Leigh Miners play their first game of 2015 on Saturday when they travel to Humberside to take on Hull Dockers in the first round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup, Kick off 2pm at The Willows.
Miners have had a tough four weeks training in preparation for their first runout, with Saturday morning fitness sessions at various locations which include Borsdane Woods, Pennington Flash and the most recent being a trip to Blackpool for a weekend Army training camp at nearby Weeton Barracks. Midweek sessions have consisted of plenty of conditioning, skills and structure work, with some defence and wrestling stuff thrown in for good measure.
The lads have really got stuck into pre season so far with them all being switched on, training at a high intensity and enjoying being around each other. With stiff competition for places all over the park the seventeen selected on Saturday will certainly be looking to impress as will all the other members of the squad when they play in other warmup games before the start of the new NCL season which begins in March with a “Battle of the Borough” home fixture against Wigan St Pats.
Coaches Allan Coleman and Paul Whitworth will certainly have a good few selection headaches when they are picking their seventeen to travel to Hull with there being plenty of strength in depth throughout the squad. Coleman and Whitworth will have virtually all of last years playing squad who finished the season to choose from with only Hooker Mathew Meaden who has returned to Ince Rose Bridge and winger Jack Probert who has unfortunately had to take time away from the game due to work commitments.
Coming into the squad are new signings Harry Gagen and Connor Ratcliffe who are both England Youth Internationals, signing from Liverpool Lions and Wigan St Judes respectively. Brad Hargreaves also joins the squad having previously played at Salford along with youngsters Ben Grimshaw Mark Nicholson and Charles Tyson who have come up from the u18s.
Speaking on Pre-season so far joint first team coach Paul Whitworth said “Pre-season started back early morning on Saturday 3rd January with us fitting in 3 sessions a week. The aim has been to get 2 conditioning sessions in, allowing us to spend enough time on ball work and structure. On the conditioining side,under Phil Marsden, its great to see that the team average has finally broke the 4m/s barrier in the MAS Testing as its the best we had, last year was 3.87m/s so we are starting with a fitter squad than we had in September 2014 and with the drills he has planned this will increase again before the season starts and continue to increase in the season so we will have a team who will be able to maintain a higher intensity for longer than last year. We have used various locations from Athletics track, Hills, Trails & Wrestle Gyms with some other testing locations still to come.”
Whitworth also added “I’ve been impressed with the attitude of the players, it’s become clear over the last four weeks who wants to be part of the NCL Squad. What was probably most pleasing was to see the lads get together as a group before pre-season started and train ready for pre-season. Suitable training locations are difficult to find in the depths of winter and we’ve had to make some adjustments to the schedule and thank the lads for their efforts so far. Realistically though we are not even half way our programme as we enter Saturday’s game. Although we have just come off a really useful weekend at Weeton Barracks that will have brought the lads, especially the new additions, that bit closer together as a unit. Our focus on the season ahead is a little different from last year and we spoke about that over the weekend.”
Looking ahead to Saturday’s trip to Hull Paul said “It’s good to get the draw against a club with the profile of Hull Dockers, we need to go up against good sides in pre-season and we usually learn some good lessons. These cup games are important to our club. We have strength in depth in most areas and players will have to perform both in training and on the field to make sure they get a spot in this team. There will be a couple of debuts this weekend and those who don’t make this Saturdays game will feature against Leigh Centurions on the following Thursday in the Testimonial game at Leigh East. Recently we haven’t put in a decent performance at Hull Dockers so there can be no better time to reverse that.”