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Matt Nicholson plots top chart spot with York City Knights
MATT NICHOLSON says he jumped at the chance to join York City Knights – and he now hopes to help the team to rise into the play-off reckoning in the Championship.
As predicted by The Press, former Leeds Rhinos academy prop Nicholson, who played 17 times for Dewsbury this year, has agreed terms with the Huntington Stadium club – effectively as a like-for-like replacement for the departing Nathan Freer – and, assuming there is no hiccup when putting pen to paper, he will turn up tonight for the squad’s first get-together ahead of pre-season training.
The 21-year-old had been poised to join Montpellier in the French Elite League but a week before jetting out to south France the club went bust and he was back looking for a new deal in England.
“I’m glad York have come in for me,” he told The Press.
“I’ve spoken to a few clubs but I thought York were the best option. I’m happy to say that all being well I’ll be playing for them next year.
“I’ve not been coached by Gary Thornton before but I’ve heard he’s good at bringing young players through and is a good coach.
“The aim is to be a consistently good performer in the team and hopefully help York to get into the play-offs.
“Gary has managed to put a strong squad together with some good young players and some experienced players like Jason Golden coming in.
“There are definitely some good signings and we should be in contention for the play-offs.”
Knights boss Thornton said he had been tracking the strapping forward for a while and was delighted to now have his man – especially with the timing of it, with fellow prop Freer deciding to take time out of rugby league to take up a teacher training scholarship at Bishop Burton College.
Thornton, left, said: “I’ve seen Matt playing in the Super League academy structure for Leeds Rhinos during my three years at Castleford (as academy coach), plus playing for Dewsbury.
“He’s a player we highlighted at the start (of the recruitment process) but his agent got him a move to Montpellier. “The way things have worked out though – with that move falling through and us getting him on board – it’s perfect timing.
“We were aware for a while that Nath Freer wouldn’t be able to commit and to get Matty is excellent. He’s of similar build to Nathan. He’s a big unit and will give us good go-forward. I think we possibly lacked a little size up front and he’s got presence and size to be very good in the front row.”
Thornton also reckoned Nicholson’s time at Dewsbury – firstly in a loan spell in 2011 prior to his permanent switch – will stand him in good stead for 2013, even if, at 21, he is of tender years for a prop.
“He handled it pretty well at Dewsbury,” said the coach. “Players who’ve come out of the Super League Under-21s/20s structure possibly struggle with the first year at Championship level. It’s a different environment and a different set-up and is more physical. Some take a year to get used to it.
“But Matty is aware of what to expect and what the competition is like and we will benefit from the fact he’s had that season under his belt.”