Rugby League: Club-by-club guide to the new season

BRADFORD NORTHERN

Bradford's buying policy promises an even more expansive style of play than last season, but they could miss the defensive solidity of Darrall Shelford more than they expect. With the addition of one more forward, they would have the squad best equipped to challenge Wigan.

Coach: Peter Fox. In: David Fraisse (Sheffield),

David Myers (Widnes), Robbie Paul (Waitakere City), Eugene Bourneville (Auckland City), Jason Donahue (Leigh). Out: Darrall Shelford (Huddersfield), Brian Noble (Wakefield), Brimah Kebbie (Huddersfield).

Last season: 2nd. Prediction: 3rd.

CASTLEFORD

It has been a difficult summer for Cas, with the loss of important players and some trouble behind the scenes. All in all, John Joyner could find himself suffering from second season syndrome. It will be hard to match last season's achievements in either the Championship or knock-out competitions.

Coach: John Joyner. In: Richard Goddard (Wakefield), Gareth Stephens (Leeds). Out: Grant

Anderson (Halifax), St John Ellis (Queensland Crushers), Mike Ford (Queensland Crushers), Andy Fisher (Dewsbury).

Last season: 4th. Prediction: 6th.

DONCASTER

The preparations for a first season in the top division have been thoroughly disrupted by a financial crisis. Ambitions have had to be reined in and the prospect of survival looks a distant and elusive one.

Coach: Tony Fisher. In: Pierre Grobbelaar, John Assor, Pierre Assor (all South Africa). Out: Andy Gascoigne (Ryedale-York).

Last season: 2nd in Division Two. Prediction: 16th.

FEATHERSTONE ROVERS

Rovers have again recruited imaginatively and should perform marginally better than last season. A top eight place is now a realistic target, but could prove just

beyond them.

Coach: Steve Martin. In: Danny Divet (Hull), Mark Aston (Sheffield). Out: Francis Maloney (Warrington), Brett Daunt (Australia).

Last season: 11th. Prediction: 10th.

HALIFAX

Halifax failed to live up to expectations last season and still have to hit on the right half-back combination. Will come closer to adding up to the sum of their parts, but not close enough to mount a title push.

Coach: Malcolm Reilly. In: Grant Anderson (Castleford), Paul Moriarty (Widnes), Wayne Parker (Hull KR). Out: Gary Lord (Oldham), David Boyd (Australia), Paul Bishop (Australia).

Last season: 5th. Prediction: 4th.

HULL

Hull will find themselves lacking the depth of experience and know-how that they would need to improve greatly on recent form. Much will depend on the impact of three talented young New Zealanders, but it is asking too much of them to expect any sudden upswing.

Coach: Tony Gordon (new). In: Tevita Vaikona (Canterbury, NZ), Shane Endacott (Canterbury, NZ), Maea David (Canterbury, NZ), Roy McKenzie (Moseley RU). Out: Danny Divet (Featherstone), Des Hasler (Australia), James Grant (Australia), Jeff Doyle (Australia), Gareth Cochrane (Keighley).

Last season: 9th. Prediction: 9th.

LEEDS

They look better than ever on paper, even if there remains a suspicion that some players use Headingley as a place to put their feet up. Some genuine quality and some rapidly developing young players will make them exciting on their day, but that day will not come around often enough.

Coach: Doug Laughton. In: Patrick Entat (Avignon), Esene Faimalo (Widnes), George Mann (St Helens). Out: Vince Fawcett (Workington), Gareth Stephens (Castleford), Simon Irving (Keighley), Mike O'Neill (Widnes).

Last season: 7th. Prediction: 7th.

OLDHAM

Too many gaps and too much uncertainty about who is going to fill them to predict anything other than a very difficult season for Oldham. New coach Andy Goodway is bound to wonder whether he should be on the pitch; the pressure will be on him to reverse his decision to retire as a player.

Coach: Andy Goodway (new). In: Paul Davidson (Widnes), Gary Lord (Halifax), Steve Gartland (Rochdale), Wilson Marsh (Manukau, NZ), Joe Faimalo (NZ), Jason Temu (Manukau, NZ), Neil Battye (free agent). Out: Andy Goodway (retired), Bob Lindner (Queensland Crushers), Barrie McDermott (Wigan), Se'e Solomona (Auckland Warriors), Glen Liddiard (Australia), Shane Tupaea (Keighley).

Last season: 13th. Prediction: 15th.

ST HELENS

A great deal hinges on whether Bobby Goulding will give Saints the sharp focus from half-back that they have been lacking. My hunch is that he will and that that will be enough to give them a rather better season than their last, bitterly disappointing campaign.

Coach: Eric Hughes. In: Scott Gibbs (Swansea RU), Apollo Perelini (Western Samoa), Bobby Goulding (Widnes), Simon Booth (Leigh) Out: George Mann (Leeds), Les Quirk (Whitehaven), Tea Ropati (Auckland Warriors), Jason O'Loughlin (Leigh).

Last season: 8th. Prediction: 5th.

SALFORD

The Salford ploy of bringing in veterans of quality and character to beef up their prospects is well in evidence again, and good value should be had from both Sam Panapa and Mike Gregory. Not enough depth to get into the top eight, but relegation should not be a problem.

Coach: Garry Jack. In: Sam Panapa (Wigan), Scott Mahon (Parramatta), Mike Gregory (Warrington), Jason Williams (Canterbury, Aus). Out: Garry Jack (retired), Terry O'Connor (Wigan), Chris Tauro (Australia), Greg Austin (Huddersfield), Peter Williams (retired).

Last season: 12th. Prediction: 11th.

SHEFFIELD EAGLES

Sheffield have been the victims of their own success, in that it has alerted other clubs to the quality of players that the

Eagles, faced by competition, could not afford to keep. Will rebuild intelligently, but are bound to lose some of last season's momentum.

Coach: Gary Hetherington. In: Darrell Trindall (South Sydney), Bright Sodje (Hull KR), Rob Hutchinson (Hull KR), John Glancy (Wakefield). Out: David Fraisse (Bradford), Bruce McGuire (Warrington), Mark Aston (Featherstone), David Plange (Hull KR).

Last season: 6th. Prediction: 8th.

WAKEFIELD TRINITY

A tough time again for Trinity, another club which lacks the manpower to compete in the top division, but somehow manages to hang on. Another nervous season with a last-minute escape seems the likely prognosis.

Coach: David Hobbs (new). In: Robert Piva, Aaron Whittaker (both Canterbury, NZ), Ian Gildart (Wigan), David Bailey (Auckland), Brian Noble (Bradford). Out: Matt Fuller (Western Reds), Richard Goddard (Castleford), Henry Paul (Auckland, now Wigan), John Glancy (Sheffield).

Last season: 14th. Prediction: 14th.

WARRINGTON

Were close to embarrassing Wigan last season and are significantly stronger this time. If Jonathan Davies has another outstanding season and some of their new crop continue to develop, Warrington could be the main danger.

Coach: Brian Johnson. In: Francis Maloney (Featherstone), Bruce McGuire (Warrington). Out: Craig Teitzel (Australia), Tony Thorniley (Widnes), Paul Myler (Widnes), Neil Kenyon (Keighley).

Last season: 3rd. Prediction: 2nd.

WIDNES

The drain of talent has continued at Naughton Park and prospects look daunting for a raw, new coach - even one with such playing skills as Tony Myler. Could even flirt with relegation, especially if a couple more of the remaining big guns

depart.

Coach: Tony Myler (new). In: Tony Thorniley (Warrington), Jason Green (Rochdale), Tony Singleton (Barrow), Lee Hansen (Leigh), Andy Collier (Leigh), Jason Cassidy (Leigh), Paul Myler (Warrington), Mike O'Neill (Leeds). Out: David Myers (Bradford), Bobby Goulding (St Helens), Esene Faimalo (Leeds), Paul Davidson (Oldham), Paul Moriarty (Halifax).

Last season: 10th. Prediction: 12th.

WIGAN

Some of the key figures of recent seasons have gone, but Wigan have again bought well. Newcomers and players who have been maturing in the A team will once more give them the strongest squad by some distance - and there is no substitute for that over the long slog of the Championship, even if there are more sides capable of catching them out on an inspired day in the cup competition.

Coach: Graeme West (new). In: Henry Paul (Auckland Warriors), Terry O'Connor (Salford), Barrie McDermott (Oldham). Out: Dean Bell (Auckland Warriors), Andy Platt (Auckland Warriors), Sam Panapa (Salford), Billy McGinty (Workington), Ian Gildart (Wakefield), Andre Stoop (Keighley).

Last season: champions. Prediction: champions.

WORKINGTON TOWN

The other promoted club have also had a disjointed preparation, thanks to the delay in getting their Australian coach his work permit. Their recruitment has fallen a little short of their aspirations, as well, but enough teams will come away empty- handed from the long journey to Workington to ensure First Division

survival.

Coach: Peter Walsh. In: Vince Fawcett (Leeds), Billy McGinty (Wigan), Kyle White (Western Suburbs). Out: Ged Byrne (retired).

Last season: Second Division champions. Prediction: 13th.

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<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
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He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
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I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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