HE'S probably been gone from the club long enough now for us to reveal an eye-opening part of Mick Ramsden's history without causing undue awkwardness - his award-winning days as a bodybuilder.

Some readers will already know this, but, for those who don't, the York Rugby League legend was once among Britain's finest junior musclemen - alongside none other than Hunter from Gladiators, with whom he remains friends to this day.

But while Hunter went on to national television stardom and tabloid notoriety after a fling with Ulrika Jonsson, Ramsden went on to achieve something much finer - inclusion in the York RL Hall of Fame and lifelong popularity among the city's rugby fraternity.

Aside from jokes about oiling up in skimpy briefs, the 43-year-old - who is back in the gym environment these days after starting his new and quickly expanding Fusion Fitness business upon leaving the club this summer - was happy to outline his old claim to fame.

It all began not long after leaving school, when he was just starting out with the then York RL Colts.

"I was influenced by the gym culture and got really into it," he said.

"I met James Crossley, who was from Poppleton, at Eastmonds Gym in Acomb, and we ended up training together. James of course went on to become Hunter.

"I decided to go into training in the gym rather than rugby league and it seems I was pretty good at it.

"James and I competed in Mr York Junior Under-17s. We didn't win it - Wayne Carter won - but we were a year younger.

"We then trained for a full year, probably the hardest I've ever trained in the gym, pretty much every day, building up to some shows.

"We competed in Mr England U17s - James won and I was second.

"The following week I won Mr York U17s and he was second.

"We were probably the best two in the country at that age."

So how come Crossley continued down that path and onto Gladiators while Ramsden returned to rugby?

"I was missing it," he said.

"I remember going for a run back then. I had not done any cardiovascular training and hadn't played rugby for a year but I decided to run to the old Civil Service RL Club and back home. It nearly killed me.

"But I started running again and got fitter and got back into the rugby."

It proved to be his only year out of the game from the age of nine to 43 - until last month, of course, when he left his home-town club after 23 years either as a back-row enforcer or popular member of the boot room, pierced only by two seasons playing at Wakefield.

Ramsden far from regrets his excursion into bodybuilding - and is proud of what his old mate Hunter went on to achieve.

"It helped my rugby," he explained. "I had packed on quite a lot of muscle and I was stronger, and I believe it helped me in my career. Ever since those days I had a big passion for training and it has always bubbled away, which is a big reason I was keen to start my business doing fitness classes in gyms."

As for Hunter, he smiled: "He's been very successful. He did really well and obviously did really well with Gladiators.

"He had a great personality and really suited that programme.

"I missed the rugby and all that went with it and for me it was the right thing to do - I have no regrets at all."

He added with a laugh: "James got to be on Gladiators and dabble around with Jet, but he didn't become a York RL legend."

Ramsden's Fusion Fitness business, meanwhile, now has an extra night, such is its growing popularity.

He runs circuits sessions at Fitness First studios at Clifton Moor on Tuesdays from 7.15pm to 8.15pm, and he is now starting them at Canon Lee School in Clifton on Mondays from 7pm to 8pm.

Men and women of all ages and abilities can turn up on the night. Sessions cost £3 at Canon Lee, and at Fitness First they cost £3 for gym members and £4 for non-members.

TONIGHT'S match in South Wales is the Knights' last of July and as such we invite votes for this month's Press Player of the Month.

Whoever tops the fans' poll will bag three bonus points for their Press Player of the Year tally.

The movers and shakers in that leaderboard this week were Nev Morrison, Kriss Brining and Ed Smith.

Last Sunday's victory over Newcastle was one in which every player laid claim to plaudits so the other 14 can count themselves unlucky not to add to their totals.

Morrison got three points as our man of the match, hat-trick hero Brining two for his devastating stint off the bench and the in-form Smith one to inch closer to leader Greg Minikin.

The Press Player of the Year standings: Minikin 21pts, E Smith 16, Tonks 14, Brining 9, Howden 9, Applegarth 8, Cunningham 8, Haynes 7, Nicholson 6, Aldous 5, Presley 5, P Smith 4, Morrison 4, Clare 4, B Dent 3, A Dent 2, Roche 1, Aspinall 1, Craig 1, Carter 1.