YORK College’s rugby league team are the champions of the Yorkshire Colleges Conference One league – leaving coach Jack Stearman contemplating pushing the outfit into the elite tier next season.
The team have lost only once this season and were handed the crown yesterday when second-placed Hull College conceded the title-deciding match between the sides, unable to get a team out.
Stearman, the York City Knights development officer, admitted it was a disappointing way to win a league, especially as it followed other call-offs since Christmas, while their previous match, against Pontefract a fortnight ago, was abandoned six minutes in because of a blizzard, but he said the trophy was richly deserved.
It also took away selection dilemmas given that four students had been named in the Knights’ under-20s reserves side for their league opener against Salford tonight.
“The lads have worked hard throughout the season,” said Stearman, who heads up the rugby league development centre at the Sim Balk Lane site.
“It’s disappointing they didn’t get the chance to win it on the pitch. They’ve not played since Christmas because of the weather and other teams cancelling, but all the work they did before Christmas has contributed to winning the title. It’s a young squad – we’ll only be losing one or two players next year – and we can build on this for next year.”
Colleges can opt into divisions depending on the quality of players they attract each school year. Stearman said he would like to see the side challenge themselves in the Yorkshire Premier tier against the likes of national big-guns Wakefield, but would first speak to college chiefs.
“We’ll have to see who is signed up for next (school) year and who is interested in coming to the (rugby league) development centre,” said the former Knights prop, whose own season with Gateshead starts this weekend with a Northern Rail Cup tie.
“It has shown itself to be a stepping stone to the Knights’ U20s so players who have desire to be at that level can go through the college while obviously getting an education.
“The likes of Tim Stubbs, Greg Minikin, James Morland and Tyler Craig have signed first-team forms with the Knights through the college, so there is that opportunity.
“It will be a good test of our players if we were to play at Premier level but if we’ve got the quality coming through then I’d like to do it.”