Aaron Bower

Author's posts

Oct 20

England run in 13 tries to rout Affiliated States in World Cup warm-up

• England 74-12 Central Affiliated States• Coach Bennett has tough choices to make for Australia openerIn the end, this was about as encouraging a warm-up as England could have expected for next Friday’s World Cup opener against Australia. A big win wa…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/20/rugby-league-england-affiliated-states-match-report

Oct 15

New York team aiming to emulate Toronto move into League 1 ranks

• Consortium are hoping new club will join British game in 2019• Plan for Super League match in US next year to whet fans’ appetiteAn application has been formally lodged to the Rugby Football League for a team based in New York to join the British gam…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/15/rugby-league-new-york-team-league-1-toronto

Oct 12

Super League awards: the complete review of the 2017 season | Aaron Bower

It was a season to remember for Leeds and for Castleford’s Luke Gale, while Wakefield bucked the big-spending trend and Toronto Wolfpack showed a glimpse of the futureHad these awards been published a fortnight ago, it could have been so easy to go for…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/12/super-league-awards-complete-review-2017-season

Oct 10

Rugby league has not got a problem with drugs, says England coach Denis Betts

• ‘This is a society issue … I can’t see what Zak Hardaker was thinking’• Depleted England ready to head for Australia on Thursday and World CupSenior members of England’s coaching and playing staff have denied that rugby league has a wider issue with …

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/10/rugby-league-no-problem-drugs-england-denis-betts

Oct 06

Leeds legends aim to end era by crushing Castleford fairytale in Grand Final | Aaron Bower

Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow want to end their Leeds playing careers with another title against their neighbours Castleford at Old Trafford

The home grounds of Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos lie less than 20 miles apart. As local rivalries go, they do not get much more intense. That much will be evident on Saturday night when their two worlds collide at Old Trafford in the 20th Super League Grand Final.

They may be close as the crow flies but the two clubs are a long way apart in many other respects. This is David versus Goliath, played out on the sport’s biggest stage – and, even though the pre-match chatter has been dominated by Zak Hardaker’s omission from Castleford’s squad for a breach of club rules, it still has all the makings of a classic.

Related: Luke Gale wins man of steel award and aims for Super League Grand Final glory

Related: Castleford revival leads from edge of oblivion to shot at Grand Final glory

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/06/mcguire-burrow-leeds-castleford-grand-final-preview

Oct 05

Castleford ready to cap rapid rise and achieve the unthinkable in Grand Final

Four years ago the club almost went out of business but they have soared under Daryl Powell and can fulfil the dream of former owner Jack Fulton on Saturday

On Saturday it will be 10 years to the day since Castleford won rugby league’s Championship to earn promotion to Super League. “Ten years? It feels like a lifetime,” says their captain, Michael Shenton, who played in that match against Widnes as a teenager. Before this extraordinary season that had been the extent of Castleford’s recent success but come Saturday night, against Leeds at Old Trafford, the Tigers could be crowned Super League champions.

There are rugby league-mad towns, and then there is Castleford. Only a few miles from Leeds and Wakefield, this little pocket of West Yorkshire eats, sleeps and breathes the sport. They are playing in the Grand Final for the first time – though they will do so without their outstanding full-back, Zak Hardaker, who was dropped on Thursday for a breach of club rules – and the town with a population of only 40,000 will feel empty.

Related: Castleford’s Zak Hardaker out of Grand Final because of ‘breach of club rules’

Related: Luke Gale wins man of steel award and aims for Super League Grand Final glory

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/05/castleford-rapid-rise-unthinkable-grand-final-daryl-powell

Oct 05

Castleford’s Zak Hardaker out of Grand Final because of ‘breach of club rules’

• Tigers drop England full-back in run-up to biggest game in their history
• Hardaker had enjoyed stunning season after move from Leeds

The England international Zak Hardaker has been dropped by Castleford for Saturday’s Super League Grand Final following a breach of club rules.

Only 48 hours after finishing second behind his Castleford team-mate Luke Gale in the 2017 Man of Steel awards and with the club’s first-ever appearance in the Grand Final days away, Hardaker has been omitted from the Tigers’ 19-man squad to face Leeds at Old Trafford.

Related: Luke Gale wins man of steel award and aims for Super League Grand Final glory

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/05/zak-hardaker-castleford-miss-grand-final-breach-club-rules-rugby-league

Oct 03

Luke Gale wins man of steel award and aims for Super League Grand Final glory

• Scrum-half only fourth Castleford player to win top award
• Gale has former club Leeds in his sights at Old Trafford on Saturday

It has already been one of the more remarkable periods in one of the more unorthodox careers in rugby league and Luke Gale will now look to add a Super League title to his list of honours after winning the man of steel award for the first time.

The scrum-half is only the fourth Castleford player to win rugby league’s highest individual accolade in its 40-year history. He saw off competition from his Tigers and England team-mate Zak Hardaker and the Hull half-back Albert Kelly to win the award on Tuesday night in Manchester. The Wigan centre Oliver Gildart was named Super League’s young player of the year.

Related: Castleford’s Daryl Powell: favourites tag means nothing in Grand Final

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/03/luke-gale-castleford-man-of-steel-leeds-grand-final

Oct 02

Castleford’s Daryl Powell: favourites tag means nothing in Grand Final

• ‘It’s all about turning up and playing’ says Castleford coach
• Rhinos’ Stevie Ward ruled out with shoulder injury

Castleford have been the form team all season but their coach has denied that favouritism will make any difference in the club’s first Super League Grand Final.

It is first versus second on Saturday evening as Castleford face Leeds, but Daryl Powell said the Tigers’ priority was “turning up and playing” at Old Trafford, regardless of which side was favourite.

Related: Luke Gale golden point beats St Helens and puts Castleford in Grand Final

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/02/castleford-daryl-powell-leeds-grand-final

Sep 20

Leon Pryce: ‘There is no doubt that Sporting Chance saved my life’

Leon Pryce, the former Bradford back, had a breakdown after retiring but is healthy again and looking to share his experience with others leaving the game

Leon Pryce is smiling. “Hi, mate, how’s it going?” he bellows as he enters the room with an ear-to-ear grin. “Life’s pretty awesome at the minute, isn’t it?”. Once, this greeting would have been little to remark upon from Pryce but, given how the former Great Britain rugby league international is about to describe the mental turmoil he went through this summer after retiring unexpectedly, it makes his mood all the more surprising.

We meet at a service station coffee shop, which, while only a few miles from Bradford Bulls’ Odsal Stadium, where Pryce made his name, is a world away from his glittering career.

Related: Hull FC’s Leon Pryce to give his all in search for Grand Final swan song

Related: Bradford Bulls’ fate was down to years of mismanagement of a trailblazing club | Aaron Bower

Related: Super League is tighter than ever – which shows the salary cap is working

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/20/leon-pryce-help-ex-rugby-league-players-mental-health

Sep 15

Second Canadian team planned for RFL, says man behind Toronto Wolfpack

• Eric Perez believes new team will join RFL in 2019
• Perez wants northern hemisphere league within 10 years

The man behind the launch of Toronto Wolfpack has revealed plans are already advanced for a second Canadian team to enter the Rugby Football League in two years’ time.

The Wolfpack, who have averaged crowds of more than 7,000 in their first season, won the League 1 title last Saturday and have generated significant interest as they prepare for the Championship next year.

Related: Ryan Brierley on playing for Toronto Wolfpack: ‘It’s a crazy way of living’

Related: Toronto Wolfpack take leap into the muddy unknown in rural Yorkshire | Aaron Bower

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/15/second-canadian-team-rugby-league-eric-perez-toronto-wolfpack

Sep 10

Warrington to part company with Tony Smith, Super League’s longest-serving coach

• Smith took charge in March 2009 and oversaw huge success at club
• Warrington finished regular season in Super League’s bottom four

Warrington will look to Australia and the NRL for their new coach after the Super League side confirmed they will part company with the competition’s longest-serving coach, Tony Smith, at the end of the current season and by mutual consent.

Smith has overseen one of the most successful periods in Warrington’s history since joining as coach in March 2009, helping the Wolves win the Challenge Cup on three occasions, as well as reaching three Grand Finals.

Related: Hull KR floor Widnes to secure top-flight promotion at the first attempt

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/10/warrington-tony-smith-super-league-rugby

Aug 27

Hull FC hoping to follow Challenge Cup win with Super League success

• Hull want to avoid repeat of last season’s slump after winning trophy
• Victory parade on Monday is closely followed by a tricky trip to Leeds

Scott Taylor has issued a rallying cry to his Hull FC team‑mates to use their Challenge Cup triumph as a springboard for the remainder of the Super League season.

“The double is massive,” said the prop, a Wembley winner with both of the clubs who contested the final on Saturday. “We know we can beat anyone on our day and that’s the goal now.”

Related: Hull beat Wigan to retain Challenge Cup thanks to Marc Sneyd masterclass

Related: Wigan’s Tony Clubb: ‘I was told I had a dead kidney and it needed to come out’ | Aaron Bower

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/aug/27/hull-fc-challenge-cup-super-league

Aug 25

Hull hoping to make a habit of winning at Wembley in Challenge Cup final

Gareth Ellis led Hull to break their Wembley jinx against Warrington last year and the captain, who retires at the end of the season, wants go out on a high in Saturday’s rugby league showpiece

For the purists, there is the comfort that come 5pm Saturday, the 116th instalment of the Challenge Cup final will have gone some way to laying the demons of four years ago to rest.

When Hull and Wigan met under the Wembley arches in 2013, amid a backdrop of thunderous bank holiday rain, Wigan ground out a 16-0 victory which ranks as the most underwhelming rugby league final since the stadium reopened a decade ago. Thankfully this weekend promises to be different: and not only in terms of the weather forecast.

Related: Wigan’s Tony Clubb: ‘I was told I had a dead kidney and it needed to come out’ | Aaron Bower

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/aug/25/gareth-ellis-hull-wigan-wembley-challenge-cup-final

Aug 24

Wigan’s Tony Clubb to cap remarkable recovery with Wembley final | Aaron Bower

Tony Clubb of Wigan feared his career was over when he was told in April he had a dead kidney. On Saturday he will walk out at Wembley to face Hull in the Challenge Cup final

As Tony Clubb slumped to the floor and pleaded with his physio to be substituted, he knew instantly that something was wrong. The morning of 6 April had begun like any other for the 30-year-old, who had been battling – but successfully managing – a problem with one of his kidneys for months.

“Barring the amount of fluid I had to take in on game-days, nothing had changed,” he recalls. But that evening, while Clubb was playing for Wigan against Castleford, things suddenly got worse. He had already been enduring back pain linking to a kink in the tube leading to the kidney, but this was different.

Related: Gareth Ellis determined to bow out with more Wembley glory for Hull FC

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/aug/24/wigan-tony-clubb-recovery-wembley-final

Aug 21

Gareth Ellis determined to bow out with more Wembley glory for Hull FC

A year after becoming the first Hull FC captain to lift the Challenge Cup at Wembley, Ellis wants to do it again against Wigan on Saturday

Gareth Ellis’s response to how he remembers the greatest moment in Hull FC’s history – their first-ever Challenge Cup victory at Wembley, 12 months ago – may surprise some people. “You move on from it, don’t you?” he tells the Observer ahead of Hull’s return to the final on Saturday. “I’ve been like that all my career; you play a game, you win and you celebrate and you move on to the next one quickly. It’s not until I sit down when I retire and reflect on everything where I will be able to look at what happened that day, I guess.”

Related: Hull FC’s Jamie Shaul’s late try takes Challenge Cup away from Warrington

Related: Hull’s darkest day lights the Wembley way for captain Gareth Ellis

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/aug/21/gareth-ellis-challenge-cup-final-2017-hull-fc-wigan-wembley