad: 1. Sam Freeman, 2. Dave Eccleston, 3. Chris Taylor, 4. Curtis Teare, 6. Karl Dixon, 7. Alex Bishop, 8. Liam McAvoy, 9. Callum Phillips, 10. Tom Walker, 11. Connor Holliday, 12. Lachlan Lanskey, 13. Dion Aiye, 14. Jamie Doran, 15. James Newton, 16. Lasarusa Tabu, 17. Guy Graham, 18. Perry Singleton, 20. Jake Bradley, 21. Marcus O’Brien, 22. Lucas Castle, 23. Josh Rourke, 24. Daniel Spencer-Tonks.

Whitehaven have continued to recruit from overseas having waved bye to another to Halifax in Ryan King. It may be a season of survival for the Cumbrians, with worries and changes off the field perhaps taking priority. The club has made no secret of its financial battles, and their superb run in 2021 is unlikely to be repeated.

Former Widnes full-back Sam Freeman is a useful pick up, as is ex-Salford forward Daniel Spencer-Tonks who could be a very good Championship prop if given a run of games. Jamie Doran and Marcus O’Brien move from Workington with points to prove after their relegation last season.

Widnes Vikings

Head coach: John Kear
Captain: Jack Owens
Key man: Tom Gilmore
One to watch: Max Roberts

Last season: 8th
Prediction: 7th (16/1)

Ins: Kyle Amor (St Helens), Jordan Johnstone (Hull FC), Kieran Dixon (Leigh), Tom Gilmore (Batley), Max Roberts, Lewis Hatton (both Swinton), Callum Field (Featherstone), Ryan Millar (Bradford), Will Evans (Whitehaven). 

Outs: Matty Smith, Ste Tyrer (both retired), Lloyd Roby (Keighley), Kenny Baker, Jake Spedding (both Swinton), Lewis Hulme (unattached), Dec Gregory, Levy Nzoungou (both unattached), Josh Johnson (Bradford).

Squad: 1. Jack Owens, 2. Ryan Ince, 3. Matt Fleming, 4. Will Evans, 5. Kieran Dixon, 6. Danny Craven, 7. Tom Gilmore, 8. Owen Farnworth, 9. Matty Fozard, 10. Kyle Amor, 11. Sam Wilde, 12. Adam Lawton, 13. Liam Bent, 14. Jordan Johnstone, 16. Callum Field, 17. Shane Grady, 18. Joe Lyons, 19. Olly Davies, 20. Joe Edge, 21. Lewis Hatton, 22. Aaron Brown, 23. Will Tilleke, 24. Ollie Brookes, 25. Brad Holroyd, 26. Max Roberts, 27. Ant Walker, 28. Ryan Millar.

John Kear’s first full season in charge sees Widnes enter the season with more depth than in any year since they returned to the Championship in 2019. They have yet to make the play-offs since relegation from Super League, and anything less than that will surely be regarded as a failure in 2023.

Kear has emphasised the importance of competition for places across the park, something Widnes haven’t had in recent seasons, where their form has tailed off amidst injuries. Tom Gilmore returns to his hometown club having been arguably the form half-back in the division at Batley in the last two seasons.

York Knights

Head coach: Andrew Henderson
Captain: Chris Clarkson
Key man: Matty Marsh
One to watch: Josh Daley

Last season: 6th
Prediction: 6th (16/1)

Ins: Josh Daley (Mounties), Ukuma Ta’ai, Jesse Dee (both Newcastle), Ronan Michael (Huddersfield), Conor Fitzsimmons (Workington Town), Ben Barnard (Heworth), Jon Luke Kirby (Huddersfield), James Cunningham (Toulouse)

Outs: Toby Warren (Leeds), Jacob Ogden (unattached), Perry Whitely, Ronan Dixon (both Dewsbury), Brendan O’Hagan (released).

Squad: 1. Matty Marsh, 2. Joe Brown, 3. James Glover, 4. Jesse Dee, 5. AJ Towse, 6. Ata Hingano, 7. Liam Harris, 8. Jon Luke Kirby, 9. Will Jubb, 10. Conor Fitzsimmons, 11. Chris Clarkson, 12. Danny Kirmond, 13. Jordan Thompson, 15. Myles Harrison, 16. Bailey Antrobus, 17. Ronan Michael, 19. Josh Daley, 20. Jack Teanby, 21. Ukuma Ta’ai, 22. Pauli Pauli, 23. Olly Butterworth, 24. Ben Barnard, 25. Brad Ward, 26. Jamie Ellis, 27. Harry Price.

York enter 2023 with a new coach in Andrew Henderson and have left some of their recruitment late, as well as losing Brandon O’Hagan too. They are a club that is fancied to be a contender for Super League in years to come, especially with their move to paying women players in 2023.

What is key for them is to ensure they are as competitive as possible on the pitch, which would almost make it impossible for them to be turned away from Super League when licensing comes back in. Henderson did a good job at London, and they earned promotion the year after he left, and he will be eager to do a good job in his first head coach role since then.

What are the opening Championship fixtures?

The season kicks off with a full round of fixtures on February 4-6.

  • Barrow v Toulouse (Saturday, 3pm)
  • Bradford v Whitehaven (Sunday, 3pm)
  • Halifax v Sheffield (Sunday, 3pm)
  • London v Batley (Sunday, 3pm)
  • Swinton v Newcastle (Sunday, 3pm)
  • York v Widnes (Sunday, 3pm)
  • Keighley v Featherstone (Monday, 7.45pm)

Who do you think will win the 2023 Championship and earn promotion to Super League? Let us know your predictions in the comments below.