In the latest of our new preview series for the 2022 season, Getting To Know, Josh takes an in-depth look at our visitors to Cougar Park this Sunday, the Midlands Hurricanes.
2022 SEASON SO FAR
The Midlands Hurricanes have embarked on both a new season and new journey in 2022.
The 2021 one was a successful season for the club, as they narrowly missed out on the play-offs whilst challenging the established heartland sides throughout the campaign.
Ahead of this season though the club underwent a mass transition with a new name, new identity, new home, new look, and new owners.
Richard Squires, nominated for coach of the year last time around, went about strengthening his squad with a number of recognisable names for the heartland clubs such as Benn Hardcastle.
The Challenge Cup draw away at the Rochdale Hornets brought with it an early loss, but also some long-term injuries, however the club would continue to push on ahead of the new League 1 season.
And they began the new league campaign by pushing Doncaster to their limits, with the Dons needing a second half resurgence to see off a stellar Midlands performance and make sure they began the new campaign with a victory.
The following week brought the Hurricanes historic first ever home game at their new home of Portway.
However, they would run into a Swinton Lions side who at the time were playing some sensational Rugby League.
But they would go from having their party spoiled to being the party poopers in their own right as they thrashed Cornwall in the first every Rugby League match played in the Duchy and backed it up the following week with a home trashing of the London Skolars.
With two wins on the board, some new additions to the squad, and the return from injury of some of those lost earlier in the campaign, the Hurricanes have continued to be a real threat despite not adding more victories to the league table.
The North Wales Crusaders had to come from behind to record a narrow four-point victory and maintain their undefeated start to the campaign before more heartbreak followed the week after as Hunslet escaped Birmingham with a one score win.
They were then level at the break with the Rochdale Hornets, but a second half resurgence from the Hornets got them over the line on a sweltering Saturday afternoon at Spotland.
Last weekend brought with it their first bye week, meaning the Hurricanes blow into Cougar Park this afternoon rested and looking to claim that first heartland scalp of the 2022 season.
Despite last week’s news, the Hurricanes have stayed loyal to Richard Squires, a coach who is looking to continue to build on the back of the successful 2021 season.
Despite the then Coventry Bears finishing in 8th position after the season was completed, Squires had the team tipped to struggle within three wins of a play-off place after a year in which they both competed and defeated most of the traditional heartland clubs.
His sides efforts on the pitch did not go unnoticed by his peers, and Richard was nominated for the League 1 coach of the year award at the conclusion of the year.
Despite missing out though, he made the most of the opportunities presented by the club’s rebrand during the off-season to recruit players from the traditional clubs to bolster his squad as they look to again challenge for a play-off position this season.
Earning a Bachelor of Science in Sports Science at Northumbria University, Richard began his coaching career in the sport with several roles within the student and community games.
After coaching with the Great Britain Pioneers development squad before moving to the professional game with the City of Hull development academy.
During his two years with the academy, he would work with and coach youngsters both on and off the pitch and help develop players the first team and academy sides at Hull FC.
Squires would also work in the community as one of the Airlie Birds community coaches and dip his toe into the student game as Head Coach of Hull University.
Departing the black and whites in 2018, he would go on to be appointed as the Head Coach of the Hull Dockers in the second division of the National Conference League.
Richard would have a sole season in charge of the Dockers, as the club struggled but ultimately avoided relegation from the third tier of the NCL structure.
He would then head south to Coventry, being appointed as Assistant Coach to Tom Tsang whilst also working within schools as a community coach for the Bears.
However, the global pandemic would hit, and this saw Tsang depart for pastures new as the Reserves Head Coach at the London Broncos following the cancellation of the 2020 season.
In August 2020, Squires was promoted to the top job with the club and used his connections back north to assemble a competitive squad of players from those who had departed the traditional heartland clubs.
A competitive season followed as the club took a number of high-profile scalps in a play-off push, but despite missing out on the top six, his accomplishments were recognised with a place on the coach of the year shortlist.
Following the clubs rebranding and relocation, Richard has again recruited well and despite only two wins so far in 2022, you can bet his team will come good and challenge the hierarchy once more.
2022 SQUAD: Delaine Bedward-Gittens; Tom Blakey; AJ Boardman; Anthony Bowman; Sam Bowring; Will Budd; Jordan Bull; Brad Clavering; Phil Cowburn; Sean Croston; Jack Dawson; Hayden Freeman; Benn Hardcastle; Aaron Harlow-Stephenson; Kieron Lawton; Nathan Newbound; Travis O’Loughlin; Trae O’Sullivan; James Phillips; Adam Reed; Peter Ryan; Dave Scott; Brad Sheridan; Russ Spiers; Ben Stead; Tyler Walton; Liam Welham; Matt Welham; Elliott Windley
RETAINED FROM 2021: Delaine Bedward-Gittens; Sam Bowring; Will Budd; Brad Clavering; Jack Dawson; Hayden Freeman; Peter Ryan; Dave Scott; Brad Sheridan; Liam Welham; Matt Welham; Elliott Windley
TRANSFERS IN: Ben Stead (Keighley Cougars); Benn Hardcastle (Unattached); Anthony Bowman (Batley Bulldogs); Sean Croston (Whitehaven); Tyler Walton (Rochdale Hornets); Nathan Newbound (Sale Sharks RU); Trae O’Sullivan (Leeds Tykes RU); AJ Boardman (Hunslet RL); Phil Cowburn (West Wales Raiders); Aaron Harlow-Stephenson (Gateshead Storm); Jordan Bull (Sheffield Eagles); James Phillips (Lutterworth RU); Tom Blakey (West Hull); Russ Spiers (Unattached); Travis O’Loughlin (Hull Kingston Rovers); Adam Reed (Aldridge RU); Kieron Lawton (Hull Kingston Rovers)
TRANSFERS OUT: Dan Coates (Newcastle Thunder); Kadeem Williams (Sheffield Eagles); Kian Morgan (Oldham RLFC); Chris Cullimore (Keighley Cougars); Kieran Sherratt (North Wales Crusaders); Jordan Paga (Hunslet RL); Reece Rance (London Skolars); Harry Kaufman (London Skolars); Doug Chirnside (London Skolars); Ryan Langton (West Hull); Elliott Townsend (West Bowling); Andy Joy (Waterhead Warriors); Niall Sidney (Gateshead Storm); Jed Charlton (Northumbria University)
ONE TO WATCH
Starring for the Hurricanes throughout the season to date, Benn Hardcastle is making up for lost time after two years away from the game.
The former Keighley half-back departed Cougar Park during the pandemic and would proceed to sit out the 2021 season.
Returning to Rugby League ahead of 2022 with the Hurricanes, Hardcastle has been a key figure in their first season since rebranding and relocating.
Despite missing some early season games through injury, Benn has scored 7 tries and converted 17 goals in his appearances to date for a return of 62 points.
And not missing a beat from what he displayed earlier in his career, he will no doubt pose a massive threat on his first return to Cougar Park since leaving the club.
After coming through the Hull Kingston Rovers system, and having a spell with the York City Knights, it was at the Newcastle Thunder where Hardcastle would make his name.
Fast establishing himself as one of League One’s most prolific half-backs, he would score a club record 449 points for the Thunder during a spell that brought with it a League One Shield victory and a near miss as they looked for promotion to the Championship.
Moving to Cougar Park, Benn would score a further 422 points during his time at Keighley in a spell that saw him appointed club captain after staying loyal during the financial difficulties at the end of 2018.
However, he would leave the club after the pandemic cancelled season before joining the Midlands for this season.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS (LAST FIVE MEETINGS ONLY)
15th August 2021: Keighley Cougars 46-18 Coventry Bears
16th July 2021: Coventry Bears 24-18 Keighley Cougars
4th August 2019: Coventry Bears 20-46 Keighley Cougars
3rd March 2019: Keighley Cougars 40-8 Coventry Bears
21st July 2018: Coventry Bears 30-20 Keighley Cougars
By Joshua Chapman