Peter Martini takes a look at the Knights’ class of 2014 – listed in alphabetical order, alongside the players’ squad number.

Coaching and boot-room staff

Head coach

Gary Thornton
Date of birth: 9/3/62

Arrived at York ahead of last season but, despite encouraging start to the campaign which included a notable victory over perennial table-toppers Featherstone, saw the Knights relegated to Championship One.

CV includes three-year spell as Castleford U20s chief and brief stint coaching in Wakefield’s academy. Before that was head coach at Batley 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, rejoining the Bulldogs as assistant-coach in 2001.



Player/assistant-coach

James Ford
Dob: 29/9/82

Promoted to backroom staff two years ago, in addition to his playing duties, and earned plaudits aplenty when looking after the U18s in 2012 and the U20s last year. His philosophies are now rubbing off on first team.


Assistant-coach/U20s reserves coach

Mick Ramsden
Dob: 13/11/71

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. Effectively switches coaching roles this year with James Ford.


Strength and conditioning coaches: Jamie Bell, Jay Salter.

Nutritionists: Jamie Carruthers, Dan Martin.

U20s assistant-coaches: Mick Cook and Will Leatt.

Physios: Anna Engels, Sarah Hattee.

Club doctors: Dr Sandip Nandhra, Dr Hermann Knutt, Dr Aaron Brown.

Kitmen: Rich Kirby and Steve ‘Bomber’ Harris.

Jack Aldous 10
Date of birth: 3/4/91
Position: prop
The Press Player of the Year in 2012 in his debut season after joining from Hull. Not the biggest prop but always gets through more work that most.

Austin Bell 18
Dob: 6/9/91
Position: prop
No-nonsense forward heading into second season in first grade. Hopefully will have come on after embarking on a steep learning curve last year and seems to have put on size in pre-season.

Kriss Brining 14
Dob: 16/11/93
Position: hooker
Former scholarship starlet was the Knights’ then youngest-ever player when entering as a sub at Widnes in April 2011. Remains on an upward curve after becoming a regular last season. Needs to work on passing but is quick out of dummy-half, has an eye for a try and his tackling technique is as good as anyone’s at the club.

Harry Carter 20
Dob: 10/2/94
Position: hooker
Was coached by James Ford at Wakefield College and went on to be a standout player for the Knights U18s in 2012. Improved again in the U20s last year and, while he lacks size, he makes up for it with zip and will be hoping for a shot at first grade.

Tyler Craig 28
Dob: 4/7/93
Position: back-row/centre
Youngster who rose out of Heworth ARLC ranks, he has a reputation as a fitness freak and will hope for more first-team chances this year.

Ben Crane 22
Dob: 30/12/92
Position: second-row
Former Hull and Hull KR academy forward became a regular for York’s U20s last year. Decent goalkicker.

Adam Dent
Dob: 2/11/93
Position: centre/wing/full-back
Looking to follow big brother Ben from U20s into first grade.

Ben Dent 5
Dob: 27/9/91
Position: full-back
Came out of the New Earswick ARLC ranks to impress in Knights’ reserves in 2011 and win a contract. Could not nail down a first-team berth last year until the end of term, when he displayed enough talent to suggest he could have a big season in 2014.

George Elliott 2
Dob: 21/9/91
Position: winger/centre
Former Easingwold School pupil, and York RUFC and New Earswick ARLC junior, he was one of England’s brightest dual-code starlets while at Leeds. One of the club’s leading scorers over the past two seasons in Championship.

James Ford 3
Dob: 29/9/82
Position: centre/winger
Previously a prolific try-scorer with Sheffield and also had a stint in Super League with Castleford. Joined York in 2011, was named captain, and topped try-scoring chart, in 2012, then became U20s coach, and is now assistant to first-team boss Gary Thornton.

Nathan Freer 8
Dob: 21/5/89
Position: prop
Helped Doncaster to promotion in 2009, did same with York in ’10 and was Press Player of the Year in ’11. Returned to Knights after aborted stint at Featherstone in 2012 and did likewise last year after spell in rugby union. Has missed pre-season due to more RU and work commitments so will begin term down pecking order. Could be important if finding fitness and form.

Jason Golden 15
Dob: 6/11/85
Position: back-row
Arguably the Knights’ marquee signing a year ago, after returning to the club from Super League, but he played only four games before injury curtailed his season. Agreed wage cut to stay in bid to repay the club and fans, and such is his standing at Huntington Stadium that he has been made club captain.

Benn Hardcastle 23
Dob: 4/1/90
Position: half-back
Former Hull KR youngster caught the eye in three-game spell at York in 2011 until injury cut season short. After knee reconstruction, he has stood out for Gateshead in Championship One.

Luke Hardcastle 25
Dob: 12/8/92
Position: full-back
Younger brother of Benn arrives at York with plaudits aplenty, having been a Championship One Young Player of the Year nominee in 2013.

Nathan Harper 24
Dob: 31/1/92
Position: prop
Arrives from Featherstone’s U20s with hopes of first-team action. Hampered by illness in pre-season.

James Haynes 1
Dob: 22/3/89
Position: full-back
Punchy and hard-running, he joined York towards end of 2010 and was man of the match in Grand Final as York won promotion. Missed all of 2012 with sciatic nerve problem and duly struggled for form and fitness last year, so returned to amateur game. With confidence and sharpness restored, he is hoping to take his chance back at York this term.

Jack Iley 21
Dob: 26/5/90
Position: back-row/loose-forward/hooker
Joined from Featherstone a year ago and was a bit-part player last term while always impressing for the U20s. Work-rate and attitude could never be questioned.

Jake Joynt 19
Dob: 24/10/92
Position: prop
Former Wakefield youngster played a bit for York’s U20s last year before joining Featherstone, where he briefly broke into the first team. Hoping to be first-grade regular this year.

Jack Lee 9
Dob: 1/11/88
Position: hooker
Press Player of the Year in 2010 and came second last term, while winning Coaches’ Player of the Year, after getting back to somewhere near his best. Topped try charts too. Has been handed team captaincy after being vice-skipper last year.

Curtis Macdonald 26
Dob: 25/11/92
Position: winger
Ex-Castleford and Wakefield academy winger is hoping to break into first-team rugby, but bad leg injury in pre-season is major set-back.

Ryan Mallinder 11
Dob: 17/7/88
Position: second-row
Sharlston ARLC product signed last May after a successful trial. Rarely looked out of place in the Championship and hopes are high he will stand out in Championship One, especially after a first proper off-season in the pro ranks.

Greg Minikin 4
Dob: 29/3/95
Position: centre
Still only 18, he was too good for most teams in the Under-20s Championship and is earmarked for first-team action in 2014 after four appearances last term and four tries in four pre-season outings this year.

James Morland 30
Dob: 26/6/95
Position: stand-off/full-back/centre
U20s starlet whose promise merited a first-team contract. He will be striving for even more appearances in the senior ranks. One of the quickest on the books.

Iain Morrison 16
Dob: 6/5/83
Position: prop
Battle-hardened forward missed much of pre-season due to business commitments but could well become a fans’ favourite given his old-fashioned, direct style – if he stays fit. Has played for Hull KR, London and Huddersfield in Super League, Widnes, Featherstone and Halifax in Championship, and Scotland at international level. He “retired” last June but ended the season in Championship One with Oxford.

Josh Nathaniel 29
Dob: 24/5/91
Position: winger/centre
Joined Hunslet from Castleford two years ago and, while he was a Hawks regular in 2012, a falling-out with coach Barry Eaton last year cut short his time at the club.

Sam Orange
Dob: 23/9/92
Position: back-row/centre
Arrived at hometown club a year ago on release by Castleford, where he was coached in the academy by Knights boss Gary Thornton, but sat whole year out due to knee ligament injury. Former York Acorn ARLC junior previously endured two injury-hit years. Hoping his luck finally turns – though injury to same knee in pre-season has set him back again.

Lee Paterson 13
Dob: 5/7/81
Position: loose-forward
Players’ Player of Year in Knights’ promotion-winning 2005 season and captain in 2006. He brings experience and knowhow back to hometown club after stints at Widnes, Featherstone, Whitehaven, and in France and Australia. New Earswick ARLC product and Scotland international now teaches at St Peter’s in York.

Jack Pickles 17
Dob: 3/6/92
Position: back-row/prop
Arrived on trial a year ago after being player of the year at Milford ARLC. Won a contract and made debut in superb win over Featherstone, and would have made more than seven appearances but for injury.

Jonny Presley 7
Dob: 8/7/84
Position: scrum-half/hooker
Nippy scrum-half has played for Featherstone, Keighley and, down under, with Fremantle and is in his second spell at York. Holds Knights best of six tries in a game, set in record 2011 Challenge Cup win over Northumbria University.

Tom Rogers
Dob: 19/12/93
Position: centre
Arrived from Wakefield U19s with hopes of first-team action.

Ed Smith 12
Position: second-row
Dob: 12/11/92
A local product, and the club’s then youngest-ever player in 2010, he seems to have been around for ages, with 46 first-team appearances already to his name – but is still only 21. Looks bigger and stronger and could be poised for a big year.

Pat Smith 6
Dob: 4/3/90
Position: half-back/hooker
As quick with his wit as with his feet, he arrived at hometown club, to join younger brother Ed, after several seasons with Sheffield, where he was largely a back-up player for the Championship champions but still played in several big games and would have learned a great deal under Mark Aston.

Tim Stubbs
Dob: 6/5/95
Position: prop
Was the then youngest-ever Knight when coming on as a sub against Featherstone in August 2012, injuries having seen the former York Acorn ARLC junior promoted up the ranks several years ahead of schedule. Still growing, literally.

Scott Talbot
Dob: 6/1/95
Position: full-back/half-back
Only turned 18 this year. Assistant-boss James Ford, having coached him in U20s, has high hopes of him.

Luke Tomlinson
Dob: 12/6/94
Position: winger
Ever-improving U20s player with designs on first-team action.

Under-20s players: Steven Batty, Adam Swift, Lennox Green, Ryan Parker.

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