GARY THORNTON reckons Luke Stenchion’s enthusiasm and attitude will make him a hit with the York City Knights faithful in 2013.
The 26-year-old has penned a one-year deal at Huntington Stadium ahead of tonight’s annual season launch in Bar 13 at the ground, where he and the rest of Thornton’s new-look squad will be introduced to the supporters.
The signing comes at a good time for York, with doubts over fellow front-rower Clark Thompson’s immediate future, and Thornton – who coached Stenchion at Batley Bulldogs and likens him to reigning The Press and Players’ Player of the Year Jack Aldous – believes the player is coming to York “for the right reasons”.
He said: “He’s not the biggest prop but he’s an honest player, a fantastic trainer and with a great attitude towards the game. He’s similar to Aldous. He works really hard and is a good defender, and he has an offload and a decent passing game.
“He will add some strength for us up front. He never shirks work and will do the hard yards.”
Dewsbury-based Stenchion began his professional career in Leeds Rhinos’ academy – earning England Academy honours, and being part of the touring team that inflicted a first-ever home defeat on the feted Australian Schoolboys side in 2004 – before Thornton took him to Batley upon his release by the Super League club.
He had four seasons at Mount Pleasant, playing 84 times for the Bulldogs and scoring seven tries, before switching to arch-rivals Dewsbury, for whom he made 21 appearances, with five tries, in 2010.
He joined Oldham two years ago, and although injuries restricted his appearances to only four in 2012, to add to his 16 in 2011, the Roughyeds were keen to keep him for a third season as they seek promotion from Championship One. However, the player was eager to return to the higher tier with immediate effect, to which end he has agreed a pay-as-you-play deal with the Knights.
Thornton said: “He signed for me at Batley in late 2005 after leaving Leeds’ academy and he was with me for a few seasons. I know him well. He wants to get back into the Championship – and I think he’s a Championship player not a Championship One player.
“He’s looking for an opportunity and will earn himself a contract, and that’s pretty admirable. It shows he’s coming for the right reasons. He’s an intelligent kid, too, and I’m pleased he’ll get an opportunity here.”Thornton added that he would have wanted to recruit Stenchion regardless of Thompson’s situation, which had left the club with only six props in full training, one of whom, Tim Stubbs, is only 17. A seventh, former Wakefield youngster Jake Joynt, is on trial.
The 21-year-old Thompson – of whom Thornton had predicted a big future at York – joined the Knights in October after being released by Castleford, but he has been strugging to attend training due to new work commitments, a predicament Thornton hopes will be rectified after Christmas.
Said the coach: “Clark has been struggling to get to sessions because of shift work. We’re hoping that will change and he’s got a home programme (of training). We’re not closing the door.
“I would have signed Luke regardless – and he’s on match terms anyway.”
Meanwhile, teenage half-back Ollie Olds, who had a brief dual-registration stint at the Knights last season, has signed for Championship One club South Wales Scorpions after being released by Leeds. Olds hails from south Wales.
Lionel Hurst, the man behind the old York International 9s rugby league festival, which helped to boost the sport in the Minster city following the demise of York Wasps a decade ago, has been named the Citizen and Gloucestershire Echo Diamond Jubilee Sports Awards Administrator of the Year.
Hurst, from Cheltenham, is now on the board of the Gloucestershire All Golds, one of the new teams coming into Championship One next year.
• Leeds Rhinos are to rename Monday, December 3 as ‘Sir Kevin Sinfield Day’ in honour of their captain, who will celebrate a decade as skipper on Monday.
Sinfield, who is called ‘Sir Kevin’ by Rhinos fans, became the youngster-ever captain in the club’s history tenyears ago.
Since then, the Oldham-born international has led his side to 17 major finals, winning nine, including a record six Grand Finals, along with two League Leaders Shields.