Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
St Albans Centurions are looking forward to the big kick off of the National league 3 campaign this Saturday at their Woollams ground, looking to build on the great progress the club has made in the last two seasons at this level. The opponents are last seasons third placed side, Bradford Dudley Hill Demons and this is sure to be a tough, uncompromising affair, Demons coming off the back of a strong win against Bramley Buffaloes. They boast in their ranks former professionals Paul Gleadhill and Jason Lee as well as former GB International Graeme Hallas.
The Centurions will go info the game with confidence. Off season has been very busy and the club has a new coach in former London Skolars chief Colin Baker, who is looking forward to the challenge. He said 'I am looking forward to Saturday. It was a big decision for me to quit Skolars and come to St Albans but I am really enjoying the challenge and have no regrets about moving on. Centurions are a progressive club and I am settling in to the role very smoothly. I have really enjoyed working with Tevita (former Bradford Bulls star now with Saracens) and he has added an extra dimension to training. I am confident we have a squad of players that will challenge the big guns this summer. I have been working with the squad now for 6 weeks and we have played a number of friendlies so I am clear where our strengths lie and what we need to do to make us competitive. The first two games could not have been tougher but we know what we need to do. I am looking for the Centurions to produce an exciting brand of rugby and I would urge all rugby supporters to come along and have a look at league.'
Club Chairman, Ken Edwards echoed these thoughts saying, 'We have put a lot of work in during the off season in recruiting some very good talent as well as firming up on the off field support structures. The requirements of the league are increasing year on year, and this is proving a challenge. Its great to realise the first game is finally here and I am really excited about the kick off, albeit a little apprehensive. All clubs have moved forward in recruitment and I think it will be the most competitive NL3 competition to date. We have some really talented players on board. Bolters would include Allen Wheeler, Glen Little and Richard Louw but it would be fair to say we have a very strong and deep squad full of talented individuals.'
Baker has one further chance to look at his squad with a low key game versus London Skolars on Wednesday evening after which he will name a 20 man first team squad to train on Friday evening. This will be reduced to 18 after training. Likely to be missing from the team are injured duo Jack Malin and Brian Molyneux and there remains doubts over Kristin Warner and Jo Willsher but other than that it will be a selection headache. Most interesting decisions will come at half back with Brendan Potts, Shane Rampling, Jason Baihn and Sam Bradnock all fighting for the 6 and 7 shirts. With Dene Miller in fine form he is sure to take one centre position but the other place is up for grabs with Chris Jackson, Mike Okosugowu and Donny Lam all with a chance. The pack looks strong Allen Wheeler looking good for the hooking berth and Richard Smith at lock, but the bulk will be provided from Roger Teau, Tim O'Shea, Eugene Thompson and Roy Dude with Glen Little, Richard Louw, Joe Willsher, Jaco Labuschagne and Jon Warner interested in the back row. Speedsters Luke Baxter, Owen Doyle, Garth Wilson, Brad Smith and Craig Gunnell will be looking for the wing positions, and the full back spot could be open if Kristian Warner does not get over the ankle injury.
Club captain, Richard Smith could not hide his excitement saying, 'I have been with the Centurions now for two season and this is without doubt the best group of players we have had. When you consider that there has been so many changes since last season, I have been impressed by the way the new boys have come together and got stuck in. I think it will take another few games before we really gel as we have had limited full on matches. The squad can only be enhanced over the forthcoming months when players like Matt Thomas, Andrew Millar and Aaron Kwong become available, the latter two presently unavailable through work commitments. Competition for places reflects the strong position we are now in and there are players approaching us all the time about coming on board. We should see a very competitive reserve grade with the likes of Adam Cox and Dan Wortley (both currently serving bans) added to the first team fringe players. Can't wait for it to kick off'.
The club urge all fans of the club to get along on Saturday and cheer the boys home. Entry will be ?3, cover for both the reserve grade friendly versus London Skolars reserves 12-45pm followed by the main game versus Demons at 2-30pm. Please check the web site for any late changes - unlikely but possible !
Training for non squad members will continue as normal on Wednesday 30th March, 7-30pm start at Woollams
The club can formally announce the new web site www.stalbanscenturions.net comes into effect with immediate effect. Also for up to date news use the club messageboard found through links on the web site.
The club are pleased to announce the first player sponsor for 2005, with Mick O'Shea sponsoring his namesake, big Queensland prop Tim. Keep them coming !!