In the latest of our new preview series for the 2022 season, Getting To Know, Josh takes an in-depth look at opponents this Saturday, the West Wales Raiders.
2022 SEASON SO FAR
The West Wales Raiders have had to do it the hard way throughout the 2022 season so far.
It looked like at one point they weren’t even going to make the starting post back in January as they found themselves day out from their Challenge Cup tie without a coach or a playing squad.
However, an emergency meeting saw the recently retired club legend Ashley Bateman appointed as coach and a relatively young squad hastily put together.
And it showed on the afternoon as they were defeated 96-0 on the afternoon by the recently relegated Swinton Lions.
With a two-month window until the start of the league season, Bateman continued to recruit and get some sort of a pre-season under his sides belt for the start of Betfred League 1 in late March.
But once again they came up against the Lions but put in a battling display as they began the league campaign with an 82-4 away defeat at the hands of the promotion favourites.
However, a combination of injuries and suspensions soon caught up with the Raiders and despite a brave 12-52 home defeat to Rochdale, they came crashing back to earth the following week with a 100-4 thrashing at the hands of Oldham.
Missing the Easter period through their bye week, things went from bad to worse as a lack of available medical cover saw them have to forfeit their home fixture to Doncaster 48-0 to keep them rooted to the foot of the table.
They returned to action following a three-week absence last time out, but a patched up side fell victim to the North Wales Crusaders record victory in the Big Welsh Derby.
Appointed Head Coach ahead of this season following his retirement from playing, it has been a baptism of fire for Ashley Bateman.
The former Wales international had to build the entire squad from scratch on just mere days’ notice ahead of their Challenge Cup tie in January and thanks to an ever-growing injury list has been doing it tough all season to date.
A product of the Crusaders during their time in Super League, the versatile Bateman played a number of positions throughout his playing career.
Beginning his career playing for the Crusaders Colts feeder side, the Crusaders signed Ashley to professional terms in 2009 ahead of their first season in the Super League.
Making his debut against Castleford towards the back end of that season, he would also earn his first international caps for Wales that autumn and would score in every game as they defeated Serbia, Ireland, and Scotland, to win the European Cup.
He would then depart to sign with the South Wales Scorpions, who are now the Raiders, following the Crusaders decision to relocate north to Wrexham.
During his first spell with the club, he would make over 100 appearances for South Wales, and the first season he had with the Scorpions would prove to be the most successful in the club’s history as under the stewardship of Anthony Siebold, they finished 6th and qualified for the play-offs.
His performances would earn a second call-up for Wales, and he made two appearances for his nation during the 2014 European Cup, but a three-year absence from the sport would follow.
Returning to Rugby League in 2017, Bateman would re-join the then South Wales Ironmen for a brief spell before joining the Coventry Bears midway through that season, where he would remain until the end of the 2018 season.
Following his departure from the Bears, he would relocate back to Llanelli and join the now branded West Wales Raiders for his third spell with the club and has remained at Stebonheath Park ever since.
Bateman made just short of 130 appearances for the Raiders across his three spells with the club with his reputation as a club legend secured.
2022 SQUAD: Lewis Allen; Lloyd Allen; Ewan Badham; Ieuan Badham; Harry Boots; Luke Broster; Joe Burke; Aedan Coleman; Dai Evans; Oliver Firth; Josh Frost; Macauley Harris; Sam Herron; Michael Holden; Ben Jackson; Ben Jones; Shane Lee; Craig Lewis; Dan Maiden; Callum Merrett; Darrel Moyle; Callum Mulkeen; Louis O’Sullivan; Will Odgers; George Orriss; Steven Parry; Dafydd Phillips; Alan Pope; Sam Pridgeon; Owen Priest; Fergus Simpson; Louis Watson; Archie Whillock; Dan Wilde
RETAINED FROM 2021: Harry Boots; Joe Burke; Aedan Coleman; Dai Evans; Sam Herron; Michael Holden; Shane Lee; Dan Maiden; Callum Merrett; Callum Mulkeen; Louis O’Sullivan; Steven Parry; Dafydd Phillips; Alan Pope
TRANSFERS IN: Fergus Simpson (Red Star Belgrade); Craig Lewis (Valley Cougars); Will Odgers (Huddersfield Giants); Sam Pridgeon (Valley Cougars); Louis Watson (All Golds); George Orriss (Camelot RU); Dan Wilde (Loughborough Students); Josh Frost (Bath RL); Ewan Badham (Hull FC); Ieuan Badham (Hull FC); Luke Broster (Cockermouth RU); Ben Jones (Pontypridd RU); Lloyd Allen (Bridgend Blue Bulls); Macauley Harris (Rhondda Outlaws); Ben Jackson (Bridgend Blue Bulls); Darrel Moyle (Torfaen Tigers); Archie Whillock (Swansea University); Owen Priest (All Golds); Lewis Allen (Bridgend Blue Bulls); Oliver Firth (Unattached)
TRANSFERS OUT: Will Ramsey (London Broncos); Charley Bodman (Hunslet RL); Fraser Stroud (Hunslet RL); Phil Cowburn (Midlands Hurricanes); Paul Bolger (Cornwall RLFC); Archie Snook (Bridgend Blue Bulls); Jamie Murphy (Aberavon RU); Ashley Bateman (Retired); Gavin Henson (Retired)
ONE TO WATCH
Bringing size, aggression, and physicality, to the West Wales pack, Sam Herron has shown in previous meetings against the Cougars that he is a forward that can provide a serious threat.
The Scotland international has to date had one of Rugby League’s more interesting career paths but will provide an immediate danger to the Keighley pack on Sunday.
And on top of that, the Falkirk born forward is also known for his speed despite his size and a quick glance at his career highlights will show his eye for a long distance try out of the pack.
A prop forward by trade, Herron made his name on the junior international stage having played for Scotland at Under 18’s, Under 19’s, Student, and ‘A’ level.
Having switched to Rugby League and playing the student game whilst completing his education, after beginning his career playing Rugby Union back home for Falkirk, the forward would head to Australia and link up with Mittagong in the New South Wales Group 6 Competition.
Following his stint in Australia, he would take the unusual route of arriving in Serbia to sign with the upstart Red Star Belgrade club.
During his time in the Balkans, Herron would establish himself as a key member of a Red Star squad that as well as winning numerous titles would make history and compete in the Challenge Cup where they were defeated by Millom in the First Round.
However, ahead of the 2019 season he would return home to the UK and become one a raft of new faces that were brought in by the West Wales club ahead of their second professional season and has called Llanelli home ever since.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS (LAST FIVE MEETINGS ONLY)
28th August 2021: West Wales Raiders 12-42 Keighley Cougars
13th June 2021: Keighley Cougars 70-12 West Wales Raiders
14th July 2019: Keighley Cougars 50-18 West Wales Raiders
6th April 2019: West Wales Raiders 12-56 Keighley Cougars
15th September 2018: West Wales Raiders 6-112 Keighley Cougars
By Joshua Chapman