In the latest of a new series as a part of our match preview line-up, we will be looking at 5 players in the opposition line-up to look out for once they take to the field against the Cougars at the weekend.
We move on to the next edition of the ‘Ones To Watch’ series with Sunday’s visitors to Cougar Park in Round 8 of the Betfred League One season, the London Skolars.
Geordie-born Neil Thorman is a veteran of the game who offers the Skolars leadership, experience, and plenty of points from the boot.
Now in the twilight years of his career at 37 years of age, Thorman has shown no signs of slowing down and has become a key member of the Skolars side since returning to the club prior to the 2018 season.
An ultimate utility player who can play in, and cover, a number of positions across the park, Neil has shown how crucial his versatility can be and was man of the match during the Cougars 18-18 draw against the Skolars in March 2019.
Beginning his career with his hometown club, the Gateshead Thunder, Thorman would be in and out of the side as the club pushed for promotion to the Championship and would depart to head south for a first spell with the Skolars in 2009.
Establishing himself as a point scoring back at the New River Stadium, his performances for the Skolars would catch eyes both at home and abroad, and he would depart to purse an opportunity in Australia.
But Thorman would return home the UK during the 2013 season and join Whitehaven as the Cumbrian outfit avoided relegation from the Championship.
After departing the Recreation Ground, he headed back down under to play first as a player-coach with the Young Cherrypickers in Canberra before moving to Sydney to have a spell with the Coogee Dolphins.
Following three years back in Australia, Neil returned to the Skolars prior to the 2018 season via a brief spell in NARL competition with the New York Knights.
Since returning to the New River Stadium, he has played a number of positions for Head Coach Jermaine Coleman but has cemented himself as not only a regular starter but a regular at the top of the conversions and point scorers table in the division.
Should he feature at Cougar Park on Sunday afternoon, it will mark Thorman’s 100th appearance for the London Skolars club.
The London Skolars captain, Iliess Macani leads the side from the front despite being found regularly at the back whether it be at full-back or out on the wing.
After having a spell on dual-registration in 2014, and on loan in 2018, Tottenham-born Macani would sign wit the Skolars permanently ahead of the 2019 campaign after departing his previous club, the Sheffield Eagles.
A product of the London Skolars academy, the outside back would be picked up by the London Broncos and go on to make his professional debut, and a try scoring one at that, during the 2013 season against the St Helens.
Going to the Skolars on dual registration at the start of 2014, he would return to Broncos during their relegation season but stole the show on a number of occasions including a televised Man of the Match performance against the Leeds Rhinos before signing a new two-year deal.
With the Broncos now in the Championship, Macani would continue to impress and signed with the Bradford Bulls ahead of the 2017 season.
However, financial troubles once again at Odsal would put his future up in the air but he made the decision to re-sign with the newly re-formed Bradford Bulls and spent a year with the club before departing to sign with the Sheffield Eagles following the Bulls relegation to League One.
Initially a regular in the Eagles side, towards the back end of the season he would join the Skolars on loan before signing a permanent deal ahead of 2019.
Now back home at the club that produced, Macani became a key figure for the Skolars both on and off the field and was rewarded by Jermaine Coleman with the captaincy of the club.
Jamaica international Greg Johnson is a new addition to the Skolars side after signing with the club in May of this year.
Linking up with his Jamaica Assistant Coach Jermaine Coleman at the New River Stadium, Johnson will be looking to impress and cement his place in the Reggae Warriors squad ahead of their historic 2021 Rugby League World Cup campaign.
Born in Huddersfield, Johnson was a product of the Giants academy but would depart ahead of the 2011 season and sign with Wakefield Trinity after not making a first team appearance for his hometown club.
Following a sole season with Trinity, an off-field incident would leave the winger in the wilderness before signing with the Batley Bulldogs ahead of the 2013 season.
Whilst at Mount Pleasant, the winger underwent a renaissance and 18 tries in 28 appearances for John Kear’s side as they reached the Championship Grand Final would earn a move back to the Super League with the Salford Red Devils.
He would find a home at the AJ Bell Stadium, spending five years with the Red Devils, in a period where he would score 50 tries in 106 appearances and play a part in memory historic moments for the club.
A member of the side that sensationally defeated Hull Kingston Rovers in the 2016 Million Pound Game, Johnson would play a part in more history as a sensational 2019 campaign under the leadership of Ian Watson saw the Red Devils stun the Rugby League world and reach the Super League Grand Final, where they would be defeated by St Helens at Old Trafford.
The winger would then return across the Pennines to sign with the Bradford Bulls, and re-unite with his former Batley Coach John Kear, but he would be released by the club following the cancellation of the 2020 season through the Covid-19 pandemic before signing with the Skolars just prior to the start of the current League One season.
Keighley-born forward Matt Ross has recently returned to the New River Stadium following a spell in France.
A product of the old Keighley Cougars scholarship system, the prop is an established member of the London Skolars squad after initially joining Jermaine Coleman’s side prior to the 2018 season.
After featuring for both the Cougars reserves and scholarship sides, Ross would make a name for himself in the student’s game as he became an England Students international and his performances on that stage earned him a deal with the Hemel Stags.
Following an impressive spell at Pennine Way, where he would become teammates once again with a number of his fellow Cougars scholarship graduates, Matt returned north and would re-join the Cougars for the 2018 season after impressing then Head Coach Craig Lingard on trial during pre-season prior to that campaign.
Despite not featuring for the Cougars, Ross would initially join the London Skolars on loan and would impress enough to earn a permanent deal at the New River Stadium for the following season.
In the two seasons that followed, he established himself as a regular in the side and his impressive performances caught the eye of Toulouse Olympique who moved during the Covid pandemic to bring Matt across the channel to feature for their reserves in the French Elite Championship.
Despite the Broncos side not winning the Championship, he would feature regularly and has now re-joined the Skolars for the remainder of 2021 after returning from France.
Now into his sixth season at the New River Stadium, Lameck Juma poses a massive threat in both attack and defence for the Skolars.
A perfect mixture of size, speed, skill, and power, Juma has become a mainstay of Jermaine Coleman’s side and offers plenty whether he be playing in the centres or in the back row.
Adding dynamism and excitement to the Skolars play down the edges, Juma will offer plenty food for thought for the Cougars centres and back rowers come 3pm on Sunday afternoon.
Popular amongst his teammates and supporters alike, the versatile player is edging ever close to 100 appearances for the club.
Playing both codes of the game during his career, Juma would begin his career in Rugby Union and played for Barking before making the decision to switch to Rugby League and sign with the London Skolars following the appointment of Jermaine Coleman as Head Coach.
Taking to Rugby League like a duck to water, he impressed immediately with several exciting and eye catch performances as the Skolars would impress under Coleman’s stewardship and shown by their 2016 top eight finish and 2017 League One Shield final appearance, in which Juma was a key figure in both squads.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic hitting, Juma had scored 23 tries in 63 appearances and will be looking to continue his form as the capital club look to push on this season.
By Joshua Chapman