Rochdale Hornets to apply for Betfred Championship

Date published: 24 November 2020

The Rochdale Hornets rugby club is applying to become the 14th team in the Betfred Championship for 2021.

A vacancy will be opened by the promotion of a club from the Championship to the Super League following Toronto Wolfpack’s failed bid to be re-admitted in to the top flight.

One team from League 1 has the chance to move into the second tier. Hornets, who were relegated from the Championship last season, are hoping to take that spot.

A statement released by the club said:

During the summer era Hornets has spent the majority of the time at Championship level, including notable success. During that period Hornets had a spell of finishing in the top three of the second tier for three consecutive seasons, with four-figure average attendances in each of them. The current owners of the club have started the process of reigniting that potential both in the club and the town of Rochdale, which has a population of 218,000.

During those three seasons of challenging for Super League, the coach of Hornets was Martin Hall and a key player was Matt Calland. The pair are now back at the club, with Calland having won a Championship title with Halifax in 2010 before building a coaching career within the town that has helped oversee the development of Super League stars, Matty Ashton, Matty Lees and Jack Ashworth.

Hornets’ partnership with Hopwood Hall College in Rochdale sees Calland’s squad train at first-class facilities that have regularly been used as a base for the England national squad. The partnership has, and continues, to create a pathway for students to train with the club and potentially earn themselves a first-team contract, such as current players Dan Nixon and Lee Registe.

The club has also strengthened links with Rochdale Mayfield, one of the leading amateur clubs which helped develop Ashton and Lees. In recent years, 17 players from Mayfield have gone on to play the professional game, with the likes of Callum Marriott and Liam Whalley now key members of Matt Calland’s squad.

Now steered by an ambitious and experienced new board headed by Chairman Andy Mazey, the club has assembled a quality line-up for 2021 including Fuifui Moimoi, Sean Penkywicz and Shaun Ainscough.

The likes of Rob Fairclough, Josh Jordan-Roberts, Danny Yates, Gavin Bennion and Joe Taira have all stepped down from Championship clubs to join Hornets.

Off the field, the club, which also runs wheelchair and women’s teams, works closely alongside the Rochdale Hornets Sporting Foundation, which was established in 2014 and does an incredible amount of development work in the town.

In the last year alone, 11,725 children in Rochdale received rugby league coaching in primary schools and 5,372 in secondary schools, with 5,000 listening to an action-packed rugby league presentation in assemblies. 

A spokesperson for the club said: “Despite the difficulties that every rugby league club has endured in 2020, commercial partners new and old have been rushing to commit to Hornets and buy into the exciting vision laid out by its directors.

“Our Crown Oil Arena home meets Super League standards - with a capacity of over 10,000 - and successfully hosted a sell-out 2013 Rugby League World Cup game between Fiji and Ireland, yet another indication of the town’s considerable potential.  

“We believe that Rochdale Hornets is a Championship club in all but name at present - and would significantly add to the competition on and off the field in 2021.”

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