We can just see the light at the end of the tunnel. Pre-season is well underway and those warmup matches that come with it will be here in no time at all. There’s been some interesting signings in the off-season while mid table teams have really strengthened, making it very hard to predict who will shine and who will falter. I hope you enjoy the article and there’ll be a Championship club-by-club preview to be published in due course.
- Anthony Nicholson – Swinton Lions
If the Lions are to stay up in their first season back in the Championship, then they’ll be looking at a few of the more experienced figures to guide them to safety. Even though he’s only 25 years old, Nicholson has been in the Championship for a while now and will definitely play a big part in their squad after arriving from Batley. Praised by Swinton coach John Duffy for his game management and cleverness out of the dummy-half position, the former Leigh hooker will be raring to go at Sedgley Park in 2016.
- Ryan Verlinden – Workington Town
Monster prop forward Verlinden just didn’t live up to expectations at Featherstone Rovers. After his arrival was delayed due to the usual problems encountered by overseas players who choose to ply their trade in the Championship and below, the ex-Newtown Jets star looked off the pace. However, Town coach Phil Veivers has given the Aussie another chance and it could turn out to be a masterstroke. Verlinden was the very essence of a fans favourite at the Jets in Australia, and with a proper pre-season behind him, he may well become the very same at the Zebra Claims Stadium.
- Garry Lo – Sheffield Eagles
The Papua New Guinea international has made his return to England, and if he is half as good as what fellow countryman Menzie Yere has been for the Eagles, then Mark Aston has pulled off a brilliant signing. Lo was the premier winger in the Intrust Super Cup in 2014 and, despite his late night getaway to his homeland earlier on this year after signing for Newcastle Thunder, it’s to be expected he’ll bring a lot of power and pace to the Eagles back line.
- David Scott – Batley Bulldogs
Five players have made the switch from South Yorkshire to Batley for 2016, two from Doncaster with one of those obviously being Scott and three from Sheffield. Playing out of either full-back or wing, Scott gives coach John Kear options to shuffle around his back line should the combinations not bring the right results. James Craven hardly set the world alight as the last line of defence last year for the Bulldogs so it’s a possibility Scott could start the season there. Will the Scottish international have a brilliant year and play his way into Steve McCormack’s Four Nations squad? As a regular for the country in the last two European Championship campaigns, you’d have to say his standing in the side is looking rather good as it is.
- Jack Bussey – London Broncos
Broncos coach Andrew Henderson has done very well to pull this signing off. The forward, joining from Featherstone, played 69 times for the West Yorkshire club before making the switch down south. Henderson has started righting the wrongs made by Joey Grima in terms of squad recruitment, the signings of Bussey and Eddie Battye state the Broncos’ intentions for the season ahead perfectly. Two young forwards who have been very good for their previous clubs and will give 110% for their new side’s cause.
- Tony Tonks – Dewsbury Rams
Experienced Championship forward Tonks moves to Dewsbury from Sheffield after having a storming season for Mark Aston’s men, helping them to a third place finish in the league before the Qualifiers began. It will have been a blow for the Eagles when the news was announced that Tonks wasn’t going to sign a full-time contract and therefore move to Dewsbury, due to the fact he became very popular with the fans and he will do so again in West Yorkshire. Respected for his hard running style which has seen many opponents land on their backside, the former Featherstone Rovers man will be looking to play a big part in Dewsbury’s rise to a potential place in the top four.
- Anthony Thackeray – Featherstone Rovers
Mesmerising at times, Thackeray can turn a game on its head in an instant. Pretty much what you’d expect from one of the leading half-backs from part-time clubs in the Championship. On a three year deal at Featherstone, Thackeray is a highly rated player when it comes to creativity and his agility is just another attribute which will have interested the West Yorkshire club in taking him on. Playing in front of a vociferous crowd at the Big Fellas Stadium, the half-back will relish the opportunity of trying to get Featherstone back into Super League contention.
- Simon Grix – Halifax
A top season for Halifax last year will need to be built on and Richard Marshall has gone about his recruitment very smoothly, with proven Championship performers such as Will Sharp and Sam Smeaton joining the club. However, the acquisition of Grix will have really made the fans think they can go somewhere under this current regime. He has returned to his hometown club from Warrington, and he will be wanting to get back to top form after missing the full 2015 season through injury. The back-rower joins Halifax at a time where spirits are high and expectations are increasing ever since their sixth placed finish in last season’s Qualifiers.
- Kris Welham – Bradford Bulls
A solid centre at Super League level, Welham makes the jump down a league to join the Bulls from Challenge Cup finalists Hull Kingston Rovers. A very good acquisition from coach James Lowes, who will be wanting his side to forget about the heartache of the Million Pound Game and focus on the season ahead. With a tidy record of 102 tries in 191 games for the Robins over a nine year period, Welham will be aiming for a similar strike record in the Championship which is a league not worth underestimating.
- Rangi Chase – Leigh Centurions
It couldn’t really have been anyone else, right? The enigmatic half-back put pen to paper on a two year deal with the Centurions live on Sky Sports News HQ earlier on in the week. There may be a bit of scepticism about the signing from a few Leigh fans, can they really go up with such an off-the-cuff player in their side? Only Chase himself can answer that one and he’ll be wanting to prove the critics wrong by leading the Centurions into Super League. With other big name signings, Reni Maitua and Harrison Hansen to name just two, joining Chase at the Leigh Sports Village, the Centurions are on the march and will be looking to make amends for their woeful first Qualifiers experience.