ONE man who has done as much as anyone to secure National League status for Huddersfield Rugby Union Club is experienced ‘ever-present’ forward Tony Stringwell.
The tight-head prop has been with the club through their North I days, and is one of the few players who has taken them all the way through to the highest level in the club’s history – and that it is perhaps no coincidence!
For the project manager for Leeds City Council is undoubtedly the guiding light in the front row, having been recruited from Sheffield by former coach Mark Sowerby.
Having lined up alongside former Huddersfield stalwart Jim Howard after his transfer to Lockwood Park, Stringwell is now recognised as the ‘old head’ in the front row despite being only 29.
And hopefully he still has plenty more to offer, not least in the way of guidance to up-and-coming front-rowers like Sam Slater, Alex Battye, James Davies and Ben Morrill.
Former coach Sowerby always rated him as one of the top props in the division, as does current coach Dan Hyde, and the experience he has gained at Rotherham, where he began his career, followed by spells at Leeds Met and Harrogate while he was at University, and then with Sheffield, is proving invaluable as Huddersfield continue to cement their place in National II North.
That was further helped by last Saturday’s thrilling win over Harrogate when Huddersfield fought back from 17-6 down to notch their sixth win of the campaign.
“It was certainly a cracking last 10 minutes the way we turned it round last week,” said Stringwell, who, along with Lee Brown (who also had a spell at Claro Road), was probably even more pleased than most of his teammates.
“It was great to come away with a win and grab our first double of the season, and it made it even more sweeter as Harrogate were one of my former clubs.
“Hopefully that will gives us the confidence to kick-on again and start to move up the table.
“I played for Sheffield against Huddersfield in the old North I League before moving to Lockwood Park in 2006, so I’ve been part of the journey from the lower Leagues for which Mark (Sowerby) deserves a lot of credit.
“The first task was then to consolidate, which I think we have done, and now Dan (Hyde) is taking the club up to the next level, and I don’t see any reason why we can’t establish ourselves as one of the top four sides in this division.
“This League is a very good standard and is the ideal springboard for some of our exciting young players to prove themselves and move on to possible county standard or higher-ranked clubs.” Former second-rower Ben Harris being one such example, who has gone on to play for Rotherham this season.
“I think durability is one of my strong points. I’ve only missed half-a-dozen games through injury since I came, and I’m hoping to continue bringing something to the front row.
“I’ve played with quite a few different front-row partners in the last few years, and I reckon the lads we have coming through now have a lot of potential.
“Although it may seem a bit soon for some of the young lads coming out of the Academy, it’s good they have been brought into the first team so quickly and are now playing, for want of a better expression, ‘proper men’s rugby’.
“When you come up against players who may spend every day of the week working on a building site you know you could be in for a bit of hiding, and it’s good our lads are being exposed to that sort of challenge, because that’s the sort of experience that pays dividends in tough games.
“If they continue to develop, I really can see one or two of these lads getting into the Yorkshire team in a year or two.
“In terms of Huddersfield moving up to the next league, then I believe the club has lots of potential, but it’s really a question of what and where they want to be.”
Over the last five years, Stringwell has been the one constant in the pack, and the good news is that the Denby Dale-based player, who is married to wife Kelly, with 18-month-old daughter Lola, is more than happy to continue to be the driver in Huddersfield’s ‘engine room’ for plenty more years yet.