Huddersfield RU have signed up another bunch of key players – including Yorkshire second row Austen Thompson.
That’s a major tonic for head coach Gareth Lewis and the Lockwood Park faithful as they plan for next season in National III North.
Former Sandal and Vale of Lune player Thompson, 25, who is struggling with a shoulder injury right now, has joined namesake Declan, Adam Malthouse, experienced Gavin Rhodes and Henry Ward in committing for next season.
They follow skipper Alex Battye, Ben Morrill, Elliot Knight and Ben Hoyle who all completed new deals last week.
Lewis – who has Nick Sharpe back after a 12-week ban – is delighted, especially to agree terms with Austen Thompson, who was in the county side in 2014.
“This is huge statement of our intent, it’s fantastic news for the club,” said Lewis.
“If you’d have asked me two weeks ago would Austen be with us next season, I would have said that is unlikely, as he had a number of clubs chasing him and is ambitious to play at the highest possible level.
“However, on reflection, he has come to realise how much he enjoys his rugby at Lockwood Park, the team spirit we have is something special and also the fact he has the opportunity to play alongside his ‘little brother’ Declan.
“It’s no secret Austen has struggled with injuries for large parts of the season, so we need to get him fit and firing, and I’m sure he’ll be a massive threat for us in National III next season.”
Flanker Malthouse, formerly of Bradford & Bingley and Otley, also represented Yorkshire at Under 20 level.
“I’m very pleased Adam has agreed to stay with us,” explained Lewis.
“At just 24 years old he is a young, talented player who fits the bill in terms of the how we want this team to evolve.
“He is a destructive ball carrier and a very good line-out option.
“In the absence of captain Nick Sharpe he was handed his preferred No8 shirt and has not looked back.
“I can’t wait to see these two (Malthouse and Sharpe) fight for the shirt next season.”
Lewis believes Field have lacked a little in experience in National II North this term, so 38-year-old second row Gavin Rhodes is a sound bet for 2016-17.
“Gav brings direction, solidity in the set piece and is one of the best defenders in the squad,” said the coach.
“What is striking, though, is the pride and passion he brings on game day.
“I know how much it means to him to pull on the Huddersfield shirt and we need to squeeze as much from him next season in what is obviously the twilight of a very successful career.
“He has a big role to play next season.”
Declan Thompson and Ward are players Lewis expects to develop strongly.
“Declan joined us mid-season and performed well in the Falcons,” explained Lewis.
“He showed in the Preston Grasshoppers game the potential he has, with some strong carries and fantastic athleticism from the re-starts.
“He still has plenty to learn in terms of game understanding and core skills, but in many ways that is very exciting.
“Henry Ward is a very good open side flanker who leads the Falcons impressively.
“With a tough pre-season under his belt I am looking forward to seeing him develop as a player.”