THE players returned to training this week and the squad is shaping up nicely.

Everyone was in attendance apart from Hakim Miloudi, who arrives from France at the end of the month, and Anton Iaria who flies just after New Year’s Day. Added to training were a couple of familiar faces that are trialling with us and a couple of dual registration players from the amateur game.

Dual Registration was partly responsible for giving opportunities to Tom Hopkins, Mark Tyson and Carl McBain so the ball is firmly in the players’ court to impress.

The fixtures were announced at the weekend and, at last, we start with a home fixture. Sheffield represents a decent opportunity to hit the ground running and we will be hoping for victory. A trip to Whitehaven and then a visit from full-time Newcastle finishes the opening trio of fixtures and we are hoping that our supporters come out in numbers to support us.

Our season tickets priced at £120 for adults and £60 for concessions must be the cheapest in the game as we look to get as many people as possible committed to supporting us for the season.

The online discounts per game also offer real incentives to purchase on the internet with £17 and £12 turnstile prices reduced to £12 and £10 respectively.

Add in the fact that all children will be getting a season ticket with free entry then there shouldn’t be too many financial excuses about following the Raiders in 2022.

The Championship has finally landed their own TV deal with Premier Sports, and we have a great opportunity to show how good our league is with our own Monday night slot. We have been chosen for two of the opening dozen Monday night games; away at Widnes and home to York on the May Day Bank Holiday. We will be doing everything we can to promote those games as it is vitally important to rugby league’s future that we get interest from multiple broadcasters. We want people in the ground to create atmosphere and an attractive looking product but at the same time we want subscribers to the TV channel that we hope eventually filters back to the clubs.

I’m probably biased but I think that the Championship product on the field is better and a lot rawer than the Super League offerings. Proper rugby league with clubs at the heart of their communities. I think the challenge for the broadcaster is to get that something different across to the viewer.

We don’t want to be a watered-down Sky Sports. Perhaps we need to get the cameras into the dressing rooms to hear the team talks or the physio rooms to see the injuries and the blood that has been shed. Perhaps after the game the fans get interviewed with their perspective on the game and a chance for the cameras to be in the bar after the match seeing the players mingling with those supporters would all add to the spectacle.

It is important that we start shouting about all the good things in rugby league.

Too often those involved in the game are our own worst enemies complaining of every little thing from referees to the fixture list to the RFL to Super League to the lack of internationals to internationals against inferior nations. And yet those same people will defend the game to the hilt in a comparison with Rugby Union.

For me, rugby league is a fantastic game with some fantastic people involved within it and if we want a broadcaster to pay top dollar then we need to convince them that we really have an exciting product. We can’t afford all the internal wrangling. Let us all help to grow the game!