The make up of the Hoppers senior squad continues to take shape as we countdown to the season’s big kick off against Darlington Mowden Park at Lightfoot Green on Saturday 1st September (Kick off 2.30pm). The coaching team has spent the summer looking at a number of new players who have been involved in pre-season training and have a number of new recruits at their disposal.
New faces for the coming season are Gareth Gore (2nd row/back row) signed from Kendal, Adam Birchall (centre/wing) from Sale Jets, Eddie Webster (back row) from Myerscough College/Sale Jets, Sam Kindred (scrum half) formerly of Kirkham GS/Waterloo whilst front rowers Anthony Harvey and former Hoppers Colts captain Tim Molloy join from Waterloo and Otley respectively. The returning Andy Napier will add competition in the back row having now returned to the UK from his travels around Asia. The squad will also be bolstered by England Under 18 player Mike Haley who will be with the club once his A league commitments with Sale Sharks have been completed in mid October whilst a number of promising youngsters who have graduated from the clubs junior ranks are being given opportunities to train with the senior squad.
The club is also in talks with a couple of other players about joining the squad and it is hoped that these discussions will be concluded shortly.
The club has said farewell to Matthew Charters (who joins Tynedale having moved jobs), Nathan Fowles (who has returned to parent club Sale Sharks and has subsequently been loaned to neighbours Fylde), Chris Lowden (who joins Blackburn as player coach), Mark Irving (who has joined Ballymena), Tom Smith (who moves to Lymm) and Mark Edwards (who has joined N2N rivals Stockport).
Speaking about the ins and outs Director of Rugby Gareth Dyer said “Following on from last season it was important that we re-signed as many of last season’s squad as possible and we were able to accomplish this without too many problems. We brought in a lot of new faces last term so we were mindful that we already had a good level of competition for places. However I am delighted by the mix of new players we have added to the squad”.
First of those new faces is second row Gareth Gore who has joined Hoppers from rivals Kendal. Gore comes with an impressive playing CV having played for Carmarthan Quins, Welsh Clubs XV (the Welsh equivalent of the England Counties set up) whilst he has made well over 100 appearances for Kendal where he was also a successful captain as he led the Black & Ambers to promotion back to National 2 North. “Gareth will be a player whom many Hoppers supporters will recognise from his time with Kendal. Whilst he is primarily a second row he can also cover the blind side of the scrum. He is an excellent lineout operator and he will increase our options at the line out. He’s a proven player at National League level”.
Adam Birchall is a product of Lancaster RGS and has played for Vale of Lune, Sedgley Tigers, Sale Jets whilst he has also been part of the Lancashire set up. “Adam burst onto the scene a few seasons ago when he debuted for the Vale 1st XV whilst still at school. He has been part of the Sale Academy set up but injuries have limited his game time in the last couple of seasons. Now fully fit, Adam needs to get back playing on a regular basis and we are keen to get him involved. He offers versatility across a number of positions and the coaches are keen to see what he can offer”.
“We are excited by the potential of Sam, Eddie, Anthony and Tim. They are ready to be tested at National League level and their recruitment continues our policy of recruiting young guys who we feel can meet the demands of playing 1st XV rugby at PGRFC. They will be in the mix for selection but may have to bide their time and be ready to take the opportunity when it comes”.
Dyer also added “I am hopeful that we can also add a couple more bodies to the squad so that we will have options throughout. Ideally we would like to have another option in both the back row and half back areas so that all positions have a real depth of competition about them”.
Turning to those leaving Lightfoot Green, Dyer said “It’s always disappointing to say good bye to players. Those leaving all have their reasons for doing so and we understand the background to those decisions. I would like to wish Charts, Nath, Chris, Mark, Tom and Bunny (Edwards) all the best for their respective futures. They have all given excellent service to the club, in some cases over many years and they will always be welcome back at the club in the future”.