Off the Record: Rugby League Rumours and Gossip #145

What is the ‘new’ potential swap deal in Super League? Where is Gregg McNally heading? Which New Zealander is off to the capital? Read more in the gossip column.

A different swap deal for Huddersfield and Castleford

A rumour that has appeared on a couple of social media forums over the weekend is that Castleford Tigers could enter negotiations with Huddersfield Giants over a potential swap deal between Joe Wardle and Jordan Rankin.

Wardle was linked with a move back to the Giants earlier in the off-season, which included a swap deal with Sebastine Ikahihifo going the other way, although that doesn’t look likely now. Rankin, who can operate in the halves or at full-back, could well fit into Daryl Powell’s side in the absence of Luke Gale – but it is only speculation as of yet.

Castleford half-back search difficult

The news that Luke Gale is out for most – if not all – of the 2019 campaign is a huge blow to Castleford Tigers.

Castleford director of rugby Jon Wells has revealed that Castleford are considering searching for a replacement for Gale but has trust in their current options. The timing of Gale’s injury leaves the Tigers between a rock and a hard place because at this stage of the year, not many half-backs will be available to buy.

The last ‘top-class’ half-back on the market was Josh Drinkwater, who has recently joined Hull KR. Rangi Chase’s ban ends on July 13, but would he return to rugby league? What about Chris Sandow? There aren’t many other options. They could well stick with Jake Trueman, Ben Roberts, Jamie Ellis and Cory Aston.

Challenge Cup in crisis

The Challenge Cup is being made a laughing stock with all the goings on at the moment.

The Rugby Football League have asked Catalans Dragons – the current holders of the Challenge Cup – to pay a £550,000 bond to compete in the competition next year. How ludicrous is that? The Dragons becoming the first non-British team to win the competition to our sport last year brought increased exposure to our game.

Toronto Wolfpack and Toulouse were also asked to pay a speculated bond of £700,000 to participate in the RFL’s elite competition. It would be an embarrassment if Catalans – last year’s winners – were not to try and retain their title this year.

McNally set for Leigh return

Ireland international Gregg McNally is on the cusp of returning to Leigh Centurions following his release from Bradford Bulls.

Last week, the Bulls released McNally from the final year of his contract on compassionate grounds. The full-back’s wife, Rosey, suffers from avascular necrosis, which is a crippling bone condition. McNally has been caring for his family during this difficult period. Whitehaven-born McNally still lives in Leigh and is expected to sign a deal with the Centurions for 2019. McNally played for Leigh between 2012 and 2017.

Skolars to sign New Zealander

London Skolars are on the verge of signing a back-rower or loose forward in the name of Xavier Rice from New Zealand for the 2019 season.

Rice has recently been playing for Northcote Tigers in the Auckland Rugby League. The Tigers have produced players such as Kevin Locke, Paul Rauhihi, Sean Hoppe and Alex Glenn in the past. Rice was set to sign for Championship side Barrow Raiders but has accepted a deal with London Skolars because he has family in the south of England.

New beginnings or same old?

One Super League side are not having an official media day this year, but an invite-only media dinner instead.

Robert Elstone and Super League are leading with a ‘New Beginnings’ marketing campaign this year, but a club not having an open media day can only restrict their chances for increased press exposure. The obvious way to increase growth in PR and media is to invite anyone in the press to interview their staff and star names, rather than ‘behind closed doors’ kind of interviews.