Off the Record: Rugby League Rumour and Gossip #30

On a wing and a prayer

Wigan’s hunt for outside backs, with Josh Charnley and Dan Sarginson leaving the club at the end of the year, has started and two targets have emerged. Warriors chairman Ian Lenagan was spotted at Belle Vue last Saturday to watch Wakefield host Salford. The star of that day? Young winger Tom Johnstone who scored a dramatic hat-trick. Also tearing things up that afternoon was the Red Devils on-loan metre-machine Justin Carney. While Johnstone is locked down to a long-term deal with the Wildcats, Carney’s loan ends at the completion of this season and he certainly won’t be going back to Cas. Either flyer would be a great potential signing for Wigan.

Ryan’s run

Still on Wigan and we note that Ryan Hampshire, on loan to Castleford from the DW Stadium, is eager to impress this season. Hamsphire only has a one-year loan move but we’ve been told his future definitely lies away from the Warriors, as Shaun Wane doesn’t seem him as a long-term option at the back or in the halves. With George Williams and Sam Tomkins both injured, Wigan have been forced to move players around with Sean O’Loughlin taking a playmaking spot, and there’s been no recall for Hamsphire. Whatever happens, the 21-year old won’t be with the Cherry Whites in the years to come.

Life of Brian

Since quitting Super League and Wakefield last month one of our sources tells us that Brian Smith is enjoying a sunny break with family at NSW’s Angourie Beach. Smith might be 62 but we hear that he isn’t about to retire, as some have tipped, and does want a return to rugby league. The man who has coached more clubs than just about anyone else, five in Australia and three in England at last count, is waiting for his next opportunity and is open to a role of “any kind”. Watch this space.
 
Van Morrison

Bradford have taken a pummeling in the past few weeks and the latest rumour to hit our ears concerns under-fire coach James Lowes. Apparently Dewsbury boss Glenn Morrison is being lined up as Lowes’ replacement, should the Bulls continue to struggle and drop games. Morrison is one of the best coaches in the Championship and has done wonders at the Rams on a limited budget.

No Leigh for Lee

There’s also been a ton of speculation about the future of Bulls 6 Lee Gaskell, with him supposedly headed to Leigh in 2017. With Ryan Brierley gone he would make a handy replacement. But a mole inside the Bradford camp tells us this is complete baloney and that the 25-year old is not joining their top Champiopnship rivals. Gaskell is off contract at the Bulls at the end of this season but surely wants a return to Super League soon.

Player power

Most Super League players don’t like the Easter schedule and want it changed – that’s the message coming from Twitter and other media this past week. Dan Sarginson took aim at the holiday scheduling in a big way, tweeting: “Fair play to 90% of the fans that understand the demand the players over easter are under, 2 the 10% of plastic fans that don’t care do one”. Jamie Peacock called for change in his Mirror column, while other Super League players like Luke Dorn also believe the three games in quick succession should be scrapped. More agree off the record, calling the Easter fxitures a joke. Sadly though the players have no real say in scheduling and little will likely be changed next year.

Out wide

It’s happening out wide in the NRL when it comes to wingers. The latest in NRL gossip sees Melbourne keen to bring their former wide man Sisa Waqa back to AAMI Park. Waqa left the Storm at the end of 2014 to join Canberra, but he will depart the Raiders for French rugby union at the end of this season. Before he does go Melbourne want him back for the rest of 2016. Also catching the eye of rugby union is Bulldogs try-scorer Curtis Rona – he is weighing up offers from Super Rugby, French and Japanese clubs. Rona knows the way to the try-line and has played the 15-man game before. Parramatta flyer Ryan Morgan seems to be unwanted at Pirtek and could make his way to Super League as early as this season. There is also a ton of talk that Joe Burgess may be headed back to the UK faster than expected, with the England international struggling to figure in calculations at the Roosters. A season in the NSW Cup with Wyong might be not be so appealing.

Media matters

Catalans stars Todd Carney, Willie Mason and David Taylor are off limits to the media, putting themselves on a self imposed media ban. We hear it’s not a club directive but something the players have started themselves. Considering Carney and Mason’s past run ins with the media over the years, it’s not a huge surprise. But it is a bit of a shame considering how well the Dragons are now going, especially the Coal Train. Interviews or not, Catalans are on a great run at the moment and maybe it’s a case of don’t fix what isn’t broken.

Tiger cubs

Salford director of rugby Tim Sheens has set his sights on snaring a few of his old Tigers players for the Red Devils next year. Benji Marshall, Chris Lawrence and Chris Heighington are all available and Sheens rates the trio, who were under him at Leichhardt. Heighington has played for England wouldn’t take up a visa spot, while Marshall would add some star power to Super League and Lawrence has a decent pedigree. Marshall and Lawrence both seem keen to stay in the NRL, but unless they have better offers down under the AJ Bell is beckoning.

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