Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Cunningham to stay on at Saints

THERE may already be a statue standing in St Helens town centre in his honour, but long serving hooker Keiron Cunningham’s retirement at the end of this season will not bring with it an end to his association with the club, after Saints chairman Eamonn McManus confirmed that he would be offered a coaching role for next season.
2010 brings the curtain down on a decorated playing career for the 33-year-old, which has seen him taste success in the Super League Grand Final on five occasions and lift the Challenge Cup seven times.
“He will be retained at the club. He’s far too valuable a personality to just release so he’ll be here in a coaching capacity next season, that’s pretty much certain,” said McManus.
“We’ve got two great hookers in James Roby and Scott Moore. They have to be given the head, and Keiron’s the first to admit that, but we’d like him to stick around.”
McManus also admitted that the club would be in the market for new players to coincide with Royce Simmons’ arrival as head coach.
“It’s fairly common knowledge that we’ll be losing a couple of players to retirement at the end of the year, and that there are six or seven contracts up for a renewal.
“Next season’s squad will be a mix of renewed contracts and a couple of new names.”
The Saints chairman also expressed his surprise at outgoing Saints boss Mick Potter’s decision to remain in Super League, after initially stating his desire to return to the NRL.
“Mick genuinely did want to go back to Australia, but then the Bulls job came up and I think that helped by paid to any uncertainty over his future as a coach, rather than wait for something that may or may not come up in the NRL.
“I think he’ll do a good job. He’s a very good coach but you are always limited to the quality of the players at your disposal.”

Monday, 19 July 2010

Dragons continue to build for 2011

Dragons continue to build for 2011

CATALANS Dragons have continued to strengthen for next season, their first under new coach Trent Robinson, by extending the contract of experienced prop forward David Ferriol.
Ferriol has featured in every one of the Dragons’ seasons in Super League, having joined from Limoux in 2007.
"We are delighted to keep David at the club. He is a very experienced player and one of the key players in the team. He has improved a lot since his arrival in 2007,” said chairman Bernard Guasch.
"We are working hard with Trent Robinson to build a competitive squad for next season.”
31-year-old Ferriol, who made his 80th appearance for the club on Saturday, is the fourth Catalans player to agree new terms with the club, with Frédéric Vaccari, Sébastien Raguin and Vincent Duport also putting pen to paper on new deals.
Meanwhile, the club have remained tight-lipped on the details of a disciplinary measure imposed against Dimitri Pelo and Seitamata Sa, after the pair were dropped for Saturday's 20-26 home defeat to Crusaders.
Both were charged with affray following an incident in Leeds back in April, and will remain unavailable as the club carries out further investigations into the allegations of misconduct.

Matterson hits out at 'disproportionate' punishment

CASTLEFORD Tigers coach Terry Matterson has hit out at the recent fine handed to the club, claiming that were a bigger club found guilty of a similar offence the fine would not have been as great.
The Tigers are set to appeal against the £40,000 fine handed to them the RFL after the club were found guilty of misconduct for failing to carry out a meaningful investigation in the wake of the homophobic abuse suffered by Crusaders winger Gareth Thomas from their supporters.
“I just wonder whether if it was one of the bigger clubs if the same fine would have been handed out - but that remains to be seen,” said Matterson.
“I was out at the Leeds game the other day and they went on and on and on, and to be honest with you, I don't think it was fair, I think the RFL have come up with a poor decision there.
“It is something that our fans need to have a look at, no doubt about that, but I think it is pretty much right around the league, very similar”
“I don't think the league have handled it really well, to be honest, they've put Castleford out there around the world, and you know, it happens at every game, a different sort of chanting”
“It is something that our fans need to have a look at, no doubt about that, but I think it is pretty much right around the league, very similar.”
The Rhinos responded to Matterson’s comments with a statement on their website, outlining the policies they have in place to deal with crowd problems.
“As a club we take very seriously the matter of anti social behavior and have had a task force set up for nearly three years now to tackle this issue.
“Many of the problems are as a result of issues in general society however we take our responsibility for dealing with those issues inside our stadium extremely seriously.
“We have weekly meetings where all matters of anti social behavior from the previous game are discussed, the actions that were taken reviewed and, if necessary, adjustments made to our security operation”
“Through working with supporters and our own security staff, we have been able to pin point persistent trouble causers in recent years”
“We are not afraid to admit that there is an element of undesirables within our supporter base but we are determined to either persuade them to change their ways or make it clear to them that they are not welcome at Headingley Carnegie.”
The statement concluded by addressing the Rhinos supporters directly:
“It is extremely difficult for us to identify an offender after the game night, especially in terraced areas, so please contact the steward when you feel it is necessary.
“To those fans who conduct themselves in the right manner each and every week, we would like to say a big thank you and tell you to keep it up. Together we can be proud.”

Robins set sights on big finish

JUSTIN Morgan has warned his players against complacency, ahead of a run-in which sees his side face four teams currently outside the top eight.
Thursday’s defeat, their first in five outings, saw Morgan’s men lose ground on the front-runners, but remain on course for a play-off spot - even if the prospects of matching last season’s fourth-placed finish are starting to dim.
“A lot of the cards fell our way last year, we remained reasonably healthy and our players were on form,” Morgan told ‘League Express’.
“Obviously we haven’t been as lucky this year but we’re still in with a shout for a top four finish.
“The first goal is to make the play-offs, then the it’s the top six, and anything further than that would be wonderful.
“At the same time though I’m realistic. A couple of defeats could see us slip right out of contention so we need to make sure we don’t let that happen.”
Hull KR have welcomed back Shaun Briscoe, Liam Colbon and Jason Netherton in recent weeks, but will be without threequarters Jake Webster, Chev Walker and Mike Ratu for the rest of the season.
Mick Vella also missed Thursday’s 20-16 defeat with a back problem.
“We’re starting to get a few bodies back,” said Morgan.
“We’ve been decimated by injury, as most clubs have been at various stages, but the past ten or twelve weeks have been very difficult for us.
“We briefly touched on the run-in as a group and the players aren’t stupid,” he continued.
“They know the unpredictability of the competition and they’ve said themselves that there’s no easy games.
“There’ll be no doubt whatsoever that we’ll be focused, regardless of who we’re playing. You only have to have to look at the results.
“We’ve beaten Leeds, beaten Warrington but have been on the wrong end of scorelines against Wakefield and Catalans.
“Previously whoever won was all about who the best team going into the game was but I think there are a lot of different factors now.
“Injuries and form have a huge bearing. The fact is that any team at their best can beat anyone.
“And, by that same token, when a team’s going through injuries and not playing well they can be beaten by teams who you wouldn’t expect to turn them over.”

Monday, 12 July 2010

Watkins backs Rhinos' youth policy

KALLUM Watkins believes that Leeds’ policy of promoting from within will continue to bring success to the club for years to come.
Watkins’ comments come a week after the Rhinos announced the signature of ten players from their scholarship scheme on professional papers.
“To have that pathway from scholarship level all the way through to the first team is extremely important for a club to be successful,” he told ‘League Express’.
“Speaking as a player who himself has come through the Academy, I think it’s the best way to do things.
“All you have to do is prove yourself in training and in matches. You’ll get noticed and people will talk to you.”
The 19-year-old centre was promoted to the first team squad back in 2008 and, although missing much of this season through injury, has earned a reputation as one of Super League’s hottest prospects.
“When I was younger it wasn’t really my dream to play for Leeds but right from when they expressed an interest in me, I knew that it’d be a good place to be,” he explained.
“I was very surprised to be called up to the first team. I thought the season when I did make my debut would just be a learning curve for me but things progressed and I ended up playing quite a lot of games.”
And the mix of youth and experience in the first team this season is something Watkins believes plays a crucial role in the final stages of a young player’s development.
“Playing in the first team is a lot faster and a lot more brutal. There’s a lot more pressure on you too which can be difficult to deal with.
“But having players like Keith (Senior), Kevin (Sinfield) and Jamie (Peacock around is a massive help to people like me.”
Senior’s future in the threequarters has been the subject of much speculation in recent weeks, with a move to the second row mooted by many.
But understudy Watkins is happy to continue his education under the 34-year-old for another season at least.
“He’s still got another year minimum, which means I’ve got another year of learning from him.
“He’s a top player and a top lad. I don’t know whether he’ll be moving to the second row or not, I think he’ll stick around in the centres for a while to be honest, but when I get my chance I’ll be ready to take it.”
Watkins has been out of action since round six, when he suffered severe damage to his anterior cruciate ligament, although his recovery is believed to be ahead of schedule, giving him an outside chance of appearing again this season.
First choice hookers Danny Buderus (knee) and Matt Diskin (groin) missed Friday’s defeat to Hull KR, along with Greg Eastwood (ligament damage) who faces up to a month on the sidelines.
The match did mark the return to action of Rob Burrow, who had missed the previous seven rounds with a torn ligament, but came too soon for Luke Burgess and Ali Lauititi, who should be fit for Friday’s visit of Huddersfield.
Burrow was forced off during the closing stages of his comeback game, but said that he’s “confident” he’ll be fit for Friday.

Saints snap up youngsters

TEN member of the St Helens scholaship scheme have signed professional contracts with St Helens, as the club continues its policy of investment in youth.
One of the success stories emanating from Knowsley Road, and indeed Super League grounds across the country this season has been the emergence of young talent.
And Saints football manager Mike Rush is confident that this latest batch can go on to achieve great things wearing the famous red vee.
“Once again our Scholarship Scheme has produced players we can take further and continue their rugby league education.
“The quality and depth of these players is testimony to the professionalism and hard work of our youth coaches, recruitment and talent identification staff.”
The current first team squad at St Helens is littered with graduates of the club’s academy system and, although they still have a long way to go until they’re spoken about in the same breath as Kyle Eastmond or James Graham, the pathway from the under-18s squad to Super League stardom is clear.
“The players will now continue their rugby league education by being integrated into the club’s successful Academy programme in the coming weeks,” said Saints player performance manager Neil Kilshaw.
“It is testament to the close working relationship we have with the local amateur clubs that we continue to sign players of such quality and we look forward to continuing that partnership with them in the years to come.
“All the players have played for their respective Service Areas in recent years and have competed on a variety of the RFL’s regional and national programs.”
Prop forward Brad Ashurst, second rower Connor Dwyer, loose forward James Tilley and hooker Lewis Foster join from Portico Panthers.
Centre Mark Percival, second rower Alex Clare and stand off Dominic Speakman are products of Halton, with full back Greg Wilde (Golborne Parkside) and scrum half Danny Yates (Waterhead) completing the list.

Allegations damage Tigers' franchise hopes

CASTLEFORD Tigers chief executive Richard Wright admits that the allegations made and the fine imposed against the club, in regards to the homophobic abuse suffered by Crusaders winger Gareth Thomas, has damaged the club’s franchise application.
The Tigers have already found themselves on the Super League endangered’ list as the 2012 license announcement draws nearer, with progress on a the much-mooted move to a new stadium adjacent to the area’s ‘Xscape’ complex slow.
And these latest allegations of misconduct threaten to extinguish any hopes the club still harbour of preserving their status in the elite division.
“All this business has been damaging for us because we are getting associated as a club with homophobia, and the size of the fine has attracted national headlines,” said Wright.
“But the issue here has got nothing to do with homophobia. We have signed up to the Stonewall Charter and we don't condone any sort of abuse or chanting – we want a happy family atmosphere.”
The Tigers last week banned three supporters for the rest of the season, after they were identified by the club on DVD evidence.
"The people banned will have a right to appeal at the end of the season but in these cases there is a likelihood of the ban being extended.
"Chanting is part of the game and long may it be so but it should be positive and encouraging. Hopefully, home and away the fans will respond in the right manner.
"We also hope that respectable fans, who form the vast majority of the support base at The Jungle, will help us by reporting any obscene behaviour through the well-established mechanisms that we have put in place.”
The Tigers have already stated their intention to appeal against the £40,000 fine handed to them by the RFL, and will be hopeful that the banning orders imposed will strengthen their case.
“This issue is whether we took our best endeavours on the day to stop the chanting. We believe we did.
“There were many people who were at the ground on the day – including journalists and, most importantly, the Rugby Football League's own match commissioner – who were not aware that anything had gone on. So how on earth could we have stopped it, and how on earth can you come up with a fine of £40,000?”
The appeal is expected to be heard at the end of July.