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Countdown to Knights' Championship campaign
Peter Martini sifts through the Knights’ 2013 squad in The Press' build-up to the new season.
GARY THORNTON’S class of 2013 features only ten players who were in York City Knights’ first-team ranks this time last year.
There are 30 players in total in the squad that kicks off the new Championship season, it having been trimmed with official confirmation that Paul King, previously the pack leader, and new signings Jon Goddard and Clark Thompson had left due to work commitments.
The departures have long been expected, and the Knights have brought in front-row replacements for King and Thompson.
The club remain in the hunt for a new centre to take Goddard’s place but have earmarked James Haynes – like a new signing after he sat out all of 2012 due to injury – for a threequarter berth once he proves his match fitness.
Also, the new partnership with Super League club Hull FC means the Knights should have a flurry of Airlie Birds to pick from to augment their team as and when they are made available.
A total of 11 players have so far been dual-registered, in addition to Danny Nicklas, who is on a long loan at York from the KC Stadium. Clubs are allowed to play a maximum of five borrowed players in any one team.
The Knights also begin the season with three trialists – former Wakefield academy forward Jake Joynt, Hull-based amateur winger Lee Nobbs and Milford ARLC player of the year back-rower Jack Pickles.
Of the 20 new faces in York’s first-team party, five – Harry Carter, Tim Stubbs, Greg Minikin, Luke Tomlinson and James Morland – have been promoted in recent months from last year’s Under-18s although they remain part of the new U20s squad, while a further four of Tyler Craig, Ed Smith, Kriss Brining and Sam Orange are also eligible for that team.
Thornton himself is new to Huntington Stadium, having taken over the reins from departed player-boss Chris Thorman.
There are changes in the boot-room, too, with Mick Cook stepping down as an assistant-coach to become assistant to James Ford with the new U20s squad, while in come new physios Alan Wood and Anna Engels as well as Dr Sandip Nandhra, who becomes a club doctor alongside Dr Aaron Brown.
York City Knights squad
Jack Aldous 10 (squad number)
Position: prop The Press Player of the Year last season following a fine debut campaign at open-age level after joining from Hull. Not the biggest prop but there are few front-rowers who can get through so much work.
Austin Bell 16
No-nonsense forward who was released by Hull after becoming too old for their academy. Hopes are high he can make a name for himself in the Championship.
Kriss Brining 19
Former scholarship starlet was the Knights’ then youngest-ever player when entering as a substitute at Widnes in April 2011. Got more game time last year and remains on an upward curve.
Simon Brown 6
A kicking king who helped Sheffield to a surprise Championship title triumph in 2012. A notable, and probably crucial, signing for the Knights as he takes over on-pitch organisational duties from departed player-boss Chris Thorman.
Tom Carr 1
Youngster was highly rated but down the pecking order at Championship big-guns Featherstone. He was allowed to find first-team football elsewhere and Knights are hoping he can prove his worth on a regular basis.
Harry Carter 24
Was coached by James Ford at Wakefield College and went on to be a standout player for the Knights U18s last year, also winning one first-team appearance. Diminutive but talented and quick.
Tyler Craig 13
Youngster who rose out of Heworth ARLC ranks, he already has a reputation as a fitness freak. Might have to wait for more first-team chances after making his bow in injury-hit side last year, but will have earned them if and when they arrive, and the fact he has been given number 13 shirt shows he is valued.
Hard, straight-running Wakefield youth product who is returning to the game after spells in the last two years at Hunslet and Featherstone were curtailed by injury.
Ben Dent 20
Rose out of the New Earswick amateur ranks to impress in the Knights’ reserves in 2011 and win a first-team contract. Had a few Championship games last year and is still developing.
George Elliott 2
Former Easingwold School pupil was one of England’s brightest dual-code starlets while at Leeds, being a youth international in league and union. Started with York RUFC before trying his hand with New Earswick ARLC aged 15. Knights’ second top scorer last year in first season in the Championship.
James Ford 3
Previously a prolific try-scorer with Sheffield and also had a stint in Super League with Castleford, but his career was hampered by injuries at Widnes. Joined York on loan in 2011 before making the switch permanent, later being named captain, and also topping try-scoring chart last year. Also U20s coach. Knowledgeable, respected by coaches, and still pretty pacy.
Jason Golden 12
Arguably the Knights’ marquee signing of the winter, he has returned to the club where he made his name in 2006 prior to a five-year spell in Super League with Wakefield and London.
Luke Hardbottle 25
Originally joined York from Leeds in 2010 and went on to make the number 13 shirt his own as the Knights ultimately won promotion to the Championship through the play-offs. The tackling machine has spent the last two years in Australia, playing for Central Newcastle in the Newcastle RL’s Tooheys Cup in New South Wales, but returns to England in late February – with the Knights delighted to welcome him back.
James Haynes 5
Joined York towards end of 2010 season and helped the club to promotion through the play-offs, named man of the match in Grand Final. Missed all of 2012 with sciatic nerve/back problem but hopes to quickly prove himself again after surgery and battling back to fitness. Powerful and punchy, Haynes, offers utility value, able to play in the threequarters and fill in at half-back.
Joined from Featherstone having been unable to step up from Rovers’ U23s to their first team last year. Known for his work-rate and attitude.
Jack Lee 9
The Press Player of the Year in 2010, and well-respected figure at Huntington Stadium. A key man in the Knights team.
Aaron Lyons 14
Strapping outside-back, he is another of the players to join from Featherstone having found first-team chances restricted at Post Office Road. Came through Bradford’s academy.
U18s ace last year (still eligible at that level) who earned a first-team contract and will hope for game time to continue development. Highly rated.
Still eligible for U18s, but his promise merited a first-team contract. Like Minikin, he will be striving for even more appearances in the senior ranks. Again well regarded.
Matt Nicholson 17
Former Leeds youngster was a regular for Dewsbury last year and joined York after an aborted switch to troubled French club Montpellier.
Sam Orange 18
Arrived at hometown club this winter after being released by Castleford, where he was coached in the academy by new Knights’ boss Gary Thornton. Former York Acorn ARLC junior has endured two injury-hit years, beginning with a car accident in late 2010, but has genuine hopes stepping into the Championship will relaunch a mission back to Super League.
Gareth Poutney 23
The former Castleford and Featherstone youngster seemingly came from nowhere – he’d actually been very consistent in the reserves – to win a place in the injury-hit Knights’ first team at the end of last season.
Jonny Presley 7
Diminutive, nippy scrum-half has previously played for Featherstone and Keighley and has now returned to York, with whom he spent 2011, after a year down under playing for Fremantle Roosters, whom he helped to third place in the Harvey Norman Premiership ladder in Western Australia while winning a call-up to the representative state side. Set Knights best of six tries in a game in record-breaking 2011 cup win over Northumbria University.
Sam Scott 11
Arrived at York with fellow Championship winner Simon Brown after helping Sheffield to the title. A notable recruit, he should add steel and big-game experience to the Knights’ pack.
Ed Smith 15
A local product, and the club’s then youngest-ever player in 2010, he’s been asked to grow up fast in the past two years, particularly last season, when injuries meant he became one of the more experienced players despite his tender years. He will hopefully have improved because of it and, with less on his shoulders, will develop more naturally.
Luke Stenchion 22
Similar to Jack Aldous, according to boss Gary Thornton, in that he isn’t the biggest prop but never stops working. Began career at Leeds – winning England Academy honours – before spells at Batley, where he played under Thornton, home-town club Dewsbury and Oldham.
Was the then youngest-ever Knight when coming on as a sub against Featherstone in August last year, injuries in the first-team ranks having seen the U18s, York College and York Acorn ARLC starlet promoted up the ranks a year or three ahead of schedule – not letting anyone down in his two Championship appearances. Will revert to U20s this year but will have come on for the experience.
Adam Sullivan 8
Entering his 11th season as a first-grader, with this his eighth campaign at York. Labelled ‘Mr Consistent’ by coaches, he was The Press Player of the Year in 2005. Also won individual accolades in a two-year stint at Hunslet.
An U20s player but with aims of progressing to first team. Did well in pre-season.
Knights bootroom staff
Head coach: Gary Thornton
Date of birth: 9/3/62
Took over from departed player-boss Chris Thorman after the end of last season. Arrived at York following three-year spell as Castleford U20s chief, which followed a brief stint coaching in Wakefield’s academy. Previously head coach at Batley Bulldogs for five and a half seasons, being named the National League One (Championship) Coach of the Year in 2006. Played as a winger for Batley between 1988 and 1997, before coaching amateurs Drighlington and rejoining the Bulldogs as assistant-coach in 2001.
Assistant-coach: Mick Ramsden
Ended 15-year playing career, most of which was with home-town club York, when helping Knights to the 2005 National League Two (Championship One) title, after which he has been a regular in the bootroom.
Conditioner: Jay Salter, Physios: Alan Wood, Anna Engels.
Club doctors: Dr Aaron Brown, Dr Sandip Nandhra.
Kitmen: Rich Kirby and Steve Harris.
Under-20s coach: James Ford
Promoted to backroom staff a year ago, in addition to his playing duties, with remit primarily to look after the then under-18s, whom he led to five wins in six games. New youth system means they will play U20s level this year, though bulk of the squad are U19s.
U20s assistant-coaches: Mick Cook and Will Leatt.
Comings and goings for 2013 campaign
Trialists: Jake Joynt (Wakefield), Lee Nobbs (Skirlaugh ARLC), Jack Pickles (Milford ARLC).
Ins: Austin Bell (Hull), Simon Brown (Sheffield), Tom Carr (Featherstone), Russ Dale (unattached), Jon Goddard (unattached), Jason Golden (London Broncos), Luke Hardbottle (Central Newcastle), Jack Iley (Featherstone), Aaron Lyons (Featherstone), Greg Minikin (U18s), James Morland (U18s), Matt Nicholson (Dewsbury), Jonny Presley (Fremantle Roosters), Sam Orange (Castleford), Sam Scott (Sheffield), Luke Stenchion (Oldham), Clark Thompson (Castleford), Luke Tomlinson (U18s).
Outs: Davey Burns (unattached), Tom Bush (Hunslet), Rhys Clarke (Whitehaven), Dario Esposito (Dewsbury), Nathan Freer (unattached), Matt Garside (Sheffield), John Gay, Jon Goddard (unattached), James Houston (Hunslet), Adam Howard, Paul King (unattached), Waine Pryce (Hunslet), Jack Stearman (Gateshead), Dave Sutton (Rochdale), Jordan Tansey (Castleford), Clark Thompson (unattached), Chris Thorman (Huddersfield, assistant-coach), Brett Turner.