YORK City Knights will kick off the 2018 campaign this coming weekend with a much-changed squad compared to the class off 2017.

The turnover of players was not nearly as drastic as the previous year following the mass exodus amid the uncertainty over the club's future in late 2016, but there are still 10 new faces in the roster that starts this season compared to the one that finished last term, not including any potential dual-reg recruits from partner club Hull KR.

Here, rugby league writer PETER MARTINI gives the lowdown on the Knights' squad of 24 players, plus the coaching staff, who will begin the ambitious club's bid for success in League One this year.


Head coach

James Ford

Date of birth: 29/9/82

Previously a prolific try-scorer with Sheffield and Super League player with Castleford, he joined York as a player in 2011 from Widnes. Was named captain and topped try-scoring chart in 2012, before going down the coaching path as U20s boss and player-assistant to first-team chief Gary Thornton. Took over the reins when hanging up his boots at the end of 2014 and earned plaudits aplenty for the way he led the team through two years of off-field strife and uncertainty, prior to new owners coming in. Has now taken the club to play-off semi-finals in all three of his seasons at the helm, but will look to go further this year. The club's new owners tied him down to an improved three-year deal after taking over in December 2016.


Chris Spurr

Dob: 7/7/1980

Played for Featherstone, Rochdale, Batley, York (twice), Dewsbury and Doncaster, where he became assistant to then boss Paul Cooke after hanging up his boots at the end of 2013. Joined James Ford's Knights set-up in August 2016 after the then player/assistant Mark Applegarth had to give up coaching responsibilities due to work. Works in the Rugby Football League's community department during the day.


Graeme Horne

Dob: 22/3/85

Super League veteran - he has racked up over 250 top-flight appearances with Hull FC, Huddersfield Giants and Hull KR - played twice for York on dual-reg from Rovers last season and joined on a permanent deal over the winter. Takes boot room duties for the first time.

Strength and conditioning coach

Mark Helme

Dob: 10/2/79

A former colleague of James Ford in Wakefield College's highly regarded sports department, where he was head conditioner, he is now a lecturer at Leeds Beckett University while doing a PhD. Has formerly worked with Castleford Tigers, Wakefield Trinity and England Colleges footballers. Joined the Knights in July 2015.

Team manager/assistant-coach: Will Leatt

Dob: 10/8/90

Popular York-raised York St John University sports coaching graduate who impressed so much with his attitude, ability and attention to detail during an internship in 2014 that he won the Clubperson of the Year award, with James Ford and co demanding he stayed in the boot room.

Chief physio: Sarah Hattee

Match-day assistant: George Leatt


(in alphabetical order, with squad numbers)

Joe Batchelor 11

Dob: 28/10/94

Position: second-row

Height: 1.86m

Weight: 95kg

Wakefield-born, and taught by Knights boss James Ford at Wakefield College, he is the brother of Trinity back-rower James and likewise progressed through his hometown club's youth system before spending a year in Australia and then joining Coventry Bears in 2016. Immediately impressed on his arrival at York last pre-season - and went on to be named Player of the Year and Press Player of the Year 2017 after standout campaign.

Harry Carter 14

Dob: 10/2/94

Position: hooker

Height: 1.70m

Weight: 82kg

Was coached by James Ford at Wakefield College and went on to be a standout player for the Knights U18s, U20s and reserves. Maybe lacks size but makes up for it with zip, technique and ever-improving game nous, plus he tackles above his weight. After making first-team debut in 2014, his real breakthrough year came in 2016 when he became an integral member of the line-up.

Ben Cockayne 2

Dob: 20/7/83

Position: winger/full-back

Height: 1.75m

Weight: 88kg

Spent the majority of a decade in Super League with Hull KR and Wakefield, and last season helped the former bounce straight back up to the top flight. Now leaves the full-time arena for York, where his ability and experience could prove key for the ambitious League One outfit.

Brad Delaney 7

Dob: 25/5/95

Position: half-back

Height: 1.74m

Weight: 83kg

Came through Dewsbury's ranks, playing three times for their first team, before having loan spells at Doncaster and Hemel in 2016 and joining Coventry for 2017. Stood out for the minnows and impressed enough on trial at York in pre-season to win a deal. Slight but quick and, hopefully, creative too.

Ronan Dixon 16

Dob: 25/7/97

Position: prop

Height: 1.92cm

Weight: 102kg

Aggressive 6ft 3in prop, he joined York last year after coming out of the under-19s arena in Super League without bagging a first-team contract, but had been highly regarded at Wakefield, especially by their former boss Brian Smith. Still very young for a middle with his best years ahead of him.

Rory Dixon 21

Dob: 17/10/97

Position: second-row/prop

Height: 1.90m

Weight: 100kg

Released by Castleford in the closed season but came to York highly recommended by the Tigers’ head of youth development, Pete Riding. Formerly an England U16s international, he was part of the Cas team that were runners-up in the 2017 U19s Academy Championship and is now looking to prove himself in the open-age arena.

Andy Ellis 9

Dob: 15/12/84

Position: hooker

Height: 1.78m

Weight: 90kg

Former Super League hooker with London Broncos and a Championship winner with Barrow, the veteran joined York early last season and played 15 times, his guile often apparent. With a proper pre-season now behind him, the Knights will be hoping he can get somewhere near the form that saw him named the Championship's Man of Steel during his time in Cumbria.

Dan Hawksworth 26

Dob: 30/3/93

Position: prop

Height: 1.88m

Weight: 106kg

Former Yorkshire amateur tourist and Sheffield Eagles young gun was handed a contract after a successful trial in pre-season. Big and aggressive, he impressed for minnows Hemel in 2017 and can be a real handful when carrying the ball.

Brad Hey 4

Dob: 4/9/94

Position: centre/back-row

Height: 1.83m

Weight: 93kg

Tall, rangy runner first arrived on loan from Batley in July 2015 and, after being in and out of the team for the first year and half, made his mark last season in some style, being voted the Players' Player of the Year after turning his potential into top performances.

Graeme Horne 10

Dob: 22/3/85

Position: prop, loose-forward

Height: 1.83m

Weight: 104kg

His arrival at York this winter was hailed a coup for the club. A proven Super League performer, racking up over 250 top-flight appearances with Hull, Huddersfield and Hull KR, he could be a key man in the middle of the pitch as the Knights look to overpower promotion rivals in League One.

Liam Jackson 27

Dob: 2/17/95

Position: half-back

Height: 1.76m

Weight: 85kg

Heworth amateur - and reigning York & District ARL Player of the Year - bagged a pro deal after a successful trial in pre-season. Remains to be seen how often he will feature in League One this year but hopes are high he can develop into a top locally-produced talent.

Will Jubb 20

Dob: 1/9/96

Position: hooker

Height: 1.72m

Weight: 85kg

Former captain of the City of Hull Academy side scored five tries in 16 appearances for the Knights while on dual-reg from Hull KR last season and now joins permanently. Still being tracked by Rovers, though, showing they still rate him. Possesses excellent distribution and will look to improve his running game out of dummy-half. Can also fill in at second-row.

Mike Kelly 19

Dob: 21/9/89

Position: second-row

Height: 1.81m

Weight: 95kg

Castleford product joined from League One rivals Doncaster in the off-season and adds to the competition in the pack. Had spells at Hunslet and Newcastle before joining Donny in 2012, helping them to promotion from League One and being a regular in the team that took the Championship by storm in 2013 and 2014. Looking to prove himself again after two injury-hit seasons.

Judah Mazive 5

Dob: 1/2/98

Position: winger

Height: 1.71m

Weight: 89kg

Was a surprise to many Wakefield fans when Trinity let the Zimbabwe-born England Academy international leave Belle Vue. Played twice in Super League in 2016 and had a brief spell on loan with Oxford last year. Now looking to fully make the grade at open-age level.

Jake Normington 22

Dob: 10/11/91

Position: second-row

Height: 1.86m

Weight: 101kg

Former England amateur international contemplated returning to the community game after leaving Hunslet disheartened at the end of last season but has rediscovered his rugby league mojo after opting to try life at York. An ex-Leeds junior, the big back-rower was Player of the Year at Hunslet in 2016, terrorising York that year in meetings between the clubs.

Joe Porter 17

Dob: 26/1/93

Position: second-row/loose-forward

Height: 1.80m

Weight: 93kg

Local favourite came on trial at hometown club last winter after starring for York Acorn ARLC and standing out in the East York v West York rep game last Christmas. Duly won a contract and, despite injury mid-season, made his mark in League One, making 17 appearances, each filled with bountiful energy, and earning an extended deal.

Adam Robinson 8

Dob: 8/4/87

Position: prop/second-row

Height: 1.76m

Weight: 105kg

A Championship stalwart with Batley and Halifax, the big barrel-chested packman previously starred in Dewsbury's Championship One-winning campaign of 2009. The Knights were delighted when he opted to step back down to League One with them ahead of the 2017 season, while the player himself hailed a new lease of life since arriving. A crowd favourite.

Connor Robinson 6

Dob: 23/10/94

Position: hooker

Height: 1.76m

Weight: 84kg

Played every game (14 in all) after joining York midway through last season from Halifax. Perhaps lacked consistency but showed obvious ability with both hand and his left boot and has the tools to develop into a super all-round half-back. Potentially a big player for the Knights going forward.

Ash Robson 1

Dob: 4/11/95

Position: full-back

Height: 1.81m

Weight: 95kg

Fleet-footed and hard for defenders to pin down, the former York Acorn junior was a marquee signing after leaving a budding Super League career at Castleford to join his hometown club last winter. Was a Press Player of the Year contender but for a six-match suspension during the Super 8s.

Tommy Saxton 25

Dob: 10/3/83

Position: winger

Height: 1.85m

Weight: 100kg

Veteran played for Super League clubs Castleford, Hull, Wakefield and Salford earlier in his career, winning the Challenge Cup with Hull in 2005, before starring for six trophy-laden seasons with Championship big-guns Featherstone and then signing for Halifax in 2015. He joined the Knights, initially on loan, in May 2016. Not nearly as prolific as he once was, but he still won a new deal with the club for 2018 after proving his form and fitness during a pre-season trial.

Sam Scott 12

Dob: 5/6/90

Position: second-row

Height: 1.85m

Weight: 96kg

Players' Player and Press Player of the Year in his one previous season at the Knights in 2013, he rejoined the club in the winter from Sheffield. Reached two Championship Grand Finals with the Eagles in 2011 and 2012 and the Championship Shield final last year. Also had three years at Batley post-York and turned down options to stay in the higher tier to boost the Knights’ promotion credentials in League One.

Chris Siddons 15

Dob: 30/1/92

Position: prop

Height: 1.85m

Weight: 102kg

A former star of the amateur game, the ex-Lock Lane captain was England Lions' Player of the Tour on their 2016 trip to Fiji and looked far from out of place at York. Has a good engine and ball-handling game and will look to add punch in his second season in the semi-pro arena.

Tim Spears 13

Dob: 27/7/84

Position: loose-forward

Height: 1.83m

Weight: 97kg

York pulled off a coup when persuading Featherstone's long-serving captain to drop down to League One last winter having been surprisingly released from Post Office Road. He had led Rovers into the Middle Eights in 2016 having beaten Bradford to fourth spot in the Championship. He also helped them top the Championship in four consecutive seasons from 2010 to 2013, and lift the Championship Shield in 2015.

Adam Swift 23

Dob: 7/3/96

Position: centre

Height: 1.87m

Weight: 90kg

Namesake of St Helens' threequarter, he was taught at Wakefield College by head coach James Ford and played under him in the old youth system at Huntington Stadium. Joined the books of Featherstone after York's reserves disbanded but returned to the Minster city last winter. Finally saw action towards the end of last season but then suffered a serious knee injury and misses the start of this season.