By RICHARD SYKES
Halfway through the close season, preparations are well underway for Huddersfield’s National 2 North campaign.
While the last couple of months have seen personnel changes, with several comings and goings, the focus now is firmly on pre-season training and physical conditioning.
Head coach Gaz Lewis is being aided by highly-experienced specialist Jason McGivern, who has tailored individual programmes for the players.
On the personnel front, the departure of long-serving locks Adam Malthouse and Austen Thompson to Otley and Sandal respectively has been compensated by the arrival of Guy Borrowdale from Rotherham Titans and Matt Dunn from Peterborough.
Also, following the retirement from first-team football of scrum-half Joel Hinchliffe, his jersey has been filled by the Yorkshire No.9 Jack Mapelsden from Ilkley.
Back at the club after spells away are prop Harry Whitfield from Old Rishworthians, Bob Sykes of Old Brodlieans, utility back Tom Hodson from Otley and open side flanker Liam Parfitt, who returns after a season with Macclesfield.
Centre Tom Van Rooyen, a former club junior, is also back at at Lockwood Park after a rewarding spell playing with the Alligators club on Australia’s Gold Coast.
New to the club are wing man Tom Kill and Elliot Munnelly from Sandal.
The England women’s head coach Simon Middleton has recently put the Huddersfield squad through their paces having arrived to do a guest session.
Lewis was pleased to have him on board for what proved to be a very fruitful and enjoyable evening for the players, and he feels there is a positive vibe around Lockwood Park in anticipation of the season ahead.
He said: “There is a fresh look about the squad with Mark Pease taking on the backs coaching role and Adam Blades being added to the coaching with specific responsibility for the scrummage.
“The squad will be different but I’m very confident that once we’ve built cohesion we will be ready come September.”
Key men from last year are stepping up to new roles to drive the team forward.
Number 8 Dickie Piper has taken over the captaincy from club stalwart Alex Battye after a very positive first season at Lockwood Park.
The vastly-experienced former Cleckheaton man is looking forward to the challenge and he will be supported by young home-grown flanker Lewis Bradley as his vice-captain. Centre Pease has taken on the role of backs and attack coach after the departure of long-serving Phil Gostling due to work commitments.
Some tough and entertaining games in National 2 North are in prospect with top northern clubs Fylde, Preston Grasshoppers and Hull Ionians re-joining ‘Field’ in what promises to be a very competitive division.
Huddersfield open their league campaign at Lockwood Park against Sedgley Park on Saturday, September 1.