All change as NCL clubs kick-off interim season

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IT’S all change in the National Conference League (NCL) as our three sides kick-off an interim campaign this season ahead of a switch to summer rugby in 2012.

Eastmoor Dragons, Normanton Knights and Stanley Rangers will all compete in a reduced 12-week NCL season which will start this weekend and finish in November.

Member clubs last season voted for a switch to summer competition, which will start next March and run until November.

It means the NCL has been forced to draw up a new-look, revised interim league for clubs to compete in this year.

Teams have been split into eight regionalised groups, most of which contain five teams.

Dragons, Knights and Rangers will all compete in Group F, alongside Castleford club’s Lock Lane and Panthers.

Rangers host Dragons in a local derby contest on Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm), while Knights kick-off their campaign tonight, Friday, by hosting Lock Lane (kick-off 7pm).

And Knights chairperson Joan Langley believes the decision to run a shortened interim season was a ‘no brainer’.

“It’s certainly going to be an interesting season and we don’t really know what to expect,” she said.

“We had a chat with the players and the committee about moving to a summer competition and there was no real debate about, everyone was in agreement that it was the right thing to do.

“There were a few concerns about the ground being hard in the summer months - when it’s hard in the winter the game’s are called off.

“But we’re looking forward to the new season and looking forward to the switch to summer rugby league.”

Knights have appointed former Gateshead Thunder man Richard Pell as their new head coach.

Pell has enjoyed spells working with the Castleford Tigers and Wakefield Wildcats Academy teams and has also coached at Lock Lane, who Knights meet in their season opener.

And he can’t wait to get started: “I’m looking forward to it, it’s a 12-week season and they’re all local derby games so they should be great to play in and great to watch for the fans.”

“I might be a bit naive coming back to amateur rugby league but it looks like we have a good set of lads and we just want to go out there and play with a smile on our faces this season.”

The best teams in each group will go on to play in an end-of-season play-off, and all three Wakefield sides will be battling to be involved.

How teams perform in the interim season won’t have an impact on what divisions teams find themselves in for the inaugural summer league.

The NCL is expected to revert to a three division format, with teams taking their places in the divisions they found themselves in last term.

See this week’s Wakefield Express Sport for all the latest sports news from around the district.