NOW back to something like full fitness, Nick Clarke is starting to prove his worth at Laund Hill.
The 21-year-old Leeds Metropolitan University student first arrived on the scene a couple of seasons ago for the occasional game.
Until this season his appearances have been few and far between after battling with a series of injuries, mainly to both ankles and a broken nose.
But the Surrey-born player is now starting to become a regular and, despite being the smallest player in the squad, is beginning to make a mark at full-back, which over the last few seasons has been something of a problem position.
Alex Shaw, Jon Smith, James Swift, Chris Beever, Tim Horner, Gavin Stead, Chris Williams and Lloyd Bentley have all been drafted in at No15.
But Clarke is certainly proving the most effective and is now the first choice – although selectors are going to have to draft in a replacement for a couple of games in January as he returned south for a family Christmas.
Originally from Guildford, which is where he has played since he was 16, Clarke came up to Yorkshire to study Sport and Exercise Science at Leeds Met.
It was there he met the Dyke twins, Stephen and Stuart, as well as several other YM players, and where he now lives, while studying, with Steve Dyke – hence the link with Laund Hill.
“I started my rugby career at school and college playing at fly-half before being moved to full-back the year after joining Guildford RUFC,” said Clarke.
“It’s certainly my favoured role and I’ve played there at a decent level when Guildford were in London and South West Division I, so I’m fairly confident in that position.”
His confidence is self-evident given the way he’s not only very keen and quick to link up with the three-quarters in attack, but the fact he looks comfortable under the high ball, and rarely misses a tackle in a one-on-one situation.
“You have to be confident when going for a high ball, otherwise there’s no point in going for it,” continued Clarke, who is now in his third and final year at Leeds Met.
“Although I wasn’t around, there was quite a lot of hype in the close season after getting promoted last year, and everyone’s confidence was high that we would do quite well this season.
“However, that confidence suffered some big hits in the first few weeks as we tried to step up a level and found it was not that easy to do.
“But the heart and drive at this club have certainly helped us win a couple of games, none more so than at Heath, which is the game where I felt we had finally turned the corner.
“And after decent performances against Driffield and again in defeat to League leaders Bridlington, I am hopeful that in the second half of the season we can start picking up a few more victories.
“One of our biggest problems is that we don’t have any strength in depth, and we are constantly having to re-shuffle the side with players playing out of position.
“Obviously losing Ed Barber to rugby league was a huge blow to us, because he’s an exciting player who can make things happen and is also a good player to watch.
“When he was playing at centre the three-quarters looked dangerous, but we are missing that spark without him.
“Although this is my final year at Leeds, I’m certainly hoping to be around next year and looking forward to helping the YM progress up the league.”
Following last week’s defeat at home to York, and with victories for North Ribblesdale and Knottingley, YM have again slipped to third bottom of the table.
And with Pontefract (away), Pocklington (home) and Scarborough (home) coming up in January, the coaching team of Damon Scholes, Jody Shaw and Andy Shaw have a lot to work on in the three-week festive break.