Thursday, 26 February 2015

Sunday's Coming: South Wales Scorpions

According to the South Wales Evening Post, in the 10 previous meetings between Hornets and SW Scorpions, we've won seven of them. But if - as the financial sector is always so keen to tell us - that past performance is no guarantee of future returns, Hornets will need to be primed and ready to go as Mike Grady brings his evolving side to Spotland.
Mike Grady - back in the other dugout.

These days, Scorpions are essentially a Wales Rugby League Development vehicle - run by the  WRL as the gateway to the pro-game the top of the Welsh 'pyramid': effectively a rep-side for the best of the Welsh Conference, with players signed from clubs across the principality.

And that's an area that Grady  - a familiar face to many at Hornets - having spent a lengthy spell as Ernie Wise to Chris Campbell's Eric Morecambe back under the old regime - knows well: his other role being coach of Wales 'A' Dragonhearts, the representative side for the Welsh Community game. He's also coached a Wales Select XIII who took on the full Wales side in a World Cup warm-up game.

And he's had an interesting, varied and circuitous career! Having started out at Warrington Wolves academy, he followed Paul Cullen to Whitehaven.  He then swapped the Cumbrian riviera for French Elite side Racing Club Albi, before returning to play for York City Knights, Oldham Roughyeds and then Hornets, where he had a bit of a low ley career - a handful of appearances. But it's a broad mix of experience that seems to have served him well as an emerging 'Young British Coach'.

Having initially joined his oppo Campbell coaching Warrington Wizards in 2010 (who have since returned under their parent Woolston's umbrella) - he played and coached them to a league title in his own right. And, as such, he's the man responsible for giving us Jono Smith.

Mike joined the Scorpions at the start of 2014 - to find a club in flux. Since the club left its Neath home, it's had a bit of a perpatetic existence, playing at  four different "home" venues in the last year: Maesteg, Blackwood, Cardiff Arms Park and Mountain Ash - which will be their base for the 2015 season. Except when they play Crusadaers in the Cymru Derby, which will be played at Cardiff Arms Park.

And it was at the Arms Park where the Scorpions flogged the newly formeed Cardiff City Rugby League side (formed in a merger by Cardiff Demons and Cardiff Spartans) by 82-12 in a pre-season game earlier this month - scoring 60 of those points in the second half!

Ashley Bateman:
just say 'no' kids...
Ahead of the inaugural 'League 1 Cup'  Mike Grady said of their trip to Spotland: "It'll be a very tough start to our season." And it just got tougher, with experienced international winger Ashley Bateman recently banned from all sports for two years after testing positive for the anabolic steroid oxandrolone and its metabolite, epioxandrolone following an out-of-competition test in November last year. Bateman was the record appearance holder for the Scorpions with 101 games. Now he's just 'that steroids bloke'. Daft lad.

Having had a stuttering, but unbeaten pre-season Ian Talbot faces that coach's most enjoyable problem - a selection headache. Having seen, most of the squad grab some game time, we're glad that Tol has to whittle some impressive showings down to 17 players.

TLCRF80mins has been impressed with Ryan Smith's sharpness, Dean Mignacca's industry and what looks like a proper handful in the pairing of Ste Marsh and Tony Suffolk - and the return of Dale Bloomfield gives us a strike winger to match Gaz Langley's eye for the goal line. Exciting stuff.

Our 2015 journey starts here folks - so let's start as we mean to go on. Get behind tha lads, give it 100% and enjoy the ride.