Long - All-conquering Sharlston Rovers “buzzing” at challenge of being team to beat

WELCOME RETURN: Chris Aiton, brother of Wakefield Wildcats star Chris, has returned to play for Sharlston this season.
WELCOME RETURN: Chris Aiton, brother of Wakefield Wildcats star Chris, has returned to play for Sharlston this season.

Coach Gordy Long says all-conquering Sharlston Rovers are “buzzing” for the challenge of being the team to beat this season.

Rovers enjoyed a momentous campaign last season by winning all five competitions they entered and will be expected to push for silverware on all fronts again this term.

The Weeland Road club kick-off their Pennine League Premier Division campaign with a tough home clash against Drighlington on Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm) and Long says he is excited for the season ahead.

“Everyone will want to beat us this season after how well we did last year,” he said.

“It was a bit of a freak season in that we won everything, I don’t think it’ll happen again but we’ll be aiming for success in every competition again, the lads are all like that.

“They’re buzzing for the challenge. It’s going to be extremely difficult to win everything we enter again but they’ll go for it.

“Teams will raise their game when they play us and we know it will be difficult.

“I think it will be the toughest season since we’ve been in the league anyway.

“You’ll have the usual title challengers and Hunslet Old Boys will be good this season, Queens have got a new coach and will be strong and then there’s West Bowling and Keighley who have good young sides, it’s going to be a hard season.”

Long has not rested on his laurels with a host of new additions he believes will strengthen his Rovers squad this term, while only Wayne McHugh has left.

Chris Aiton, the brother of Wakefield Wildcats hooker Paul, will return as an impact replacement for starting hooker Dean Gamble.

Over 40 players have been attending pre-season training for Sharlston’s first and second team, adding much-needed strength-in-depth.

But Rovers have only had one first-team friendly over the summer, comfortably seeing off Moorends at the weekend, and Long has been forced to give many of his players game time in the club’s second team friendly matches.

As well as last season’s success in five competitions, the Challenge Cup will also be thrown into the mix in the New Year.

“It’s something we’re looking forward to after missing out last year,” said Long.

“It’ll be good to test ourselves against professional opposition because I feel the squad is stronger than last season.”

Long and Sharlston were snubbed at the end-of-season Pennine League awards but will collect the Coach of the Year and Team of the Year accolades at the BARLA presentation night in Huddersfield next week.

Sharlston Rovers A make the trip to West Leeds for their season opener in Division 1.

Ossett Trinity will be out for a winning start to their campaign when they kick-off their Championship One Division campaign at Bentley Good Companions.

A local derby will mark the start of Wakefield City’s Division 5 campaign when they host Crofton (kick-off 2.30pm).

Westgate Wolves have to wait until the second weekend of the new season, on Saturday September 14, to start their fixtures at home against Methley

Crigglestone-Kettlethorpe also start their season on Saturday, September 14 at home against Siddal.