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Monday, 24 November 2014

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Brow launch title defence

CHAMPIONS Wath Brow will launch the defence of their National Conference crown on Saturday against visitors Ince Rose Bridge with just one target in mind for the season – to avoid relegation.

Cautious coach Ian Rooney is not looking past Premier Division survival but acknowledges that rivals will raise their performance against the Hornets, following last season’s success, which culminated in a glorious Grand Final win against Myton at Widnes.

“Every season in the NCL is a challenge, especially in the top division,” Rooney said. “Our goal will be the same, just to get enough points to stay in the division.

“It’s a tough, tough start on Saturday and we have to continue with our home record, which is okay. We have stressed through pre-season that it will be even harder this year.

“Everyone will rise 10 per cent against us, and we need to find something else to match what teams throw at us. But we are looking forward to it.

“We have, kind of, got a target on ourselves. We punched above our weight last year, some might say, but that’s history now and we can park it and try to get to that magical 23/24 points early.

“That’s always our goal. It sounds easy but it’s not. You only have 13 home games.

“Our players are a year older and smarter, but people now know about them. We won a lot of games by less than eight points and all it takes is a bounce of the ball, a ref’s call or a foot in touch and you can finish seventh. It’s so tight.

“We are a good side and can produce great performances, but we are still very young with a lot to learn.”

Rooney warmly welcomed Egremont in to the top-flight and Kells on to the national stage, following their switch from the Cumberland League. “Egremont are flying, and I’m delighted we have another Cumbrian team up there,” continued the new English Lions coach. “If we can also help Kells in any way, we will.”

Experienced forward Dave Pettitt will miss the start of the season with a knee problem, while Gavin Curwen has joined the club’s senior coaching set-up after progressing through their junior ranks.

Great Britain amateur prop Johnny Goulding has joined Egremont for their return to the top echelon.

And with Richard Farrer, Mally Caton, Tom Whalley and Kevin Brown also in the front-row reckoning, Egremont will boast one of the bigger packs in the amateur game’s top-flight.

“We’ve gone from a middle-sized side to a big one,” said spokesman Daemon Ireland. “It’s probably the biggest pack we’ve had for a long time.

“Johnny Goulding is a big lad who has played to a good standard, and he will give us more go-forward. It’s now probably the best squad we’ve had for a lot of years in terms of quality and strength in depth.”

Goulding was a member of the Cumbria squad that won the county title last season and retained it this year.

He dislocated and fractured his ankle when playing for Cockermouth against Maryport in March last year but staged a remarkable recovery to take his place on a Great Britain Cougars’ tour to the West Indies three months later.

Egremont, fresh from an informal run-out against Haven last week, open their account at West Hull on Saturday. Veteran Gary Elliott is to play one more season, while Kieron Glenn is back from injury after missing much of last term due to injury. Paul Corkhill is still sidelined, however.

Tony Hetherington has joined from Lowca and Lee Hoskins from Hensingham.

With boss John Brocklebank sidelined by work commitments, Rangers have been put through their paces leading up to their opener by Rob Purdham, the former London Broncos skipper, who has led by example.

“Training has been phenomenal. They have been absolutley wrecked, and Robert has been doing it with them, so they can’t shirk or hide,” continued Ireland.

Kells open with the visit of Crosfields, in Division Three.

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