Following an unprecedented perfect season in Yorkshire One, Castle Park’s non-professional playing arm, Doncaster Phoenix, are gearing up to begin their 2015/16 preparations as pre-season training begins this Thursday.
Last season’s promotion means the 1st XV will compete in North East Division One for the upcoming campaign and the 2nd XV, who were also crowned league champions, in the YRFU Merit League Championship.
The Club have been busy over the summer and a couple of new faces have joined the Phoenix ranks, although Castle Park regulars will be well-acquainted with one of the acquisitions as former Knights star Jamie Lennard commits to the Club.
Speaking on the new arrivals and forthcoming season DRFC Rugby Development Manager Ants Posa said. “Jamie has joined the ranks, taking the role of backs and skills coach.
“The main thing that I believe Jamie will bring to the Club, asides from his playing ability, is his experience and leadership.
“We have a lot of very young guys in our back line, if you take away our captain Andy Ellis, the majority of the backs are 21 and under so to have someone of Jamie’s experience on the pitch with these young players can only be beneficial.
“We’ve also got a couple of other guys joining us, Dan Porter arrives from Selby and played in the South Yorkshire sevens tournament that we won at Wheatley Hills last weekend and provides another attacking weapon out wide.
“Alex Keaton, who is an ex Donny mini/junior will also return for the new season.
“I’m always delighted to see players coming ‘home’ to play their rugby, hopefully he might get some training time with the Knights also.
“The goal for the Club, as well as building a successful team, is to strengthen that pathway through to the professional rugby at the Club so it’s great to see that partnership strengthening.
North East One is unchartered territory for the Phoenix, as it is the highest level in the league structure that the Club has competed. Despite this Posa is confident that the his side can, not only compete, but flourish in their new division. “We are an ambitious Club and I don’t think we’ve been playing to our potential for a few years, I feel we are now getting towards where we should be.
“Of course we are aiming for promotion but if that take one year, two years, three years or however long so be it; the important thing is that we’re aiming upwards and growing.”
The Phoenix first taste of competitive rugby has thrown up a mouth-watering Doncaster derby in the Yorkshire Cup against town rivals Wheatley Hills; a fixture that Ants hopes will really capture the imagination of every Doncaster rugby fan.
“We’re in the Yorkshire Cup for the first time in our history and we’ve drawn Wheatley Hills in the first round on August 29th at Castle Park.
“We’re trying to organize it around the Knights pre-season game with Blaydon so that the public can hopefully stay to watch both games with a lot of local interest on show.”
As ambitious as the Phoenix are for the future the overriding message of the Club continues to be rugby for all and with the first session of the new season just a couple of days away it is a point that Posa is keen to reiterate.
“We want to make pre-season as much fun as possible, whilst we want it to be hard we want to get people hungry to play the game at Castle Park.
“There is going to be fitness work, David Hankinson has now taken over the strength and conditioning side of things. He’s another local boy and works as a PTI in the RAF but playing and enjoying rugby will remain very much the focus.
“Myself, Ryan [Peacey] and Adam [Kettle] will be keen to make sure there is plenty of rugby played from the start and, as always, we really hope to see some new faces come down.
“Everybody is welcome, regardless of ability or age. It doesn’t matter if you’ve played at Castle Park in the past or never played before in your life, everyone is welcome we have a place for the talented guys right through to the social players.”
Doncaster Phoenix pre-season training will kick off at 6:45pm this Thursday [July 2nd] at Castle Park.