No lack of leaders at The Avenue

Chris Steel is one of four senior squad players who have captained Wharfedale

Wharfedale's Oliver Cicognini goes past his last man to go over for a try. (9215929)

First published in Sport by

THE FACT that Wharfedale have not decided on a first-team captain with the new season just over three weeks away is of no great concern to Jon Feeley.

The relaxed head coach said: "We have leaders all over the pitch, including four senior players who have already captained the club – Chris Steel, Philip Woodhead, Rob Baldwin and, of course, returning scrum half James Doherty.

"And let’s not forget the qualities of Richard Rhodes, calling the line-outs and leading from the front all over the pitch.”

With only two days to go before the Foresters get their pre-season under way at home to Fleetwood (3pm), Feeley is overseeing his club’s19th season at level three in England.

And, with no outstanding favourite like Doncaster in SSE National League One, a number of clubs see this as their chance of winning the sole promotion spot.

Ealing Trailfinders will, of course, be very strong, but Rosslyn Park, Esher and Coventry will also be making a determined effort.

As for newcomers Darlington Mowden Park, although they have been recruiting extravagantly, they a largely an unknown quantity.

So how do Wharfedale compare with these ambitious clubs?

Feeley reasoned: “We have always been known for our spirit, and we can always produce the unexpected. The opposition all know that to underestimate us is to lose.”

Feeley also believes that it was his players’ fitness which produced late victories against Esher and Doncaster.

However, with the standard continuing to rise as more and more clubs at Wharfedale’s level go professional, he knows what will be required.

Casting an eye over his squad, Feeley said: “For the first time, there will be genuine competition in the front row.

“Chris Steel has had the pin removed from his ankle and will be resuming training soon; Joe Altham is home from Australia, and Jake Armstrong is fully registered and looking very good, as is Adam Howard.

"Although Luke Cole has signed for Gloucester, we have two great hookers in Dan Stockdale and Ian Larkin.

“In the second row, seasoned campaigner Simon Willet has joined us from Otley, and we have an interesting young prospect in Antony Oxley from Old Crossleyans.

"In the back row, although we have lost Aaron Myers, Josh Burridge (who represented North Under-20s last season) and his younger brother Tom, dual-registered with Carnegie and a real athlete, will both feature.

"Alex Powell, who filled in at lock last season, is very keen to make his mark at blind-side, and with James Tyson back again and Dan Solomi soon returning to full training, our back row, with Rob Baldwin holding it all together at No 8, will be impressive.”

If anything, though, it is in midfield that gaps require to be filled.

Tom Barrett’s attacking flair and goal-kicking will be missed, but wingers Josh Prell, who last season played for Yorkshire Under-20s, North Under-20s and Yorkshire, and Scott Jordan are looking hungry.

Young winger Matt Van Sertima has joined from Caldy and, while he lacks experience at this level, he will be an interesting proposition.

As for the exceptional Taylor Prell, much depends on how often the England Under-18 star plays for Yorkshire Carnegie.

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