Huddersfield YMCA are already deep into planning for a first ever season at National League level – and they aim to make a big impression.

The Laund Hill Club beat Birkenhead Park 29-19, scoring four tries to one, in a cracking promotion play-off to go up alongside Cleckheaton from North I East to National III North.

Just five years on from finishing bottom of Yorkshire II – and avoiding the drop only because of a re-organisation – it’s a massive step up for YM, but they have a playing squad, committee structure and club philosophy which they believe will continue to stand them in good stead.

Jody Shaw has stepped down after six years working with director of rugby Damon Scholes, so YM will be guided next season by a coaching team headed by Mark Whitehead and featuring Matt Johnson – who has now hung up his boots – Damian Clayton and Johnson’s brother Chris, the former Huddersfield RUFC star who will split duties between playing for Fylde.

This is an almost surreal time for everyone at Huddersfield YMCA and a brilliant time for rugby in this town with Huddersfield winning the division we are now going into,” said Scholes, who had done a fantastic job in helping galvanise a revival at the Salendine Nook complex.

“The support we took over to Birkenhead Park for the play-off was unbelievable – I am told they took record gate receipts – and it wasn’t just from Huddersfield but from all over Yorkshire.

“The messages of congratulation we have received from throughout the sport has been incredible and very encouraging and we really do feel we are moving forward in all ways as an organisation. We are only a small club, but we’ve got big hearts.”

Upgrading of the Laund Hill floodlights is already under way – “we might improve our handling if we can see the ball at training!” joked Scholes – while Tom Sanderson is overseeing fundraising.

 

“Tom has done an amazing job already but he is keen to build on the work which has been done and put us on an even stronger platform,” explained Scholes.

“I don’t think many people believe we are a purely amateur side, but we are all on a level playing field and no-one within the club – coaches, players or anyone – gets paid.

“We may have to go down that route at some stage in the future, but for now we are trying to do things in the traditional way and promoted old-fashioned values.

“That’s what has brought us a long way and, I’m told, three promotions in four years hasn’t been achieved before so we are breaking new ground.

“What we have said is that we’ll put in place an excellent insurance policy for the players, so that if anyone gets injured they will get a proper working wage while they are laid up. We intend the cover to be second to none in Yorkshire, and that’s what the players have asked for.”

Skipper Ed Barber – who adds experience from playing professional rugby league both here and in Australia – scored YM’s first try in the play-off at Upper Park, even though his side were down to 13 following yellow cards for Sam Hodge and James Bell.

Having been 19-9 down, it started a revival and further tries from flying winger Lloyd Bentley, one-club man Bell and Gavin Stead, who added the rest of the points with his trusty boot, sent YM to a glorious victory.

“We have a bunch of men – because they are not lads any more – who want to play for each other and that’s what matters,” added Scholes, reflecting on the play-off win.

“When the going got tough over at Birkenhead, our team got going and they didn’t do it for themselves, they did it for the people alongside them.

“There has been a real buzz about the place for a long while now and, after our promotion, all sorts of people were congratulating us in Huddersfield and we even had footballers saying they would like to give union a go – so it’s been great for the sport.

“I thought we were poor in the first half of the play-off, but I thought the two sin-binnings made us realise we had to start performing and then the introduction of Stuart Dyke gave us a bit of impetus as well.

“But the players were magnificent once we started playing to our potential and with Stead and Barber going well we came through with a win which was just great.”

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