YORK City Knights Ladies’ new vice captain Alisha Clayton has spoken of her pride and shock at her appointment to the role.

York had been searching for a successor to Ashleigh Hyde, who has stepped back from the position after having a baby, and decided on naming Clayton.

Despite now being in her eighth season at York, Clayton was not at all expecting the promotion and was fearing the worst when the club’s management set up a Zoom meeting to tell her of the news.

“It was a bit of a shock,” explained Clayton. “I was at work when Rollo (Kay Rollinson, assistant coach) messaged me and said ‘I don’t suppose you’re free for a quick Zoom meeting tonight?’

“All day at work all I was thinking was ‘What have I done wrong?’ and thinking back through everything I’d done before that week and wondering what I was going to get told off for.

“Then in the Zoom call, there was me, Daryl (North), our head coach, Rollo and our captain Katie (Langan).

“Even then, I was still confused and thinking ‘What is this?’

“Then they asked me to be vice- captain and I was really shocked and I didn’t know how to respond to begin with because it was a big shock.

“But, it’s something that I’m really proud of, that the coaches and the captain think that I’m capable of being vice-captain.

“The vice-captain before is actually my best friend, Ashleigh Hyde. She’s just had a baby, so she can’t play at the moment. She was really happy for me when I spoke to her about it, as was the rest of the team.

“As a forward, I think it’s for me to direct the forwards as well as the backs and to keep positive and keep spurring on people.”

The Knights get their 2021 Betfred Women's Super League season underway on Sunday after being out of action since 2019 amid the coronavirus pandemic, which prevented any women's matches taking place last year.

York have been given arguably the toughest possible start as they face reigning league champions and Betfred Challenge Cup holders Leeds Rhinos (3pm) at the Sports Park in Weetwood.

Clayton said: “The mood in the camp is really good. I think that everyone is just happy to be back, back training and back playing soon and being around each other as well.

“I do think that it will be a good game for us, to play a top side like Leeds. We’ve recruited quite well this season and we’ve bonded really well.

“And I think when we go to play Leeds, that will show where we are as a group, which will be good to see.

“Leeds are a great team and they’ve got some awesome players, so we know who we need to watch out for.”

The Knights won just once from their 13 league games in the Super League in 2019.

While Clayton admits that it is the club's ambition to better that total in 2021, she also insisted that enjoying being back out on the field is equally as important, having spent such a long time on the sidelines.

She said: “We obviously would like to win more games than we have done in previous years, but it’s also about going out there and having fun and making sure that we all do our jobs.

“I think one of our main goals is working together as a team. If something does go wrong, then we won’t drop our heads and we pick ourselves back up.”