Christmas is nearly here and with that comes the pre-season friendlies, where clubs get to field their new players in front of an excited and rather cold crowd! In the Kingstone Press Championship, there’s a new team on the block in the Hull Kingston Rovers who were relegated from the top tier in dramatic fashion. They’ve recruited well while clubs like Batley Bulldogs and London Broncos, who were very good last season have also done a good job on the recruitment front. In this article, we take a look at the players who have the potential to really make their mark in the Championship during the course of 2017.
Jy Hitchcox (Batley Bulldogs) – One of the signings that could go under the radar. Hitchcox joins his third West Yorkshire club in as many years after stints at Featherstone Rovers and Castleford Tigers. He had more success at the Jungle than at the Big Fellas and now he has the chance to become a hit at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium. The former Wests Tigers man has all the makings to go well under the stewardship of Matt Diskin and the utility back will be hoping to add to the 11 tries he scored in the Championship during his stint at the Rovers in 2015.
Jason Walton (Bradford Bulls) – A hard-hitting, strong back rower who has a lot of Championship experience. Rohan Smith has done well to get Walton at the Provident Stadium as he is a consistent performer in the second tier and after spells at Super League clubs Salford Red Devils and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, it’s hard to see Walton not ripping it up for Bradford.
Frankie Mariano (Featherstone Rovers) – The Scottish international joins Jon Sharp’s men after being a part of Steve McCormack’s squad at the Four Nations. Mariano has moved from Castleford Tigers to the Big Fellas Stadium and he will be hoping to get a good pre-season behind him, especially after a few years where injuries haven’t been kind. The 29-year-old is quite a coup for the Rovers when you take into consideration that Catalans Dragons were reportedly after his signature.
Shane Grady (Halifax) – The centre, who was part of the Championship Team of the Season in 2014, made a name for himself at Dewsbury with some notable performances and now Grady will be donning the blue and white of Halifax. What he doesn’t have in pace, he makes up for in strength and the former Widnes man can be deadly from close range. It will be interesting to see how he links up with Fax, who welcome back winger Rob Worrincy from Sheffield Eagles for the upcoming season.
Jamie Ellis (Hull Kingston Rovers) – A smart signing by Hull KR coach Tim Sheens. Ellis joins the Robins on a season-long-loan from Huddersfield Giants and the half-back, who has been a regular in Super League for the past few seasons, will play an important part in the East Yorkshire side’s bid for promotion through the Qualifiers. Ellis played in five of Huddersfield’s matches in the Qualifiers in 2016, the only one he missed was against Hull KR.
Tom Spencer (London Broncos) – After an immense season in 2016, London Broncos have bolstered their forward pack with the signing of Tom Spencer from recently promoted Leigh Centurions. The 25-year-old still has his best years ahead of him and the Broncos will be hoping that they come at the Trailfinders Sports Ground. Spencer will ply his trade in the capital for the next two years.
George Tyson (Oldham) – Tyson returns to Bower Fold after a lone season at Sheffield Eagles, where he impressed for the most part with some strong running and an eye for a monster tackle. The centre/back-rower was integral to Oldham’s promotion to the Championship in 2015 and he now has the chance to help them become a mainstay in the second tier.
Miles Greenwood (Rochdale Hornets) – Greenwood is a regular name in the Championship after stints at Leigh Centurions, Batley Bulldogs and Halifax, the latter being where the full-back has joined Rochdale from. Electric performances over the space of two seasons for Batley saw Fax come knocking for his services. However, a broken leg in just his fourth game for The Shay side meant Greenwood was left frustrated on the sidelines. His comeback season in 2016 saw the full-back score eight tries in 18 games. Hornets coach Alan Kilshaw could easily have made the signing of the season if Greenwood hits the ground running at Spotland.
Matt Sarsfield (Swinton Lions) – A very respectable signing for the Lions as they look to keep building after their successful return to the Championship in 2016. Sarsfield joins from Salford Red Devils where he played five games. The second-rower’s success came during a loan spell at Halifax last season. Seven tries in nine games is a brilliant strike rate and Swinton will be praying they get more of where that came from over the course of the year.
Stan Robin (Toulouse Olympique) – Probably the brightest part of Sheffield Eagles’ season in 2016 was the contribution of Robin, a tricky half-back who was signed on loan from Catalans Dragons. The Frenchman has the skills to turn a game on its head and Toulouse must have paid some attention to him as they decided to snap him up for their talented squad at Stade Ernest Argeles. Toulouse had a terrific season in League 1 and Sylvain Houles’ men will know of the challenge awaiting them in the Championship, and with the help of Robin they should go well.