Last updated Aug. 8, 2018, 4:20 p.m.


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Ryan Hall Still Has a Big Task on His Hands Before Departing Leeds

Ryan Hall

The 2018 season has been a nightmare for the Leeds Rhinos, who for the second time in three seasons find themselves fighting for their life in Super League having failed to secure a place in the Super 8s. 

After winning their eighth Super League Grand Final in 2017, the Rhinos have flopped, just as they did in 2016 after winning the competition. Without Danny McGuire in the halves, Leeds are lacking direction, and now, the West Yorkshire outfit are losing another member of their famous golden generation.

Over the last three years, Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock, Kylie Leuluai, Rob Burrow and McGuire have all departed, with Ryan Hall now confirmed to be leaving the English game for a crack at the NRL at the age of 30. Hall has been a regular on the wing for Leeds since his debut in 2007, but the colossus winger will end his spell with his boyhood club in October before linking up with the Sydney Roosters in the NRL.

Over Hall’s time in the first-team at Headingley, he has been superb on the wing, constantly developing his game. The 30-year-old started out as a try-scoring winger, but in recent times, he has become almost like a seventh forward, with his powerful running becoming a trademark, alongside some impressive finishes. His efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, with the NRL constantly monitoring him and the Roosters eventually getting Hall’s signature. He has become a world-class talent at Leeds, featuring regularly for England over the years under a number of coaches. His try-scoring record for his country stands at an impressive 36 tries in 38 appearances, with plenty of those coming against Australia, which will have enhanced his reputation down under. We will soon find out if Hall is a success in Australia, but before that, he has plenty to play for with Leeds. The 6ft 2inch winger will not want to leave his boyhood club in the second division, which is looking a possibility, with Leeds left fighting for survival in the Qualifiers. Currently, Leeds are expected to come through, with bet365’s Rugby League betting market pricing the Rhinos at 5/4 to put a difficult season behind them and secure Super League status next season.

Although they will be going up against lower league opposition, who have a much lower budget, things will not be straightforward, with the inexperienced Sinfield leading the Rhinos. Of course, Sinfield as a player was untouchable, he was once the world’s best and will go down in Super League history as the competition’s most successful captain. However, off the field, he is about to find a lot out about himself in the Qualifiers.

Sinfield will be turning to his old teammate Hall to have an impact between now and the end of the season. The winger deserved to go out on a high like Sinfield, McGuire and co, but that isn’t to be, with Leeds not competing for a ninth Super League trophy. However, as exciting as Hall’s new challenge is, it will be devastating for the winger to leave his boyhood club without their Super League status. He will want to go out on a high.



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Bateman moves to Australia

The latest news to come out of Wigan Warriors is that 24 year old John Bateman is to leave the English club and move to the other side of the world to play for Canberra Raiders.

The England international has signed a two year deal at the National Rugby League side from the beginning of 2019.

Bateman scored 36 tries in 125 games since his 2014 move from Betfred League 1 side Bradford Bulls. The player will return to Wigan to sign a three year deal on the conclusion of his contract in the NRL, which is two year plus an extra year if the Raiders want to take it up.

He said: “It’s great to know I’ll be returning here to Wigan, this has been an incredibly tough decision for me to make as I have enjoyed my time at Wigan so much.

“ultimately, I have always had the desire to play in the NRL at some point in my career, this opportunity is something I didn’t want to turn down.”

In a statement, Warriors confirmed Bateman also has a further year option on his deal with the Raiders.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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