Get in touch: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting YORK to 80360 or send an email»
Ben Dent urged to make impact at Knights
The 21-year-old winger/full-back rose out of the All Blacks ranks to impress in the Knights’ reserves in 2011 and win a professional contract for 2012 and, while he began the year down the pecking order, he made five starts in all and finished the season in the first-team picture.
Thornton admits to knowing little about the player but is optimistic the youngster can continue to improve, along with three teenagers – Greg Minikin, James Morland and Luke Tomlinson – who have also signed pro terms at Huntington Stadium.
He said: “I’ve spoken to Chris Thorman (previous head coach) and James Ford (captain and under-18s coach), and I’ve seen some of the DVDs of the games he played in.
“I’ve not seen an awful lot of him but I liked what I did see. For a young, inexperienced guy who got thrown in, he did okay. He’s a young guy and we’re giving him an opportunity.
“We’re keen to get that mix of youth and experience and the time is right in his development to be in the first-team squad. It will help him to improve.
“We’re looking at developing him and we’re giving him an opportunity to develop himself and for us to help him do that.
“If he pushes forward and carries on doing well then he can get in the team like anyone else. The best 17 will get picked, it’s selected purely on merit.”
Dent was on the wing for the Northern Rail Cup match against Gateshead and a Challenge Cup tie against Sheffield in the first half of last season.
After injuries hit the squad, he came into an inexperienced team for three games of the season’s run-in, twice on the wing and once at full-back, before a neck injury in the penultimate match of term saw him miss the finale against Hunslet.
As for 2013, there is only one other dedicated winger so far in the Knights’ squad – George Elliott – but the club are looking at loan or dual-registration moves for fringe Super League players to add to their options, with Hull pair Tom Lineham and Jack Briscoe among names mentioned on the back of York’s official partnership with the Black and Whites.
Dent also faces tough competition for his preferred number one shirt, with James Haynes and Tom Carr likely to fight it out for the full-back berth – with the loser then in contention for a wing spot.
He has only outside odds, therefore, of starting next term in the first-team line-up, but assistant-boss Mick Ramsden has already praised the former All Blacks amateur’s attitude and reckons his run-outs in those three games will have given him an insight into fitness and ability levels needed to prosper at Championship level.
And Thornton was also looking at the wider picture.
“He’s got good attributes and for players to get experience and get better they need to train around good players,” he said.
“It’s a development process with Ben and a project for us. He’ll be training with the first team with the long-term view of being a first-teamer.”
Meanwhile, York College sixth-formers Minikin and Morland, who played for Wetherby as juniors, and Hull University student Tomlinson, a winger, have signed two-year contracts after impressing in the Knights’ under-18s this year.
All three – along with Tim Stubbs, Harry Carter and Kriss Brining, who have already penned deals after first-team appearances this year – will be eligible for the new-look U19s team next year, with prop Stubbs, centre Minikin and full-back Morland staying eligible in 2014.
They will train with the first-team squad in pre-season.