Works pub crawls, last minute shopping, putting the sprouts on to boil, and trying to find a soppy Christmas card for your partner at the local petrol station are what Christmas is all about. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the rugby league world would grind to a halt. But far from it, there is plenty still going on as we move to a month from the kick off to the new season.

We’ve had a look back at the news over the last week to pick up on stories which you might have missed to keep your finger on the pulse of what is happening inside the greatest game.

Wednesday 19th

West Wales Raiders will start the season with a four point deduction after being found guilty of fielding an ineligible player in two fixtures (against Hemel Stags and York City Knights) in 2018. The club pleaded guilty and accepted the penalty and a fine to cover the costs of the investigation.

Toronto Wolfpack have taken a substantial minority stake in the London Skolars, although the controlling interest remains with the current administration. The clubs will collaborate on a number of levels to promote the game on various media.

Thursday 20th  

There will be a brand new ‘1895 Cup’ up for grabs in 2019. Early rounds will be knock-out with the final being played at Wembley on the 24th August. Twenty clubs will enter with Doncaster, Hunslet, Keighley Cougars, Newcastle Thunder, Oldham, West Wales Raiders, Whitehaven, Workington Town playing in the opening round and then being joined by Barrow Raiders, Batley Bulldogs, Bradford Bulls, Dewsbury Rams, Featherstone Rovers, Halifax, Leigh Centurions, Rochdale Hornets, Sheffield Eagles, Swinton Lions, Widnes Vikings, York City Knights for the second round draw.

Friday 21st

The RFL confirmed three major rule changes for the 2019 season.  For play-off matches in the Championship and league one, and all Challenge Cup games, matches will be decided by a golden point  Interchanges will be cut to eight per game using a bench of four substitutes. In the event of the newly introduced golden point each side will get two additional interchanges. The final change relates to the ‘Free Play’ which will revert to a regular advantage. The referee will be the sole judge of what constitutes an advantage.

Saturday 22nd    

Castleford Tigers announced that they will play a pre-season friendly against Featherstone Rovers on the 30th December at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle with the game kicking off at 13:30. Featherstone won the corresponding fixture by 32-16 in December 2018.

Sunday 23rd 

The long running Josh Drinkwater saga is finally over as he puts pen to paper and joins Hull KR for the 2019 season.  The former Leigh and Catalans players future had been the subject of much speculation after KR said that they couldn’t match his £130,000 a year salary expectation but the deal has now been done with the Aussie being able to start pre-season training with his new team-mates on January 2nd.

Monday 24th

Aussie coach Steve Price has signed a two year extension to his contract at the Warrington Wolves which will keep him at the club until the end of the 2021 season. Having lifted his side after a disappointing 2017, the Wolves made both major finals in 2018, although they failed to win either of the trophies on offer.

Wednesday 26th  

The Boxing Day fixture between the Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity saw the Rhinos open their brand new South Stand at Headingley for their first Rhinos fixture. After going behind to a Bill Tupou try, the Rhinos trailed by 4-0 at the interval but second half tries from Tom Briscoe and Ash Handley sealed a 10-4 victory.

Batley Bulldogs retained the Roy Powell Trophy with a win over local rivals the Dewsbury Rams in the game which celebrates the life of the great servant to the game who tragically died at the age of 33. The final score was 16-10 to Batley at the end of a rough and tough encounter.

It is understood that Warrington Wolves and the Huddersfield Giants are both attempting to secure the services of England stand-off Gareth Widdop for the 2020 season. Widdop quashed rumours that he would leave St George Illawarra Dragons ahead of the 2019 season but has strongly hinted that he wants to play Super League in 2020.

Bradford Bulls were in action today against fellow promotes to the Championship, York City Knights, as the two sides met for a pre-season friendly at Odsal. First half tries for Oakes, Farrell, Wood, Chisolm and Hitchcox, none of which were converted, gave the Bulls a 20-0 interval lead. A second half fightback with converted tries from Dixon and Robson, narrowed the score to 20-12 but the Bulls held on for the win.

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