DEWSBURY Rams are poised to continue their team strengthening with the signing of four more players from Super League clubs on various deals as coach Warren Jowitt plans to build a squad of 26 players next season.
Jowitt has agreed a permanent deal with former Bradford Bulls prop Steve Crossley, who played the last five games of last season and looked a very useful player. He should develop well in the front row alongside the vastly experienced Nick Fozzard, whose signing has caused a good deal of excitement.
The Rams are also taking half-back Kane Southernwood on a season’s loan from Wakefield along with Castleford Tigers’ second row Billy Harris, also for the season. The last of the planned recruits is winger James Clay, again from Castleford, who will be on dual registration.
Jowitt explained: “I think having 26 players is about right and it will include four young lads, who will be given their chances if they train well and look the part.
“You don’t want to go over the top. You have to be concerned about keeping all the players happy and it’s likely I shall rotate the squad at times next season but we have to keep the balance right.”
Jowitt said he had been keen to add to the strength at half-back and Southernwood brings more depth to the positions along with another newcomer, former Hull KR man Scott Spaven, who scored 10 tries and landed 85 goals at Doncaster last season, which suggests he can also give cover to Pat Walker in the goalkicking role.
With such as Dwayne Barker and 19-year-old ex-Stanley Rangers amateur Daniel Gaunt around there should be plenty of choice. There will also be interest in how such as Derrell Olpherts and Jermaine Akaidere fare after showing up well in the reserves despite things being difficult for the youngsters.
George Flanagan has also signed after impressing at Batley last season while Ed Barber has returned after a spell playing in Australia.
The Rams begin training on October 31, starting with fitness tests and will be quickly into their stride as usual.
There will be no relegation pressure next year as the Rugby Football League have announced plans to shake up the Co-operative Championship. Four teams will be promoted from Championship One at the end of the 2012 season and none will be relegated. This gives clubs a chance to develop settled squads.
The four promoted teams will be replaced by clubs from development areas, such as Gillingham-based Medway Dragons, Hemel, Coventry, Bristol, Northampton, Chester and Oxford as the RFL seek to spread the sport.
It will mean the likes of Barrow Raiders, Whitehaven, Workington, Oldham, Rochdale Hornets and Doncaster will be desperate to be among the four who go up to avoid being in what is an experimental division with the prospect of few visiting supporters and much more travel.
Jowitt shrugged off the proposed changes and remarked: “It doesn’t matter whether or not there is relegation next year. Our aim. as ever, will be to do well and compete with the best. We are aiming to firmly establish ourselves in the Championship and at least reach the play-offs. We have signed players of the right calibre and we can make a strong challenge.”
The league’s minimum criteria for the Championship now include 500 seats, a 3,000 capacity, requirements regarding strength of floodlights and the club having a three-year security of tenure. Championship One demands will be lower with a requirement of 200 seats.