New coach, new captain as Crocs kick off season

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Old Crossleyans open their North East One season under new coach Neil Spence tomorrow with a home game against newly-promoted Huddersfield YMCA.

Crocs’ near-neighbours earned a reputation as one of Yorkshire One’s most attack-minded teams last term on their way to promotion.

And director of rugby Howard Cooper believes they will present a formidable challenge for the Broomfield outfit.

“They were a good side in their division last season and it is a difficult start for us,” said Cooper.

“It’s a derby game and any promoted side is used to winning; they are on a roll and confidence will be high so it’s always more difficult to play them early on.

“They like to throw the ball about and they’ve got some very good players in their backline.

“It’s going to be a challenge for us, but it’s one we’re very much looking forward to.”

As well as Spence, a Rugby Football Union development officer who replaces Chris Jones in the club’s hotseat, Crocs also have a new captain in Ryan Hammond, who succeeds James Wainwright.

“Neil’s brought a slightly different approach to training, which the lads have responded to,” said Cooper, who confirmed that St Helens-based Jones will continue with the club as a player only.

“He has played as a forward at a good level and he has spent more time working with our forwards.

“We played some very attacking rugby under Chris, but I hope we will be more adaptable to the conditions this season than we were at times last year.”

Crocs have signed a clutch of new talent to go alongside their more-established performers, although the focus has been on strength in depth rather than front line recruits.

Matthew Schofield, a wing forward, Jonathan Marsh, a stand off, and Luke Leonard, an 18 year old No. 8 from Cirencester, have all come on board.

“I don’t whether they’ll be playing tomorrow, but they’ll certainly be involved as the season goes on,” said Cooper, who saw the club complete their pre-season preparations with a 48-0 home over a Bradford and Bingley second string.

Calderdale’s two Yorkshire Four sides, Halifax Vandals and Halifax, begin their seasons next week.