THERE’S an air of excitement at The Cross, the home of Underbank Rangers.
The new coaching staff and players are all hopeful about their side’s chances of success in the new Conference National season which starts in two months.
Joint coach John Byram, however, said the team may have to change the style of rugby they play compared with last year to achieve anything this time around.
“Hopefully this season we will have some good backs and play in a way that people will want to go up to The Cross and watch us,” he said.
“We want to play some attractive rugby and this should enable us do better than we did in the last league campaign.”
Byram was appointed as successor to Aaron Perrin in November and will share his position with Paul Geener, an experienced rugby coach in the Oldham area.
Underbank were eliminated in the Conference National play-off semi-finals in September after a 54-14 defeat at Warrington and finished fourth in the normal league format.
They will start their new league season with a trip to Hemel Stags on Sunday, April 6 followed by a home tie against Liverpool Buccaneers on Saturday, April 12.
“We have cast our eyes down this year’s fixture list and we don’t think there is anybody we should be scared of,” said Byram.
“Of course other teams will have improved their squads, but so have we.
“Myself and Paul have not taken the job on as joint coaches lightly, as we know that we have a difficult challenge ahead.”
But although Byram said his job will entail a lot of commitment, he believes the hard work should pay off as he is sure the side will do well.
And the former North of England Lionhearts coach explained that there is now more interest from people in and around the Huddersfield area who want to play for Rangers.
This was an issue that concerned former coach Perrin who said he had struggled recruiting players from around the town after their play-off defeat against Warrington last September.
“There definitely seems to be more interest from people now,” said Byram.
He added: “There are talented players in the area and we want to continue encouraging people to come up and play for us.”
Terry Fitzgerald, a stand-off and loose forward who played for Keighley Cougars last season, has joined Underbank ahead of the new campaign.
He is joined by Brook York, a half-back from New Zealand; Mark Leyden, forward, Matthew Barran, back-row, and Paul Bennett, full-back, all from Oldham side Waterhead.
Rangers were hit by several injury problems last season with Jamie Tarazi, Marc Hirst, Matthew Lodge, Aaron Perrin and James Price all missing games having picked up knocks.
Byram said both he and fellow coach Paul Geener will be available to avoid a shortage of players for selection because of such injury difficulties in the new campaign.
“Hopefully there won’t be any problems like last season but we are here if needed.
“Both me and Paul can’t wait to get started.”
Prop Richard Lofthouse is also looking forward to the new season.
He said: “We will be the team to beat. There are a lot of new quality players in our team as well as some of the old ones.”
Lofthouse said the squad is now more in-depth compared with last season.
“Our aim is to do better than last year and hopefully win the title,” he said.
Underbank train on Monday and Wednesday nights at The Cross in Holmfirth starting at 7pm.
Anyone interested in playing can attend the sessions.