‘IT’S been a different pre-season’ - that’s the verdict of Wharfedale head coach Jon Feeley as his side get ready for a return to league action for the first time in 18 months.

The Wharfeside Avenue club are gearing up for a return to National Two North action next month, this will be their first league action since a 19-15 victory over Stourbridge on March 14, 2020.

The Rugby Football Union finalised the position of teams in the community game by using a mathematical formula which meant the Green Machine finished ninth in the National 2 North for the 2019-20 campaign.

But first Feeley’s squad have had to reboot to the demands of the game during pre-season so far, after months of playing other sports.

He added he needs to get his squad, which this season will feature a number of youngsters from its successful Colts side, who were previously crowned as national champions, ‘rugby ready’.

Feeley said: “We have a bit of ground to make up.

“The care of duty to the players and their physical health has been one of the main things of pre-season. They have had 18 months out of the game. A lot of them have been spending their time doing other sports and are not rugby ready.

“In pre-season we have had to spend as much time doing prehab exercises as much as anything else.

“Players may pick up knee, ankle, shoulder and hamstring injuries quickly, but we have got to try and prevent those as much as we can.

“It has been a very different pre-season this year.

“I’m a coach who doesn’t do a lot of contact work in training at the moment, I want to save that for the games.

“We want to have a more expansive game.”

Feeley has also looked ahead to the new campaign in National Two North, which starts with a trip to Clifton Lane to face his former club Rotherham on Saturday, September 4.

He says Wharfedale can go to South Yorkshire with confidence and target a top six finish and establish themselves in the division. He said: “They say ‘you can’t win ‘owt with kids’, but we can.

“This squad is very young but they have adapted well.

“A lot of them are from our Colts team who will be playing their first season in men’s rugby. They have a lot of talent.

“Hopefully we will be fitter and play a more expansive style.

“We have got to adapt to the circumstances in the world at the moment as best as we can.

“I’m looking forward to us going back to Rotherham. It will be the sternest of tests with a slope to the pitch.

“We’ve got to see that game as a good opportunity for us to get going.

“I want to see the players develop and we should be going for the top half of the table this season.”

Feeley says he is targeting a firm top six place for Wharfedale during the next two seasons.