28th January 2020, 15:38 | championship
Ahead of the 2020 Betfred Championship season, we focus on one new signing who could make the difference for their new club...
Batley Bulldogs – Shaun Lunt
Everybody’s ears pricked up when they heard Batley Bulldogs had signed Betfred Super League Grand Final winner Shaun Lunt ahead of the 2020 season.
Lunt has a wealth of experience having made his debut with Castleford Tigers back in 2005. The 32-year-old has since gone on to represent Workington Town, Huddersfield Giants, Leeds Rhinos and Hull Kingston Rovers as well as earning a solitary England cap in 2010.
The hooker spent six seasons with Huddersfield in which he helped them to a Super League league leaders’ shield triumph and a Challenge Cup Final. He played in Leeds’ 2012 Grand Final victory over Warrington Wolves and helped Hull Kingston Rovers earn promotion back to Super League in 2017.
There is no doubt Lunt will add an extra dimension to Batley’s attack while also serving as a leader on and off the field for the Bulldogs.
Bradford Bulls – Anthony England
Anthony England will return to the Betfred Championship this year after spending the last six seasons playing in the Super League with Warrington Wolves and Wakefield Trinity.
England was an integral part of Wakefield’s side which narrowly missed out of the Super League play-offs in 2017 and has had previous success in the Championship. The 33-year-old has enjoyed spells with Gateshead Thunder (now Newcastle Thunder), Dewsbury Rams and Featherstone Rovers winning the Championship League Leaders’ Shield in both 2012 and 2013.
England will bolster Bradford’s pack as the Bulls aim to make the Championship play-offs in 2020.
Dewsbury Rams – Will Oakes
Dewsbury have been the most active Championship club in the off-season, but one signing which could prove to be a real gem is that of Will Oakes on loan from Hull Kingston Rovers.
Oakes debuted for the Robins in 2016 and has scored 10 tries in 24 appearances. He has spent the last two seasons on dual-registration and loan with York City Knights crossing for 14 tries in 24 games.
The Rams will be hoping the Scotland international can replicate his try-scoring record at the Tetley’s Stadium in 2020.
Featherstone Rovers – Brett Ferres
It may be difficult to choose just one new transfer who will standout for Featherstone Rovers after some impressive off-season signings however former England international Brett Ferres is the biggest name to arrive at the LD Nutrition Stadium.
Ferres – who has 14 international caps – has won the Super League Grand Final with Leeds Rhinos, the League Leaders’ Shield with Huddersfield Giants and the World Club Challenge with Bradford Bulls in his breakout season.
This will be the first time that Ferres has played Championship Rugby League but the physical back-rower with an eye for the try-line could help the Rovers go one better in 2020.
Halifax RLFC – Tom Gilmore
For seven years, Scott Murrell has been Halifax’s lynchpin in the middle of the park, but in 2020 he will pair up with Tom Gilmore following his arrival from Widnes Vikings.
Gilmore was named in the England Knights Performance Squad as recently as 2018 while Widnes were languishing at the bottom of the Super League. He possesses an impressive running and kicking game with over 200 points to his name for the Vikings.
The 25-year-old could be a perfect partner for Murrell in the halves as last year’s Challenge Cup fairytale story try and improve on last season’s disappointing Championship campaign.
Leigh Centurions – Jarrod Sammut
The Maltese international is back in the Championship after a year with Leigh’s local rivals Wigan Warriors.
Sammut – who made an impact as soon as he arrived in the British game with North Wales Crusaders back in 2010 – is one of the most creative and dynamic halves in the game. The 32-year-old has also impressed at Bradford Bulls, Wakefield Trinity, Featherstone Rovers and Workington Town in recent years.
Sammut’s most recent stint in the second tier saw him help London Broncos secure a shock promotion to Super League following a Million Pound Game victory over Toronto Wolfpack. He will be hoping to repeat the feat with the Centurions in 2020.
London Broncos – Josh Walters
London’s return to the Championship meant they lost a handful of key players from their 2019 Super League squad however they have bolstered their squad with additions such as Josh Walters.
Walters helped Featherstone Rovers to the Million Pound Game last season with some crucial tries during their impressive play-off campaign which saw them win three consecutive away fixtures. The 25-year-old memorably also scored in the 2015 Super League Grand Final for Leeds Rhinos.
A part of the Rhinos’ famous 2015 treble-winning side, Walters will be looking to add a promotion with London Broncos to his resumé.
Oldham RLFC – Harry Aaronson
Harry Aaronson spent time on loan with Oldham last season during their League 1 promotion campaign and has now joined the club on a permanent basis.
Aaronson was named as Keighley Cougars’ Young Player of the Year back in 2017 and has only improved since during his time with Swinton Lions and hometown club Oldham. The full-back slides into the attacking line well and has the ability to score from anywhere on the field.
Oldham will be looking to Aaronson to score the tries as they look to consolidate their Championship status.
Sheffield Eagles – Zack McComb
The 2019 AB Sundecks 1895 Cup winners – Sheffield Eagles – will be hoping acquisitions such as Zack McComb will help the club move into play-off contention in 2020.
McComb has already hit the ground running for Mark Aston’s side in pre-season after two stunning seasons with Oldham which saw him cross for 25 tries and help the Roughyeds to promotion back to the Championship.
If McComb can carry this try-scoring form into the 2020 Championship season we could see the Eagles challenging for a place inside the top five.
Swinton Lions – Brandon Wood
Swinton Lions have benefitted from the relegation of local rivals Rochdale Hornets by bringing in Brandon Wood for the 2020 season.
Wood scored ten tries in 30 appearances for the Hornets last season and was a shining light in an otherwise disappointing season for Rochdale. Swinton – who lost their talisman ahead of 2020 – will be looking to Wood to find the line consistently throughout the year.
Last year was Wood’s debut season in the Championship and he – and the Lions – will be hoping he can continue his development at Swinton.
Toulouse Olympique – Harrison Hansen
Toulouse Olympique fell at the semi-final stage in last year’s promotion push but they’ve added some real experience in the middle with the signing of Harrison Hansen.
The 34-year-old spent nine years with Wigan Warriors which saw him lift the Super League and Challenge Cup trophies before moving on to represent Salford Red Devils, Leigh Centurions and Widnes Vikings in recent years. Hansen is a hard-hitting back-rower who will add to an already solid forward pack at Toulouse.
Hansen may be the leader the French side need to finally guide them to promotion to the Super League.
Whitehaven RLFC – Jamie Thackray
Not many Championship sides can claim to have a Great Britain international amongst their ranks but newly-promoted Whitehaven are one of them.
Thackray played on three occasions for Great Britain back in 2005 and has since had spells with numerous clubs including Hull FC, Leeds Rhinos, North Wales Crusaders, Workington Town and London Broncos amongst others.
Now aged 40, the powerhouse prop-forward will be looking to make an impact in the Championship once more as well as helping the Cumbrians maintain their Championship status.
Widnes Vikings – Matty Smith
It was a tough season on and off the field for Widnes Vikings last season, but Head Coach Tim Sheens has brought in a number of new faces including former England half-back Matty Smith.
Smith has a wealth of accolades to his name having won the Super League Grand Final twice, been named in the Super League Dream Team and won the Lance Todd Trophy back in 2013. Smith’s performances for Wigan saw him make his break onto the international scene between 2014 and 2015.
The 32-year-old will certainly bolster Widnes attacking options, but his experience will be invaluable in a Vikings side which includes a lot of youngsters.
York City Knights – Jimmy Keinhorst
York City Knights are another club who have recruited heavily ahead of the 2020 season, but the loan signing of centre Jimmy Keinhorst certainly stands out.
Keinhorst was a part of Leeds Rhinos’ 2015 treble-winning side and has averaged a try in every three games throughout his professional career. Keinhorst impressed in 2019 with Hull Kingston Rovers for whom he crossed seven times in 28 games.
The Knights have played expansive Rugby League in their rise under Head Coach James Ford and Keinhorst should slot into their system nicely.