HUDDERSFIELD Rugby Union club’s popular skipper Nick Sharpe is, understandably, a happy man going into the New Year.
And it’s definitely not because of what Santa might have brought him, but more to do with the fact that his team are sitting pretty in second place in the National II North table – the highest position in the rugby pyramid that Huddersfield have ever reached.
And although there is still a long way to go in the 2011/12 season, there is a genuine new-found optimism at Lockwood Park which can only augur well for the future.
“Yes, I’ve got to admit it’s gone pretty well this year, and eight wins on the bounce is no mean achievement,” reflected Sharpe.
“We’ve just go to hope the bubble doesn’t burst in the New Year because we certainly have a massive trio of games coming up in January.
“We open with a difficult visit to Hull (they will still be smarting after being bundled over by Huddersfield in the Yorkshire Cup final last May), and then entertain League-leaders Loughborough Students the following Saturday, before a visit to Caldy on the 21st.
“Those are three huge games for us, and obviously we have to concentrate, remain focused, continue to work hard and just try and keep our feet on the ground.
“Fortunately we have a great squad, definitely the best we’ve had at Huddersfield since I’ve been here. The character of the team is tremendous and there is just a great craic between the lads, which I think is why we are, where we are.
“I think we showed last year that we are capable of competing with the best teams in this League, although it’s probably fair to stay it came as a bit of a surprise to be in second place at Christmas.
“Before the season started I had a meeting with head coach Dan Hyde and to be honest when we looked at the overall strength of the teams in the League this season we were both a bit worried, because unlike last season, there didn’t seem to be any obvious ‘banker’ games.”
Hull Ionians are currently the bottom club in the League, but showed they too are no push-overs when they battled to victory against their city rivals Hull, and then gave Huddersfield a hard time before just going down 6-3 at Lockwood Park three weeks ago.
“Much of our success this season is down to the fact this team has been built on ‘heart’ where everyone is playing for each other. Yes, we have a lot of good players in the side, but that is coupled to the hard work everybody puts in week in week out.”
A lot of success must also be down to the coaching duo of Hyde and Ian Shuttleworth, not forgetting the unassuming skipper himself, who provides the team with plenty of drive and ‘go forward’ and is regularly up there among the leading try-scorers.
Last season, Sharpe topped the try count with 20, with fly-half Chris Johnson (who was the leading points-scorer throughout the entire National Leagues) having to play second fiddle on 15.
“Chris and I have usually been battling away to see who gets the most tries for the last two or three years, but this season we have got another player who looks likely to beat both of us, and that is Adam Ryder” (all three players have currently eight tries apiece).
“Adam has really come on leaps and bounds since he had a short spell with us a couple of years ago, and he certainly knows how to finish now,” added Sharpe.
“He scored two very good tries at Otley, and is so strong, for one of them he virtually took three players over the line with him.
“And his arrival has proved a great bonus after losing winger Simon Pratt who returned home to New Zealand last year.
“Ryder has already got eight tries, and he’s played half-a-dozen games less than both Chris and myself!
“So we are in a good place and a good position at the moment, but like I said, it’s still early days and we have a lot of very big games coming up so we just have to keep our feet on the ground and keep working hard.”