Leigh Miners start the defence of their National Conference League title on Saturday when they take on Rochdale Mayfield in Round 1 of the Kingstone Press Cider Premier Division, Kick off 2-30pm at Twist Lane
Miners go into Saturday’s season opener on the back of two pre season defeats, with the first being in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup at the end of January against Underbank Rangers (20-14) and the second in the IPro Sports League 1 Cup against Newcastle Thunder (36-12) three weeks ago.
The squad being disappointed at going out in the first round of the Challenge Cup after a successful run to the fifth round in 2015 and by the margin of the defeat against Newcastle but are hoping to learn valuable lessons from both games in attack and defence, ahead of what is going to be a very tough top flight this year.
Looking ahead to this week’s game against Mayfield, first team captain Scott O’Brien said “It will be really tough especially with the conditions and the pitch not looking to clever.”
“There are a couple of new faces coming in which always takes time for them to settle in, but I think we are looking really strong again this year.”
And on the season ahead, last years NCL player of the year added “It’s going to be long and tough!”
“With us doing what we did last year everybody will want to beat us.”
“But again we look really strong and I think we’ll do well.”
Coach Allan Coleman has lost three players from last years treble winning side, with Sean Dowie returning home to Australia, Danny Jackson retiring and unfortunately Adam Thomason who will miss the entire season due to a knee reconstruction.
Prop Darryl Kay will miss the opening few games of the season as he recovers from a hernia operation he had last week but other than that Miners have all of last years squad available for selection, along with new signings Mitchell Cox, Danny Halliwell, Jordan Hill, Ian Mort and Sam Peet to leave Coleman with some tough selection headaches when he picks his side to take on Mayfield with assistants Stuart Pugsley and Simon Travis.
On preparation for Saturday’s opener with Mayfield, coach Allan Coleman said “We have had a bit of a mixed bag with our game preparation, Ideally we would have liked one more game before start of the season.”
“But from the two games we have played, we have picked up some good points of were we can improve and highlighted areas from each game where our structure and shape have looked really good.”
Looking at the season ahead, Coleman added “We are ready to go and defend our title”
“It’s going to be a tough year, with being champions we are everyone’s target.”
“People say we have a tough start but l think the league is as strong as it’s ever been and every game is tough, so we will go with the attitude of every game is as important as the last.”
“It’s been great to welcome three new players on board this last couple of weeks in Mitchell Cox, Sam Peet and Danny Halliwell who will certainly strengthen our squad.”
“On a sad note we would really like to send our condolences to Ian and family on the sad loss of his wife Marie Fearnhead.”
“Hopefully we can dedicate the win to her.”
“Marie will be sadly missed.”
Rochdale Mayfield had a excellent first season back in the top flight in 2015, finishing third in the regular season and pushing Miners all the way in the final eliminator playoff at the end of October. Mayfield have again started well this year and will come to Twist Lane match ready having already reached the Standard Cup final, along with having a good run in the Challenge Cup with away wins at West Bank and Egremont in rounds one and two before playing local professional side Rochdale Hornets in the third round a couple of weeks ago.
For more about Rochdale Mayfield click on the link below as the Rochdale online website previews Saturday’s game.
Leigh Miners second team will be looking to build on last week’s 26-24 first round NWML Trophy victory against Rochdale Mayfield on Saturday when they start the new NWML Division Two season away at Leyland Warriors, Kick off 2-30pm.
The u18s travel to Oldham on Sunday to take on Waterhead in the league, Simon and Tim Hartley’s young side started their season last week with a 34-8 home win against Crosfields.