5 things we learned this week #44

Tigers need to keep cubs

Castleford lost two more promising stars this week. Young forward Luis Johnson and Jamal Goodall joined Warrington and Bradford respectively, following England Academy captain Callum McLelland out the door, after he defected to Scottish Rugby Union last week.

Luis Johnson

After their superb 2017 season, blooding youth into the squad should be priority, even over some new signings. Keeping Johnson, for example, would probably be a better move than bringing in James Green. Jake Trueman’s re-signing is a step in the right direction, but they’ve got to work harder to hold onto their youngsters. That’s how teams like Leeds, Wigan and St Helens have been so successful.

 

Widnes recruitment gets another blow

In what has already been a very quiet off-season for the Vikings, it turns out one of their new names won’t be coming after all. Aussie back rower Will Matthews has been released from his contract due to personal reasons and will stay Down Under instead.

Will Matthews

The loss of Matthews’ weakens Denis Betts’ squad even further, and I really don’t see how they can improve on last year’s 12th place finish. They’ve lost a lot of players and haven’t strengthened in key positions, which is where they fell down last year. Their only hope is that their youth will thrive and a couple of hidden gems will be uncovered. 18-year-old hooker Danny Walker could be one of those who has a big influence.

 

Toulouse out of Challenge Cup…

Some of the weekend’s most unexpected news was that Toulouse have pulled out of 2018’s Challenge Cup. While their reasoning is not yet known, it’s certainly disappointing and a bit disgraceful if they’ve simply decided not to compete.

I hope there is a legitimate reason behind their exit. It’s a competition that deserves respect and shouldn’t allow teams to dictate whether to take part or not. I hate to compare us to football, but do you really think teams would be allowed to leave the FA Cup just because they didn’t fancy taking part? I think not.

 

…But look set for Magic

While Toulouse won’t be in the Challenge Cup, they will feature at next year’s Magic Weekend. Both them and Toronto have been invited to play in Newcastle in May, but it’s a decision that has caused split opinions among fans.

While it’s good to see the Championship being showcased on a bigger stage, there’s no question that the RFL are showing favouritism. This kind of opportunity has never been offered to teams like Featherstone or Dewsbury, so it’s not surprising that fans aren’t best pleased. It still all boils down to the RFL trying to expand the game in North America. And while this is good and all, it shouldn’t mean they overlook our domestic lower league sides.

 

Signings still on the way?

While most teams have all but finalised their squads for 2018, there’s still a few looking to strengthen. Dan Sarginson looks to be returning to Super League, while Catalans are still on the lookout for a fullback, with PNG captain David Mead their no.1 target.

There’s still plenty of available players, especially with the bulk of Leigh’s 2017 squad still on the free agent list. The likes of Josh Drinkwater, Gareth Hock, Cory Paterson, Glenn Stewart and Eloi Pelissier are all still without clubs and could be useful additions to a number of Super League teams.