WEST Bowling's head coach Ryan Hunkin has called the suspension of community rugby league a "hammer blow" but said he thinks the amateur game may be in a better position to bounce back from this enforced stoppage than the Championship and League One.

Though he is hopeful of a regular league season, with some adaptations, he admits it is a shame that there is no Challenge Cup action for his side this year.

Even in a worst case scenario, which would see Bowling's National Conference League Division One campaign not go ahead in 2021, Hunkin said youth was in his side's favour.

Talking about the temporary suspension of community rugby league, Hunkin said: "It's a shame, as we were just ramping things up and getting ready to start training at Horsfall last Tuesday, only to get that hammer blow from the government, calling things off the day before.

"But it does at least give us a bit more time to overcome any teething problems with our move to Horsfall, and ensure we have everything in place with having the players that we want signed on and registered."

The RFL have confirmed that the (competitive) community rugby league season will not start until April at the earliest, and Hunkin said: "We've got to hope for a normal season, or at least one that has to only be slightly adapted, as we know we'll miss the first eight or nine weeks if we don't start until April or May.

"We want something to be playing for and we have targets which friendly fixtures won't satisfy.

"If we did have two seasons without competitive rugby league, our players are of an age where it's not really going to affect us, as I think my oldest one is only 27 or 28.

"But then you can't really afford for them to miss too much rugby, as some might find other things to do instead.

"We want that hunger there. That's at all levels, as we want the kids at the club to still be keen to play too."

On that point, Hunkin added: "I'm not sure whether we might be ahead of the game compared to the Championship and League One, as we had fixtures for our youngsters in the autumn.

"They were handled well and the child welfare officers did a great job.

"We're hoping cases come down and we can get going in April or May, and again the pro game is at a different level to us.

"They need a proper pre-season to get used to the rigours of competitive action.

"At open age amateur level, we do still need some strength and conditioning before we start, but certainly the juniors we'd hope could be back very soon."

Talking about the adapted Challenge Cup schedule, which will be played by Super League, Championship and League One clubs only, Hunkin said: "Not having the Challenge Cup is a setback for the open age rugby side.

"I know I've said in the past that I see it almost as our pre-season, or part of it, but it's something we'd normally look forward to in January and February, so it's a shame there'll be no games for us in that this winter."

Two people who will be in Challenge Cup action this year are Hull KR stars Ethan Ryan and Elliot Minchella.

As reported in the Telegraph & Argus in November, the former Bulls pair are helping out with coaching at Bowling during the 2021 season.

A delighted Hunkin said: "We just wanted a bit more guidance and help around our open age side, particularly positional play for our outside backs and spine.

"Ethan's taking on our three to six year olds as well, as he'd done some work with the juniors at Bulls when he was there, so we knew he'd be capable.

"It's great to have their advice and tips. They've been fantastic so far when we have been allowed to train, and they were a big part of our pre-season plans.

"They were both juniors at West Bowling too, and that's something I think is important at amateur clubs, to have those role models coming back and being able to offer you something like this."