UNDERBANK coach Richard Knight is relishing the start of the 2012 campaign, believing his side is “as strong as ever.”
After winning their first Grand Final in 2011, Bank’s assault on the National Conference Division III title commences on Saturday when they visit Hemel Stags.
The men from Holmfirth have bid farewell to Australian Jack Mitchell and full-back Sam Hendrick, who was consistently their best three-quarter last season.
In their absence, Dave Valentine returns to The Cross and Kris Harrop and young half-back Gavin Dyson look to strengthen any weak links in Rangers’ strong armoury.
Despite the changes, Knight is adamant his side is capable enough to repeat last season’s successes.
“We are looking as strong as ever and we’ll be looking to do what we did last season and push for the Grand Final,” said Knight.
“Yet we still have to better ourselves further as the quality of sides will have no doubt improved and we will aim to be overall winners of the competition and final come September.”
Rangers have a reasonable start to the season as they lock horns with two of the 2011 play-off sides in the first four weeks of the campaign.
Knight remains un-phased over the potential difficult start and is focused on achieving a 100 per cent home record as well as grasping a notable amount of wins on the road.
“You don’t win a Grand Final in April, May or June, and in previous years it has been last-minute momentum that has seen us surge towards a powerful finish,” added Knight.
“I won’t be too disheartened if we don’t come away with three points from our first few trips on the road.
“It will take time for our new guys to settle in as we figure out which is the best way to play.
“As long as we keep a perfect record at home and win more than we lose away, then I’m confident we’ll be there or thereabouts.”
Competition new boys Bristol Sonics and recently-renamed South Wales Hornets epitomise the ‘national’ stance of the league.
In previous years Underbank battled with the likes of Dewsbury and Featherstone and saw the competition as more local and less widespread.
But with their moves to the National Conference competition for 2012, coupled with the new southern-based opposition, Knight is wary of how the Huddersfield side will react to the long-distance travels.
“Even with 10 sides in the league this season, it isn’t about how many teams we face that will make the difference; it will be the whereabouts of their location,” he continued.
“We’re looking at some pretty long journeys and it will take a while for the lads to get used to. But I’m sure we’ll adapt and I’m positive on this year being a successful season.”