29th January 2020, 16:43 | championship

Betfred Championship | Club-by-club guide

Betfred Championship | Club-by-club guide

Batley Bulldogs

Head Coach: Craig Lingard 

Last Season: 10th

First Game of 2020: vs Featherstone Rovers (H) 

Batley head into the 2020 Betfred Championship season under new stewardship in form of club legend Craig Lingard. The Bulldogs found themselves languishing at the lower ends of the Championship last season struggling for form but did make the semi-finals of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup.

Batley have lost a key playmaker in Dominic Brambani but have acquired Shaun Lunt who has a wealth of Super League experience to his name. It was only four years ago that the Bulldogs saw themselves finish 3rd in the regular season and compete in the Super 8s and new boss Lingard will be hopeful of challenging further up the table this season.  

Ins: Jack Blagbrough (York City Knights), Luke Hooley (Wakefield Trinity), Shaun Lunt (Leeds Rhinos), Dale Morton (Dewsbury Rams), Shaun Pick (Sheffield Eagles), Lucas Walshaw (Dewsbury Rams), Ben White (Barrow Raiders)

Outs: Dominic Brambani (Hunslet), Danny Bravo (Released), Paul Brearley (Halifax), Alex Bretherton (Retired), Jack Downs (Released), Louis Jouffret (Featherstone Rovers), Sam Smeaton (Doncaster) 

Bradford Bulls 

Head Coach: John Kear

Last Season: 6th

First Game of 2020: vs London Broncos (H)

Bradford missed out on a spot in last year’s play-off by just one point at the expense of Featherstone Rovers, who went on to make the Million Pound Game. It was a successful season however for the Bulls who racked up 16 wins in the league as well as appearing in the quarter-finals of the Coral Challenge Cup following a memorable victory over Leeds Rhinos. 

The Bulls have had a handful of stars exit the club in the off-season but have brought some astute signings of their own. Bradford will have a new home in 2020 playing their home games at Dewsbury’s Tetley’s Stadium but, with John Kear at the helm, Bradford will be confident of going one better in 2020 and breaking into the play-off places.  

Ins: Anthony England (Wakefield Trinity), Greg Johnson (Salford Red Devils), Rowan Milnes (Hull Kingston Rovers), Sam Barlow (Unattached), Adam Rooks (Hull Kingston Rovers - loan), Levy Nzoungou (Hull FC)

Outs: Callum Bustin (Keighley Cougars), Matt Garside (Halifax), James Green (York City Knights), Jy Hitchcox (Toulouse Olympique), Joe Keyes (Hull Kingston Rovers), Jon Magrin (Dewsbury Rams), Rowan Milnes (Hull Kingston Rovers), Elliot Minchella (Hull Kingston Rovers), Anesu Mudoti (Hull Kingston Rovers), Colton Roche (Newcastle Thunder), Ethan Ryan (Hull Kingston Rovers), Ross Peltier (Doncaster), Matty Storton (Hull Kingston Rovers), Jake Webster (Keighley Cougars), Matty Wildie (Bradford Bulls), Mikey Wood (Newcastle Thunder)

Dewsbury Rams 

Head Coach: Lee Greenwood

Last Season: 12th

First game of 2020: vs Leigh Centurions (H) 

Dewsbury survived the drop to Betfred League 1 by just three points last season and could have faced a much tighter end to the season had Barrow Raiders notched one more win throughout 2019. The Rams only managed six wins in the Championship last season and were the only side to draw more than one game. 

Head Coach Lee Greenwood has been busy in the off-season bringing in 12 new faces including Chris Annakin, Matt Fleming and free-scoring Will Oakes who all have Super League experience. The Rams will know they will need to improve on last season if they are to avoid relegation troubles with strong sides in Whitehaven and Oldham entering the competition. 

Ins: Chris Annakin (Wakefield Trinity), Tommy Brierley (Unattached), Davey Dixon (Keighley Cougars), Sonny Esslemont (Sheffield Eagles), Matt Fleming (London Broncos), Jon Magrin (Bradford Bulls), Sam Moorhouse (Leeds Rhinos), Will Oakes (Hull Kingston Rovers – loan), Morgan Punchard (Featherstone Rovers), Connor Scott (Doncaster), Dom Speakman (Unattached), James Thornton (Sheffield Eagles), Jay Walton (Unattached) 

Outs: Simon Brown (Hunslet), Dale Morton (Batley Bulldogs), Jode Sheriffe (Oldham), Lucas Walshaw (Batley Bulldogs), Robbie Ward (Sheffield Eagles), Rob Worrincy (Sheffield Eagles) 

Featherstone Rovers

Head Coach: James Webster

Last Season: 5th (Million Pound Game)

First game of 2020: vs Batley Bulldogs (A)

Featherstone came within 80 minutes of turning the Super League dream to reality in 2019. The Rovers – who made the play-off places by a solitary point – pulled off a stunning play-off campaign which saw them topple Leigh Centurions, York City Knights and Toulouse Olympique all on the road before falling to Toronto Wolfpack 24-6.

Former boss Ryan Carr has left the club, but experienced Head Coach James Webster has taken the reins and has brought in some big names including the likes of Brett Ferres, Louis Jouffret and Craig Hall. Following last season’s exploits, Rovers will definitely have an eye on earning promotion from possibly the toughest Championship line-up to date. 

Ins: Ben Blackmore (Sheffield Eagles), Dale Ferguson (Unattached), Brett Ferres (Leeds Rhinos), Louis Jouffret (Batley Bulldogs), Craig Hall (Hull Kingston Rovers), Thomas Minns (York City Knights), Dean Parata (Toulouse Olympique), Alec Susino (Barrow Raiders), Jake Sweeting (Castleford Tigers) 

Outs: Connor Jones (Salford Red Devils), Jack Ormondroyd (Salford Red Devils), Jake Spedding (Widnes Vikings), Josh Walters (London Broncos)

Halifax

Head Coach: Simon Grix

Last Season: 8th

First game of 2020: vs Sheffield Eagles (H) 

Halifax’s 2019 was a story of two halves but rather than it being split by time, it was split by competitions. The West Yorkshire side struggled in the Championship finishing inside the bottom half but enjoyed a marvellous Challenge Cup run which saw them become the first second tier side to reach the semi-finals since 2006. 

Over recent seasons, Halifax have regularly competed in the Super 8s and play-off systems and will be hoping last year was a minor blip. Simon Grix has now enjoyed a full pre-season with his side and introduced some impressive new names such as Jodie Broughton and Tom Gilmore. If Gilmore and Scott Murrell hit the ground running, Halifax could be one to watch in 2020.  

Ins: Paul Brearley (Batley Bulldogs), Jodie Broughton (Catalans Dragons), Keal Carlile (Newcastle Thunder), Matt Garside (Bradford Bulls), Tom Gilmore (Widnes Vikings), Scott Grix (Huddersfield Giants), Keegan Hirst (Wakefield Trinity)

Outs: Adam Brook (Oldham), Shane Grady (Widnes Vikings), Ben Johnston (York City Knights), Ben Kaye (Released), Harry Kidd (Released), Will Sharp (York City Knights), Jordan Syme (Rochdale Hornets)

Leigh Centurions 

Head Coach: John Duffy

Last Season: 4th (Elimination Final) 

First game of 2020: vs Dewsbury Rams (A)

Leigh’s 2019 promised so much but ended up fizzling out with defeat in the semi-finals of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup before a loss to Featherstone Rovers in the Elimination Final of the Championship play-offs. 

The Centurions have lost two integral members of that squad in Luke Douglas and Micky Higham, but their experience has been replaced with the acquisitions of Danny Addy and Matty Wildie. Leigh competed in Super League as recently as 2017 and a return will be at the top of their 2020 wish list. 

Ins: Danny Addy (Hull Kingston Rovers), Callum Field (Wigan Warriors), Nick Glohe (Lakes United), Ben Hellewell (London Broncos), Ryan Ince (Widnes Vikings), Nathan Mason (London Broncos), Matty Wildie (Bradford Bulls), Craig Mullen (Wigan Warriors – loan), Josh Woods (Wigan Warriors – loan) 

Outs: Joe Cator (Hull FC), Luke Douglas (Loan expired), Micky Higham (Retired)

London Broncos 

Head Coach: Danny Ward

Last Season: 14th (Betfred Super League)

First game of 2020: vs Bradford Bulls (A)

London came so close to securing their Super League status for another season in the most dramatic relegation battle in the competition’s history. The Broncos final day defeat to Wakefield meant they suffered the drop as oppose to Trinity, Hull Kingston Rovers or Huddersfield Giants.

However, while they have had some of their high-profile players cherry picked by Super League clubs, Head Coach Danny Ward will remain in charge and he certainly knows how to guide the Broncos to glory in the Championship. Their 2018 Million Pound Game victory over Toronto Wolfpack is one that will remain in the memory and with players such as Josh Walters, Rhys Curran and Cory Aston now in their ranks a repeat is a possibility. 

Ins: Olly Ashall-Bott (Widnes Vikings), Cory Aston (Castleford Tigers), Rhys Curran (Toulouse Olympique), Tuoyo Egodo (Castleford Tigers), Dan Norman (Widnes Vikings), Josh Walters (Featherstone Rovers), Jordan Williams (London Skolars) 

Outs: Jordan Abdull (Hull Kingston Rovers), Matt Fleming (Dewsbury Rams), Matt Gee (Hull Kingston Rovers), Ben Hellewell (London Broncos), Elliot Kear (Salford Red Devils), Nathan Mason (Leigh Centurions), Ryan Morgan (Loan expired), Jay Pitts (Wakefield Trinity), Alex Walker (Wakefield Trinity), Rhys Williams (Salford Red Devils), Luke Yates (Salford Red Devils)

Oldham

Head Coach: Matt Diskin

Last Season: 

First game of 2020: vs Widnes Vikings (H) 

Oldham are set to compete in the Championship for the first time since 2017 following their memorable League 1 Promotion Final victory over Newcastle Thunder last October. The Roughyeds lost just five games in the regular season and crossed for over 650 points in their 20 League 1 fixtures. 

However, long-term Head Coach Scott Naylor left the club at the end of last season and has been replaced with Matt Diskin. Diskin knows it will be a tough ask but Oldham will be aiming to maintain their Championship status and are set to enjoy a local derby with Swinton Lions at the Summer Bash in May.  

Ins: Harry Aaronson (Swinton Lions), Dan Abram (Rochdale Hornets), Adam Brook (Halifax), Lewis Charnock (Barrow Raiders), John Hutchings (St Helens), Jode Sheriffe (Dewsbury Rams), James Worthington (Wigan Warriors)

Outs: Ritchie Hawkyard (Keighley Cougars), Scott Law (Retired), Zack McComb (Sheffield Eagles), Emmerson Whittel (Rockingham Sharks)

Sheffield Eagles

Head Coach: Mark Aston

Last Season: 7th

First game of 2020: vs Halifax RLFC (A) 

While Sheffield missed out on the Championship play-offs last season, it was a massively successful season for the Eagles who lifted the inaugural AB Sundecks 1895 Cup at Wembley in August evoking memories of the club’s famous 1998 Challenge Cup Final victory over Wigan Warriors.  

However, Mark Aston will always want more from his squad particularly with the additions of Scott Wheeldon and Rob Worrincy who are returning to Sheffield alongside Zack McComb and Connor Bower who have made a name for themselves in League 1 in recent seasons. With a new brand and stadium on the horizon for the Eagles, 2020 could be a pivotal season for the club. 

Ins: Connor Bower (Doncaster), Izaac Farrell (Rochdale Hornets), Frankie Mariano (Doncaster), Zack McComb (Oldham), Robbie Ward (Dewsbury Rams), Scott Wheeldon (Featherstone Rovers), Rob Worrincy (Dewsbury Rams)

Outs: Ben Blackmore (Featherstone Rovers), Sonny Esslemont (Dewsbury Rams), Shaun Pick (Batley Bulldogs), James Thornton (Dewsbury Rams), Patch Walker (Retired)

Swinton Lions 

Head Coach: Stuart Littler

Last Season: 9th

First game of 2020: vs Whitehaven RLFC (A) 

Swinton started the 2019 slowly but following a comeback victory over local rivals Rochdale Hornets at Summer Bash kicked on and found themselves in play-off form for the remainder of the season. The Lions eventually finished 9thbut their off-season has been dominated by a change of ownership. 

Swinton have delved into the amateur game for new recruits with three signings from Leigh Miners Rangers alongside Ben Hayes from Thatto Heath Crusaders. The Lions will need someone to fill the fast-paced boots of Matty Ashton however if they are to replicate last year’s impressive showing. 

Ins: Lewis Brogan (Leigh Miners Rangers), Mitch Cox (Leigh Centurions), Joe Digby (Leigh Miners Rangers), Sam Grant (Wigan Warriors), Frankie Halton (Leigh Miners Rangers), Ben Hayes (Thatto Heath Crusaders), Tayler Brown (Warrington Wolves) 

Outs: Harry Aaronson (Oldham), Matty Ashton (Warrington Wolves) 

Toulouse Olympique

For a number of years now, Toulouse Olympique have been listed as one of the favourites for promotion and it’s no different in 2020. The French side made it to the preliminary final last season before being defeated by Featherstone Rovers. 

Sylvain Houles’ side play an exciting brand of rugby and have made France a real fortress in recent seasons but do face the challenge of moving to a new home in 2020. In Harrison Hansen and Frank Winterstein they have bolstered an already strong forward pack and Jy Hitchcox will add some flair out wide. 

Head Coach: Sylvain Houles

Last Season: 2nd

First game of 2020: vs York City Knights (H) – LIVE on Our League

Ins: Harrison Hansen (Widnes Vikings), Jy Hitchcox (Bradford Bulls), Lloyd White (Mackay Cutters), Frank Winterstein (Penrith Panthers)

Outs: Rhys Curran (London Broncos), Jordan Dezaria (Catalans Dragons), Tyla Hepi (Castleford Tigers), Gavin Marguerite (Catalans Dragons), Dean Parata (Featherstone Rovers)

Whitehaven

Head Coach: Gary Charlton

Last Season: 1st (Betfred League 1)

First game of 2020: vs Swinton Lions (H) 

After three seasons in League 1, Whitehaven are set to make their long-awaited return to the second tier in 2020 after edging out Oldham in last year’s title race. The Cumbrian side had a hugely successful season under Gary Charlton losing just three of their 20 league games.

Ahead of the new season, they have brought in a trio of new signings from local rivals and newly-relegated Barrow Raiders – Brett Carter, Glenn Riley and Tom Walker – alongside 40-year-old veteran Jamie Thackray. Whitehaven will be looking for an extended run in the Championship in the coming years.  

Ins: Brett Carter (Barrow Raiders), Glenn Riley (Barrow Raiders), Jamie Thackray (Keighley Cougars), Tom Walker (Barrow Raiders)

Outs: Carl Forster (Barrow Raiders) 

Widnes Vikings 

Head Coach: Tim Sheens

Last Season: 11th

First game of 2020: vs Oldham (A)

It was a difficult season for Widnes Vikings last year with the club struggling to an 11th place finish and suffering defeat at Wembley in the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Final. However, the Vikings did begin the season with a 12-point deduction which – with their 14 wins – would have meant an 8th place finish.

Widnes have possibly made the biggest signing in the off-season with former Australia Head Coach Tim Sheens joining the club. After a season to settle in the Championship, 2020 could be the year that the Vikings make a real push for a place back in Super League. 

Ins: Kenny Baker (North Wales Crusaders), Liam Cooper (St Helens), Deon Cross (Barrow Raiders), Shane Grady (Halifax), Jack Johnson (Warrington Wolves), Pat Moran (Warrington Wolves), Jake Spedding (Featherstone Rovers), Logan Tomkins (Salford Red Devils) 

Outs: Patrick Ah Van (Rugby Union), Olly Ashall-Bott (London Broncos), Keanan Brand (Warrington Wolves), Hep Cahill (Released), Chris Dean (Retired), Anthony Gelling (Warrington Wolves), Tom Gilmore (Halifax), Harrison Hansen (Toulouse Olympique), Dan Norman (London Broncos), Brad Walker (Wakefield Trinity)

York City Knights 

York City Knights have been of the real fairy tale stories in the domestic game in recent seasons having earned promotion from Betfred League 1 before almost repeating the feat from the Championship to Super League in 2019. James Ford’s side fell at the semi-final stage to eventual finalists Featherstone Rovers.  

The Knights have signed some real big hitters ahead of the 2020 season with Super League Grand Final winners Chris Clarkson and Jimmy Keinhorst alongside Challenge Cup winner Danny Washbrook. These additions could add the star power and experience to move York on to the next level. 

Head Coach: James Ford

Last Season: 3rd (Semi-Finals)

First game of 2020: vs Toulouse Olympique (A)

Ins: Chris Clarkson (Castleford Tigers), James Green (Bradford Bulls), Ben Johnston (Halifax), Jimmy Keinhorst (Hull Kingston Rovers – loan), Danny Washbrook (Hull FC), Will Sharp (Halifax), Elliot Wallis (Hull Kingston Rovers – loan) 

Outs: Jack Blagbrough (Batley Bulldogs), Harry Carter (Doncaster), Matty Chilton (Released), Thomas Minns (Featherstone Rovers), Ash Robson (Released) 

 

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