BOSS Scott Rhodes is under no illusions about the task his York Acorn ARLC charges face on their return to action – but he reckons they could well pull off a shock.
Acorn, relegated to the National Conference League first division last year, entertain premier division big guns Siddal in the first round of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup on Saturday (2pm).
The draw could not have been much harder, and in a first hit-out of the year too, but Rhodes was thankful they were at least given a home tie, and says it gives them the opportunity to kick 2014 off in super style.
The return to Thanet Road of veteran schemer Andy Gargan after time out of the game and young half-back Jordan Myers, following his stint with Featherstone under-20s, plus the recruitment of ex-York City Knights academy back-rower Ollie Wilcox-Harrison after spells with neighbours Heworth and York RUFC, provide boosts too.
“It will be tough, probably as tough as they come at this stage,” said Rhodes of the tie. “Siddal are a quality side. We played them a couple of times last year and the home game was fairly close.
"In fact our home form last year was pretty good and, looking at the draw, a home tie is a good tie. They were all good clubs in the draw and we could have been sent to Aberdeen or Wales, all over the UK. To get Siddal at home is good.
“We know what we’ve got to do. They’re strong and they don’t make many errors, and we’ve got to match them. But we’ve been training since December 7 and we’re really really hanging out for a game now.
“We have to perform well. Our completion rate has to be right up there to give ourselves a chance, but I’m looking forward to it and I’m sure we can pull off an upset.”
He added: “York City Knights are helping us with our preparation, with us training there under floodlights, and we thank them for that.”
As for Gargan’s return, Rhodes said: “He can play many positions – half-back, hooker and loose-forward – and just to have him about the place, with his experience, is good. He will take the team around the field and his knowhow is something we were maybe missing last year.”
Acorn’s league campaign begins on Saturday, March 1, at home to Normanton Knights.
New Earswick All Blacks are also in knockout action, in the Pennine League President’s Cup second round, at home to Wibsey Warriors (2.30pm).
All Blacks are on a run of five straight wins and, although one of those was expunged due to Eastmoor withdrawing from the league, the sequence has lifted the York outfit to third in the championship table.
They play a team from the premier division this Saturday but their visitors have won only one of eight league games and All Blacks player-coach Jack Stearman fancies his team’s chances – even though himself, Jack Carling and Will Leatt are all unavailable.
“We’ve had five on the bounce and this can be six,” he said. “A few of us are unavailable but this just gives other people the opportunity to push for the first team.”
Stearman’s assistants, Chris Spain and Liam Gargan, will take charge, the former from the sidelines and the latter from half-back.
Selby Warriors face a tough derby tie at home to high-flying division one rivals Brotherton Bulldogs in the Andrew Bennett Memorial Trophy first round, while division five promotion-seekers Sherburn Bears host divsion four strugglers Emley Moor in the Supplementary Cup first round.