RUGBY LEAGUE: COVENTRY Bears are just over a week away from taking to the field for the first time as preparations for the 2018 season continue.
This year will see the club complete its first season under a new ‘home grown’ philosophy, whereby all players in Bears’ team are based either in Coventry or the surrounding area.
Not only will it make the Bears a midlands club on and off the pitch, but having players only based locally will ensure Tom Tsang can coach his full squad three times a week at the Alan Higgs Centre.
Though the move had led to a dozen players leaving the Butts, it has opened doors for experienced and up-and-coming talent in the region to put their foot forward – particularly with the withdrawel of Gloucester and Oxford from the league.
One man rejoining Bears this season is Harry Kauffman. The former Oxford player re-joins the pairs and will partner with new team mates Owen Jones and Josh Jackson.
Two more England Student stars have also agreed terms, Lewis Lord of Loughborough University and Ben Stead from the defunct Gloucester All Golds.
With such a young squad, the experience of forward Chris Vitalini – an Italian international with six years in the semi-pro game – latterly with South Wales Scorpions, will be useful.
Front rower Malikhi Lloyd Jones and winger/fullback Errol Carter have also made the move from Gloucester, while Joel Thomas and Andrew Hoggins move up from Oxford RL.
Meanwhile, the tie-in with Coventry University brings Salford academy player Dante Morley-Samuels and Irishman Peter Ryan into the Bears line-up.
Read the Observer next week to hear from Bears coach Tom Tsang ahead of the club’s pre-season friendly clash against Leeds Rhinos.