DEWSBURY RAMS have strengthened their backline for next season with the signing of two promising young talents.
Half-back Morgan Punchard has left Featherstone to pen a one-year-deal with the club, while Hull KR winger Will Oakes has moved on a season-long loan.
Oakes, 20, grew up in Halifax and started his career in Wakefield’s scholarship academy before moving to Hull KR in 2016.
He made his debut later that year, helped Rovers achieve promotion back to Super League in 2017 and has made 12 top-flight appearances so far.
The speedy wideman spent time on loan in the Championship with York last season, and will spend the full 2020 campaign at the Tetley’s Stadium to continue his progression.
Dewsbury boss Lee Greenwood said on his signing: “I’m really pleased we’ve managed to secure Will for the season, he is a quality player who scores tries.
“He has done well at York on loan and has held his own at Super League level when called upon by Hull KR. This move gives him the chance to get a full season of playing pretty much every week, something he hasn’t managed to do since coming out of academy rugby.
“His goal is to play well enough this year to get himself in the first-team picture at Hull KR for 2021 and I’m happy to help him do that. He has areas to work on but I feel like we have brilliant options on our wings now with Will, Gabes (Andy Gabriel) and Davey (Dixon).”
Rovers head coach Tony Smith said: “This is a great chance for Will to establish himself and gain regular first-team rugby under his belt.
“It is great that he is spending 2020 at Dewsbury, who are our partnership club. I have had some good meetings with Lee who is looking forward to working with Will and will give him opportunities next year.”
Meanwhile Punchard, another 20-year-old, has signed for the Rams having already spent time at Halifax and Featherstone in his career.
Punchard had a deal to stay with Featherstone for 2020 but chose to make the switch to Dewsbury instead with the aim of securing more game time.
He will have the veteran pair of Paul Sykes and Liam Finn, both former Super League and international players, ahead of him in the pecking order at half-back but he is hoping to learn from both to develop his own game.
"I'd say I'm more of a running half-back, I can play hooker but I prefer half-back," he said. "I'm still learning the trade but I'm willing to learn off the half-backs that are here.
"There are two good half-backs in front and I'm willing to learn and put what they have into my game as well.
"They've done it all and to learn from their experiences will be massive for me. I can add to my game little bits from Liam and little bits from Paul, and hopefully that will make me a better player.
"I spoke to Lee on the phone and I said that all I want is the opportunity to play, and hopefully I'll get that. He seemed quite interested in what I had to offer as well.
"He explained that I'd have Liam and Paul in front of me but I'm happy with that because I've got their experience to go off."
Boss Greenwood added: “Morgan has been battling to make a name for himself for a couple years now. He has spent time at Halifax and Featherstone and people from both clubs speak well of him.
“He is keen to learn from Liam Finn and Paul Sykes and potentially take over from them as they enter the twilight of their careers.
“He had a contract for 2020 at Featherstone but felt the opportunities here are better for him.
“Our partnerships with Hull KR and Coventry Bears mean that he will not be short of game time, while his primary aim is to have a strong pre-season and compete for a spot in our 17.”
The signing of Punchard and Oakes takes Dewsbury up to 23 players for next year, with a dual-registration agreement with Hull KR in place to bring in further players during the season.