In the build up to the 2015 Kingstone Press League One campaign, Media Manager Joshua Chapman will be taking a look at our league rivals in this brand new Who Are Ya? feature. Beginning with fellow relegated side Swinton Lions.
SWINTON LIONS 2014:
Final Position: 13th in Championship (Relegated)
Challenge Cup: 5th Round (Lost v Keighley Cougars)
Top Tryscorer: Kevin Penny (12)
Top Pointscorer: Mick Nanyn (122)
Biggest Win: 66-6 v Gateshead Thunder (Home, 16/3/14)
Heaviest Defeat: 6-62 v Leigh Centurions (Home, 17/8/14)
2014 was a turbulent year both on and off the pitch for the Swinton Lions as they were relegated from the Championship into Kingstone Press League One after three years in the second tier.
A campaign which saw the side only register five victories all season, four of which came against fellow relegated sides, concluded in relegation which was confirmed following a 17-10 defeat at home to the Cougars in early August.
Going into the opening weekend without enough players registered to make up a matchday seventeen despite the interest being shown by Marwan Koukash, a late signing spree by then coach Ian Watson saw the club muster up a twenty man squad.
Despite a brave effort away at Halifax, the Lions would lose its opening four fixtures before securing victories in two of the next three in thrilling home triumphs against Barrow Raiders (44-26) and Dewsbury Rams (37-31).
In the Challenge Cup, Swinton comfortably defeated Championship One’s Gateshead Thunder before pipping another third tier outfit in York City Knights at the death in a thrilling fourth round encounter. However, defeat to Keighley in a hot tempered affair saw the club’s cup run end in Round Five.
Back in the league, Swinton would have to wait until June for another victory and did so in style with three wins on the bounce against relegation rivals.
Away wins at North Wales and Barrow came either side of a comprehensive victory at home to Rochdale, giving the club’s supporters hope of a possible great escape.
Watson then departed to take charge of the Salford Red Devils academy team, to be replaced by John Duffy, who joined the club following spells coaching with both Leigh and Wigan.
But unfortunately for Duffy, he could only oversee the side’s inevitable drop into League One.
1 – Ritchie Hawkyard; 2 – Shaun Robinson; 3 – Stuart Littler; 4 – Mick Nanyn; 5 – Alex Hurst; 6 – Ben White; 7 – Chris Atkin; 8 – Mike Morrison; 9 – Andy Ackers; 10 – Ben Austin; 11 – Grant Beecham; 12 – Darren Hawkyard; 13 – Tommy Gallagher; 14 – Lewis Hulme; 15 – Dale Cunliffe; 16 – Jimmy Rowlands; 17 – Iain Morrison; 18 – Aaron Lloyd; 19 – Jack Morrison; 20 – Matt Pendlebury; 21 – Andrew Ball; 22 – Chris Rothwell; 23 – Connor Dwyer; 24 – Jordan James; 25 – Harry Aaronson; 26 – Liam Coleman; TBC – Ryan Powell
With the club finally going alone after two controversial years of dual registration with the Warrington Wolves, John Duffy has put together virtually a brand new squad together ahead of the 2015 season.
Andy Ackers, the exciting hooker who was with the club on loan from Warrington, has made a permanent switch to the Lions but will spend January and February back at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on loan.
Ackers isn’t the only Super League youngster to sign with Swinton, in fact he was the first in a long line to do so during the off season. Highly rated half back duo Ben White (Leeds Rhinos) and Matt Pendlebury (Leigh Centurions) have joined as have the Wigan trio of Grant Beecham, Ben Austin and Ryan Powell. Connor Dwyer, son of Bernard, arrives from St Helens as also does Huddersfield back Harry Aaronson.
Duffy has added experience however to his somewhat young squad with Stuart Littler, a man with over 200 Super League appearances, joining from Leigh. Welsh international Jordan James who has appeared for five different sides in Super League arrives from Wigan with York Prop Iain Morrison also making the switch to Park Lane.
These three will join experienced campaigners kept on from 2014 in the shape of record breaking points scorer Mick Nanyn, Prop Mike Morrison, Second Rower Dale Cunliffe and the long serving Hawkyard brother, Full Back Ritchie and Utility forward Darren.
However, the big signing is Scotland international winger Alex Hurst. The highly rated Hurst joins the club from the London Broncos after initally becoming somewhat of a club legend during a highly successful first stint in this part of Greater Manchester.
Other arrivals see Dewsbury winger Shaun Robinson, Aaron Lloyd and Jack Morrison from Barrow, Halifax youngster Callum Hughes, Oxford’s Jimmy Rowlands, former Leigh man Liam Coleman and finally, Ashton Bears duo Andrew Ball and Chris Rothwell.
The highly sought Luke Menzies announced towards the conclusion of the season he would be joining the Red Revolution in Salford.
Zach Johnson and Josh Barlow have both moved on to Dewsbury whilst James Brown has re-located a little bit further down the round at Batley.
Danny Halliwell has switched codes to the Sale Sharks with Kash Watkins joining Oxford RL. Martin Ainscough has retired with a further ten players released, which includes Anthony Bowman and Ed Barber.
John Duffy was appointed as the Lions new coach in July after Ian Watson departed to take up a role in the Salford Red Devils academy.
He was powerless as the Lions were all but confirmed relegated following his arrival from the Leigh Centurions youth setup, especially with Swinton finishing the 2014 Championship season with ten consecutive defeats.
John’s only previous coaching experience prior to taking the Swinton job was in Leigh’s youth setup as well as being a part of the Scotland coaching team for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
In a lengthy player career, John will be best known for his 180 appearances over three spells at the Leigh Centurions. Away from Leigh, John featured for Warrington and Salford in the Super League as well as making over 100 appearances at Championship level for Whitehaven and the Widnes Vikings.
Duffy also earned seven caps for the Scotland national side in which he featured in the 2008 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
After three years of groundsharing with the Leigh Centurions at the Leigh Sports Village, Swinton have finally found a group of their own as they moved back to another former temporary home of Park Lane, the home of Sedgley Park Rugby Union.
The Lions did play four home games at this venue during the 2014 season, these saw a 44-26 victory over the Barrow Raiders before three consecutive defeats in Whitfield to Workington Town, Featherstone Rovers and the Cougars.
Sedgley Park R.U.F.C. moved to Park Lane in 1955. A large, two-storey clubhouse was completed in 1982 and was extended in the 1990s. Also in the 1990s the club turned its two pitches into one and purchased a field, just across the road, to provide three more much needed pitches.
The ground was previously the Lions home from 2003-2010 before four years on the road in Salford and Leigh.
CHANCES FOR 2015:
The Lions chances for 2015 look very strong, and I would put them as one of the favourites for promotion at this early stage.
Even though it make take a while for a new squad to gel, pre-season friendlies and the Cup games in March should give John Duffy more than enough time to do this.
The experience of the centre partnership of Stuart Littler and Mick Nanyn should pave the way for more of a memorable year for the Lions after two years of relegation battles and with the likes of the Hawkyard brothers and a crop of youngsters destined for the very top one day, be very surprised if Swinton don’t secure one of those all important top five spots.
JOSHUA CHAPMAN PREDICTS: 3rd
FIXTURES AGAINST THE COUGARS:
Sunday 8th February – Keighley Cougars v Swinton Lions – 3pm – Friendly
Sunday 17th May – Swinton Lions v Keighley Cougars – 3pm – Kingstone Press League One
Sunday 19th July – Keighley Cougars v Swinton Lions – 3pm – Kingstone Press League One