‘Hoppers have that old spring back in their step
PRESTON Grasshoppers’ head of rugby Gareth Dyer says this season’s Northern Premier title-winning campaign has re-energised the club ahead of their return to the National Leagues.
Hoppers’ promotion to National Two North, where they have played most of their rugby since leagues were introduced in 1987, was confirmed with two rounds to spare following last week’s win over Morley.
Dyer believes playing to their strengths – through the pack – and adding a core of experienced players such as ex-Premiership centre James Fitzpatrick and new head coach, lock Paul Arnold were key factors.
“The standards the experienced core set on and off the field have been massive and helped to improve the younger lads,” said Dyer.
“A lot of teams haven’t been able to handle the directness and physicality that our forwards have brought to the game.”
Operating at level five for only the second time in 31 seasons of league rugby – and the first for 13 years – has been an enjoyable experience, with winning rugby and more local derbies swelling support. And Dyer believes that Northern clubs were short-sighted in voting against RFU proposals to introduce regional leagues at level four.
“I think that was a missed opportunity. Having more local derbies has meant bigger travelling support and more sponsors getting involved.
“Under a more regional structure, northern clubs wouldn’t have to push the boat out as much financially.
“I’d be interested to know if those big clubs that strongly advocated keeping the status quo – but have since fallen away – would change their views. There’s going to be some who are going to experience the Northern Premier soon and they’ll see for themselves what it means to have a more regional competition.”
Dyer says ‘Hoppers won’t be taking National League status for granted again, adding: “If you’re not pushing to go up into National One you start to settle into mid-table mediocrity mindset and perhaps we’d gone a little bit stale.
“This season re-emphasised what it takes to be a National League club.”