First published in the Saddleworth Independent
IF all goes according to plan, Roughyeds will be back in action on March 21 in the first round of the Challenge Cup.
And if they win that and then win again in round two a week later, they will automatically be only one game from Wembley in the semi-final of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup as well as going through to the third round of the Challenge Cup.
The first round of the Challenge Cup will be contested by the 13 UK-based Betfred Championship clubs (no Toulouse Olympique) plus League 1 clubs Barrow Raiders, Keighley Cougars and West Wales Raiders.
March 21 will be one year and two weeks since Roughyeds’ last played against Dewsbury Rams at Bower Fold in the ill-fated Betfred Championship season of 2020.
It was after that match, on March 8 last year, that newly-promoted Roughyeds’ return to the Championship came to an emergency stop because of Covid and the first national lockdown.
Matt Diskin’s side had won one of their five Championship games – at Whitehaven against fellow-promoted Cumbrians – but since then they have assembled a strong-looking squad of 27, which includes 12 new signings, for the 2021 campaign.
The Championship will kick-off on the Easter weekend, April 2 to 4, and run until the start of a top-six play-off series in September and October.
Each team will play nine of the other 13 teams twice, and the other four once, in a 22-game fixture formula which has been agreed by the RFL and by Championship clubs.
A decision on whether to go for a 23rd fixture in a Summer Bash event will be made later.
Clubs have agreed that games played behind closed doors will be streamed live on the RFL’s Our League platforms (app and website) on a pay-to-view basis with home season-ticket holders given free access to the live stream packages for their club’s league games.
The Championship was originally due to kick off on the last weekend in February, but following a pause in training after the announcement of the latest lockdown, clubs agreed with the RFL that it would make sense to delay the start given the current health situation and the desire to keep behind-closed-doors games to a minimum.
For similar reasons, the start of Betfred League 1 has been put back to May 8-9, which will allow each team to play the other nine twice in an 18-game season, followed by a play-off.
Details of promotion and relegation will be finalised at a meeting of clubs next week, ahead of the circulation of fixtures.