THE Betfred Championship is looking more open in 2021 than it has been for several years.

Following the withdrawal of Toronto Wolfpack from the Betfred Super League and the subsequent elevation of Leigh Centurions to the top flight, just two full-time teams now remain in the second tier.

As a result, there seems to be more balance to the Championship this year and, whether caused by cost-cutting in Super League amid the coronavirus pandemic or some shrewd recruitment by the lower-tier clubs, there is quality across the board.

There is arguably no better club at demonstrating this than Swinton Lions, whom York City Knights travel to this weekend (12.45pm).

Their most high-profile addition is the former Leigh, Huddersfield Giants and Featherstone Rovers half-back Martyn Ridyard.

Now aged 34, Ridyard has bags of experience and left Leigh over the off-season after scoring more than 2,000 points for the club in his 250 matches, making him the third-highest points-scorer in the club’s history.

Even now, at the back end of his career, Ridyard’s classy kicking game remains and will be sure to test the York defence at Heywood Road.

The capture of Ridyard is one of four signings Swinton have made in taking on established Championship talents from Leigh who were deemed surplus to requirements following their accession to Super League.

Scotland international prop Sam Brooks knows all about what it takes at Championship level from previous spells at Halifax, Rochdale Hornets, Whitehaven, Widnes Vikings, Bradford Bulls and Featherstone.

Lions head coach Stuart Littler also scored the services of fellow middle Tom Spencer, a player with more than 100 Leigh appearances to his name, on a short-term loan deal last month.

Outside-back Liam Forsyth has made his return to Swinton in a permanent switch. Beginning his career at Wigan Warriors, Forsyth featured on loan at Swinton for three seasons before joining Leigh in 2019.

But he has now penned a two-year deal with the Lions and, at 6ft 4in, brings plenty of height and size to the backs.

Standing at the same height is another new recruit in Luis Roberts, who joined from Super League side Salford Red Devils.

The 19-year-old winger has previously featured for Wales at junior level, played on loan at Spanish club Valencia Huracanes last year and made his Super League debut in 2020.

Aside from the Leigh contingent, Swinton’s recruit has been an investment in youth, much like the Roberts acquisition.

At 23 years old, Geronimo Doyle (from Auckland-based Otahuhu Leopards) is the oldest of the rest of the signings.

They include Jacob Smilie and Cobi Green from Bradford (both 22), Paul Nash from St Helens (21) and Jordan Brown from Widnes (20).

Heading into the clash with the Knights, like York, Swinton are carrying several injuries in their ranks.

The Lions confirmed earlier this month that prop forward Lewis Hatton had undergone an operation on his bicep after sustaining an injury against Oldham last month which will see him be unlikely to feature against this year.

Fellow front rower Jose Kenga will also be missing due to a ruptured Achilles.