Thursday, 31 January 2019

Sunday's Coming: Dewsbury Rams

Dewsbury come to Spotland on Sunday having built a new squad around veteran half-back Paul Sykes. And, speaking in the Yorkshire Post this week, Sykes seemed to be getting his club's excuses in early

“We’ve got a lot of young kids and to get them up to speed with the Championship level will be difficult..." He said.  "... we have got potential and I think we will go all right provided we can stay fit and healthy... we’re going to be underdogs, but we like a challenge."

His sentiments are echoed by his coach Lee Greenwood - himself catapulted into the Championship spotlight after coaching stints at Siddal and the University of Gloucestershire All Golds.

Speaking after his side's 34-nil pre-season pounding at York, Greenwood said in the Dewsbury Reporter: “It showed what the coaching staff probably already knew, some lads aren’t quite ready for this level yet. Some lads have got a bit to go yet before being ever ready for this level, and that is just the harsh reality of it. “

But Greenwood remained philosophical about the importance of pre-season results, saying that everyone in his squad was given a "fair chance" over the Rams' four friendlies. He says that the games were more about: "... getting to know the players as quickly as we can and knowing where we are at. It has all been about getting ready for game one, we have got new coaching staff obviously myself as new head coach. There is a number of lads who were here last year and a number of new lads who have come in as well."

With 16 new additions to the squad, Greenwood has his work cut out galvanising them into a unit. The sixteen include Harvey Burnett, Alex Brown and Jordan Andrade from Bradford Bulls and - as seems popular at the moment - three new signings from the Keighley Cougars fire sale.

But whist the 'ins' make interesting reading, it's one major 'out' that really caught our eye - the retirement of half-back Gareth Moore, who's proved a pain in Hornets' backside on more than one occasion. Squeezed between the twin-forces of injuries and running a business, Moore gave the game away at the end of last year any the age of 29.

Half back duties have been picked up by well-travelled scrum-half Simon Brown, who's CV includes Leeds, Doncaster, Sheffield, York, Halifax, Batley, Hunslet and Sheffield (again - having been hauled out of retirement) - a proper Tour de Yorkshire.

Greenwood's expectations for the season? "... hopefully we will be tough to beat throughout the year,” he said in the Yorkshire Post.

But he concedes that the Rams are a club 'in transition'. Again in the YP he said: "We are in a transition period and probably for a season we will have to stick with being very difficult to beat and getting our fair share of wins.”

“I am learning about individuals every week and every session. It is early days and it’s going to take a bit of time to get to know people and who needs to play where.”

Which is good. Every 'bit of time' where there's doubt and confusion presents an opportunity to capitalise.

Whilst Hornets too are a work in progress, the progress v Warrington was evident. And whilst some gobshites might see a narrow defeat to a second string Wolves as somehow indicative of standards at our club, the four point margin was pretty much par for Championship sides playing Super League opposition in friendlies: Fev going down by four to Leeds, Toulouse going down by four to Catalans Dragons, Barrow nicking a late draw against Wigan and Leigh getting pumped 20-nil by London Broncos. So nothing much to see there, move along...

The challenge this week is for Carl Forster to alight on a thirteen that he likes the look of. There's still some contention around the half-back spots and the sooner that conundrum gets solved, the easier progress will be. Scott Moore, Tyler Whittaker, Elliot Jenkins, Stu Howarth and Dan Abram have all filled the berths in pre-season - but the selection that poses the greatest threat is still a hot topic for debate amongst the Hornets faithful.

As always - the advent of a new season calls for the most devout of beliefs and extreme faith in the boys to deliver. At this stage of development, Dewsbury provide the perfect test - a test of opposing transitions. Indeed, this one could simply boil-down to who wants it most on the day.

Let's want it more. See you Sunday.