In the final edition of our preview series for the 2022 season, Getting To Know, Josh takes an in-depth look at our last opponents of the year, the Rochdale Hornets.
2022 SEASON SO FAR
The Rochdale Hornets have had a rollercoaster year on and off the pitch in 2022.
With Matt Calland sacked and replaced by Gary Thornton in early August, injuries and suspensions decimating the squad throughout the second half of the season, and problems with the football club over use of the ground, to maintain 5th spot and qualify for the play-offs gives Rochdale hope of achieving promotion.
The Hornets couldn’t have faced a tougher league opener as they welcomed the North Wales Crusaders.
In a breathless game though at Spotland, Rochdale recovered from a slow start to take the game right to the wire, but it wasn’t to be as the Crusaders held out for a 34-36 victory.
This though would be the only blip on the record, as the Hornets have gone onto win six consecutive games since as they have been inspired the half-back pairing of Chase and Lewis Sheridan throughout April and the first half of May.
A routine win away at the West Wales Raiders was followed by a comeback victory at home to Hunslet in a fiery encounter on an afternoon where Sheridan came off age to marshal his side to victory.
Another home win came against arch-rivals Oldham at Easter as again the Hornets came from behind, this time after losing Callum Marriott to a contentious red card midway through the second half.
Back on their travels with consecutive long journeys in late April and early May, they had to work hard for victory in the capital as Tom Ashton marked his return from injury with a four-try haul to defeat the Skolars.
This was backed up the following weekend where Chase was at his very best in the driving rain to inspire the Hornets to a 50-0 victory over Cornwall before a third straight home win over the Midlands Hurricanes.
Defeats to Keighley and Swinton either side of a home win against Doncaster threatened to take them away from the promotion picture, but a run of four straight home wins, including a sensational comeback win at local rivals Oldham made sure they were still in the mix.
However, an ill-tempered loss to Swinton took its toll as Calland was removed from his post and a number of players were either injured or suspended in the wake of the match.
Stepping into the breach with the ability to even name a full 17 at times in doubt, Gary Thornton oversaw battling losses away at Doncaster and North Wales whilst seeing off a spirited Cornwall.
Last time out though, a club record victory over the West Wales Raiders but them in good stead as they look to be the ones that ruin any hopes of a perfect Keighley season.
Appointed as interim coach until the end of the season following the sacking of Matt Calland, the experienced Gary Thornton has cemented the clubs place in the play-offs.
Taking over at the start of August, assisted by former North and West Wales coach Mike Grady, ‘GT’ has done it tough so far through due to the injuries and suspensions within his team.
But a club record win over West Wales last weekend gave them a much-needed injection of confidence for the visit of the Cougars.
Thronton was previously the Hunslet Head Coach after replacing James Coyle midway through the 2017 season after his departure from Doncaster.
Taking over during the regular season, Hunslet were amongst a number of sides battling it out to scrape into the League One Super Eights but missed out and as a result ended up in the League One Shield.
However, the South Leeds club bounced back from the disappointment of missing out on the top eight by topping the League One Shield and defeating the London Skolars to become the second and final winners of the trophy.
This has provided the steppingstone to the season that Hunslet had in 2018 but they unfortunately fell short of a play-off place, being pipped into 5th by Oldham but recovered from a slow start to 2019 to find themselves right in the promotion mix.
They fell short in the play-offs that year and after a poor start to the 2021 campaign following the pandemic, he was relieved of his duties in south Leeds.
Succeeding Paul Cooke midway through a troubled 2015 season at Doncaster, Thornton had to re-build and restore confidence in a club which was relegated with just two wins just twelve months after a 4th place finish in the Championship.
Despite a shock League One Cup elimination at the hands of the London Skolars, the Dons built on a strong regular season campaign before heading into the Super Eights.
The Super Eights campaign saw Doncaster only fail to defeat the division’s top three sides to finish fourth in the table, with the season ending in a heavy play-off defeat to Barrow.
Prior to his appointment at the Keepmoat, Gary had been in many people’s eyes been unfairly dismissed as Coach of the York City Knights at the conclusion of the previous season.
Despite guiding the Knights to the League One Leaders Shield in their final season at the Huntington Stadium and securing himself the League One Coach of the Year award, defeats to Hunslet and Oldham saw York fail to make the Grand Final and saw Thornton sacked by controversial chairman John Guildford.
During his time at Batley, he brought the club Championship survival in 2005 and in 2006 earned the National League Coach of the Year award. He was sacked in 2009 following a heavy defeat at the hands of Toulouse which left the Dogs’ in a relegation battle.
2022 SQUAD NUMBERS: 1 – Gregg McNally; 2 – Cian Tyrer; 3 – Ben Calland; 4 – Tom Ashton; 5 – Dan Nixon; 6 – Rangi Chase; 7 – Lewis Sheridan; 8 – Fuifui Moimoi; 10 – Gavin Bennion; 11 – Zac Baker; 12 – Paul Brearley; 13 – Joe Taira; 14 – Connor Aspey; 15 – Freddie Lowe; 16 – Jimmy Connaughton; 17 – Cobi Green; 18 – Luke Fowden; 19 – Ben Killan; 20 – Joe Howe; 21 – Finn Stewart; 24 – Ben Forster; 25 – Scott Parnaby; 27 – Ben Metcalfe; 28 – Aiden Roden; 29 – Connor Grainey; 30 – Callum Marriott; 31 – Ryan Forshaw; 32 – Rob Worrincy; 33 – Jy Hitchcox; 36 – Kieran Rush; 37 – Fenton Rogers; 38 – Daniel Brewin; 39 – Tyler Birtle
TRANSFERS IN: Cian Tyrer (Newcastle Thunder); Rhys Davies (Dewsbury Rams); Gregg McNally (Whitehaven); Cobi Green (Swinton Lions); Joe Howe (Huddersfield Giants); Ben Killan (Huddersfield Giants); Finn Stewart (Huddersfield Giants); Scott Parnaby (Waterhead Warriors); Ben Metcalfe (Rochdale Mayfield); Aiden Roden (Wigan Warriors); Connor Grainey (Leigh East); Rob Worrincy (Unattached); Tyler Birtle (Leigh Miners Rangers)
LOANS IN: Connor Aspey (Salford Red Devils); Fenton Rogers (Huddersfield Giants); Kieran Rush (Huddersfield Giants); Jy Hitchcox (Leigh Centurions); Daniel Brewin (Warrington Wolves)
TRANSFERS OUT: Ben Moores (North Wales Crusaders); Josh Jordan-Roberts (Hunslet RL); Jordan Syme (Hunslet RL); Tyler Walton (Midlands Hurricanes); Rhys Davies (West Wales Raiders); Dale Bloomfield (Thatto Heath Crusaders); Adam Hesketh (Thatto Heath Crusaders); Declan Sheridan (Rochdale Mayfield); Rob Fairclough (Released); Sam Freeman (Released); Jack Higginson (Released); Callum Ogden (Released); Lee Registe (Released); Shaun Robinson (Released); Louis Singleton (Released); Danny Yates (Released); Shaun Ainscough (Retired); Sean Penkywicz (Retired)
ONE TO WATCH
In a Rochdale team full of star names, the standout performer of 2022 has been half-back Lewis Sheridan.
The half-backs energetic performances and outstanding attacking play of the ruck has led to him receiving plaudits and a place in the division’s first team of the month of the new campaign.
A long-term player of former Head Coach Matt Calland in both the professional and community ranks, when his side are attacking or on the front foot then Sheridan will always be at the forefront.
Contributing so far this year with 17 tries and 60 goals, for a return of 188 points, the division’s lead points scorer during the first half of the season will be a prominent threat come 3pm this Sunday afternoon.
A product of the Rochdale Mayfield community club, Lewis initially impressed in the National Conference League once he reached the open age game.
After his coach Matt Calland took the Hornets job in 2019, he set about rebuilding the squad which included signing a group of highly touted players from the National Conference League.
Amongst these players was both Lewis and his brother Declan.
Lewis quickly established himself as a regular in the side as they were relegated from the Championship, scoring 2 tries in 11 appearances.
He continued his fine form with a further 4 tries in 3 appearances before the 2020 season was curtailed by the pandemic.
As the game returned in 2021, Sheridan continued to star despite Rochdale’s struggles that saw them miss out on the play-offs at the end of the year.
However, he has taken the Hornets League 1 season by the scruff of the neck so far in 2022 and is on a mission to ensure his team are the ones that follow the Cougars through the play-offs into the Championship.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS (LAST FIVE MEETINGS ONLY)
15th May 2022: Keighley Cougars 40-16 Rochdale Hornets
1st August 2021: Rochdale Hornets 20-42 Keighley Cougars
23rd May 2021: Keighley Cougars 36-43 Rochdale Hornets
8th March 2020: Rochdale Hornets 29-14 Keighley Cougars
7th August 2016: Rochdale Hornets 18-4 Keighley Cougars
By Joshua Chapman