‘Hop­pers have that old spring back in their step

The Rugby Paper - - National League 2 North -

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.”

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