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Fans favourite Luke Hardbottle coming back to York City Knights
The move, which will see Hardbottle join up in February, virtually completes the club’s pack recruitment for 2013, and while new head coach Thornton acknowledges he knows little about the 24-year-old, he says he likes what he hears, with the signature also set to answer questions hanging over the loose-forward berth.
Hardbottle, then 21, overcame initial difficulties to become a regular in the Knights line-up in 2010 after joining from Leeds Rhinos, making the number 13 shirt his own in the second half of the season as the team ultimately won promotion from Championship One via the play-offs.
He has spent the last two years in Australia, playing in the Newcastle Rugby League Tooheys Cup in New South Wales, for Charlestown-based club Central Newcastle, but he is to return to Blighty at the end of his visa early next year. The Knights were always keen to welcome him back and have confirmed he has now penned a two-year contract.
Thornton says he has spoken at length to general manager Ian Wilson and chairman John Guildford about the player.
Said the head coach: “John and Ian have done the spadework on this one. They’ve spoken about him to me and I know the club rates him highly, so I said let’s get him. I do know he’s got good pedigree having come from Leeds Rhinos and that the fans liked him when he was here.
“He’s accepted the offer and it’s another show of the ambition we’ve got for next year.
“He’s a fitness freak type of player and that’s the sort of player I like – giving to the cause, not scared of rolling his sleeves up and tackling anything that moves.”
He added: “He’s in the engine room in the back row. Ash Lindsay did that for me at Batley Bulldogs. He was a workaholic at loose-forward and became one of the first names on the teamsheet, and, from what I’ve heard, Luke is similar.”
Hardbottle was released by Leeds when he became too old for their reserve-grade academy. He took time to find his feet at York and was in and out of the side for the first half of the 2010 campaign, but, from late May he won accolades aplenty, including the July Press Player of the Month award, as a tackling machine at loose-forward.
He then made his mark with Central Newcastle – nicknamed the Butcher Boys – in 2011 but was not a regular this year, playing only three times, according to league statistics.
Wilson is delighted to get him back at York. “When he came here in 2010 he became one of the standout players in the second half of the season. He’s a workaholic and a very good defender. He also carries the ball strongly and is a wholehearted player. He punched well above his weight when he was here and he will have got bigger and better.”
Wilson also has no qualms about his apparent lack of match action this year.
“He was always very fit and athletic,” he said. “Conditioning-side he was always at the front of the forwards.”
Hardbottle’s signature takes the Knights’ 2013 first-team squad to 25, 17 of whom are packmen.
Full-backs: James Haynes, Tom Carr.
Centres: James Ford, Jon Goddard, Aaron Lyons, Gareth Poutney.
Half-backs: Simon Brown, Jonny Presley.
Hookers: Jack Lee, Kriss Brining, Harry Carter.
Props: Adam Sullivan, Paul King, Jack Aldous, Nathan Freer, Austin Bell, Clark Thompson, Tim Stubbs.
Second-rows: Jason Golden, Sam Scott, Ed Smith, Sam Orange, Joe Hemmings, Tyler Craig.
Loose-forwards: Luke Hardbottle.
• Ex-Knights back-rower Rhys Clarke has signed for Whitehaven – and former boss Dave Woods.
The Press reported last month the Knights were releasing Clarke, and the Geordie has now agreed terms with the Championship new boys.
Woods, Knights boss from mid-2010 to the end of the 2011 season, recently took charge at the Cumbrian club.
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