WHARFEDALE rugby chairman Michael Harrison says that Wharfedale will go into next season in optimistic mood after a better second half of their National League Two North season.

Their 2016-17 campaign was expected to involve a push for promotion straight back to National League One, but instead became a battle to stay up – something that was only achieved with a losing bonus point at Chester in their third-from-last fixture.

Harrison, speaking at the club's annual dinner, said: "For the first few weeks of the season we were struggling, but we had vibrant, exciting displays in the second half of the season.

"The first XV have learnt a lot this season. We were understrength before Christmas, but have made up for it since.

"There is no triumphalism, but we will replace that with optimism and hard work."

As for the other teams at The Avenue, Harrison said: "The Foresters played 30 and won 26 for an 86 per cent win record, beating the third team (82 per cent) to the Kath Harrison Trophy, so congratulations to John Metcalfe, Robbie Burnett and David Whitfield.

"The Foresters won the Pilot League, the Yorkshire Premiership and the Elite Six Play-Offs, while the third team, under Adam and Sam Mason, lost their play-off.

"Harry Bullough was the most improved player for the first XV, followed by James Huck and Jamie Guy.

"Jonathan Davies, who was top scorer in the third team and fourth teams, won the Damian Foley Trophy for the person who has contributed most to the lower teams, and has also played for the second team."

Pre-season training starts on Tuesday, July 4, while two pre-season friendlies have been announced – at home to Kirkby Lonsdale on Saturday, August 12, and at Hull Ionians on Saturday, August 19.

Wharfedale kick off their new league campaign with an away game at Macclesfield on September 2 before hosting old foes Otley in their first home game.

Both main pitches at The Avenue have been renovated, with 120 tonnes of specialist topsoil being provided by Tarmac Ltd, one of Wharfedale's long-standing sponsors.

Head groundsman Adam Pidgeon oversaw the work on the first and second-team pitches, while drainage work has also taken place on the second-team pitch.