Club of the Week: Whitehaven

Whitehaven have had a steady campaign in their first season back in the Championship, currently sitting in seventh place in the table.

The Cumbrians were one of four teams to earn promotion to the newly-expanded league last season, and are currently the highest ranked of that quartet.

They have recorded seven wins from their 16 games so far, and are on course for a play-off place, although there’s not much to choose between them and the teams below.

Dave Farrell, Business Development Manager at the club, said: “The club is doing as well as we could have hoped for. We’re seventh in the Championship with 24 points, and making good progress.

“We’re the highest in the league of the four that came up, so we’ve got to be pleased. We’ve had some good results, the frustrating part is that we’ve had some poor performances too, and our biggest problem is consistency in terms of results. Overall, though, we can feel reasonable positive.”

An impressive 30-16 win over Sheffield back in April is one of the stand-out results of their season, but it has been countered by some disappointing losses, including a 46-8 hammering at Dewsbury and a 30-0 loss at Hunslet.

That has been compounding by two defeats to fierce rivals Workington – both in the league and the Challenge Cup – something which they have the chance to put right this Sunday, when the two meet at the Recreation Ground.

Sunday’s defeat to Leigh in the Northern Rail Cup means that Whitehaven’s sole focus is the league for the remainder of 2013, and keeping hold of that play-off place.

Farrell added: “The aim of 2013 was consolidation, and we’re well on the way to achieving that.

“It’s no secret that the future is that the club has got to get back to building itself on local talent.

“The introduction of dual-registration doesn’t help the development of local talent for us, but I think we’ve used it sensibly and in the spirit it was intended.

“There’s a lot of young raw talent out at Wath Brow, Egremont and Kells, and we’re seeing more and more Cumbrian players earn scholarships and contracts at Super League clubs.

“There’s plenty more that could play in the Championship, it’s just whether the current system is going to allow that to happen. 

“If two or three lads become available from St Helens, they’re going to be very good players, whereas local players would have to re-adjust to fit in, on fitness and conditioning level and more.”

Australian Dave Woods took over at the Recre in the close season, looking to add to a CV that includes the National League 1 title with Castleford, the National League 2 title with Gateshead and promotion with York.

His appointment enabled Whitehaven to attract the likes of Rob Jackson, Lee Paterson and Neil Thorman to form a solid squad.

Unfortunately, plans for a new community stadium at Powbeck have now collapsed, following issues with local landowners. That saw Whitehaven lose the chance to host games at the World Cup, and means that their future lies at the Recreation Ground.

Farrell added: “We’ve got plans to upgrade the stadium, and make it a more modern and pleasant place to watch rugby league. Those plans are still being discussed, but the future is looking reasonably bright.

“Whitehaven is doing OK considering where the game finds itself at the moment.

“The current gates are very disappointing, and the general interest in Championship rugby is quite low. Is that a sign that promotion and relegation needs to return?

“We had more than 6000 people at the Recre when we played Castleford in 2005, there’s nothing anywhere near that now, even with the likes of Featherstone, Halifax and Leigh in the league.”

To win tickets to Whitehaven’s next home Kingstone Press Championship match, against Workington Town on Sunday 23rd June, click here.

Kingstone Press Cider has teamed up with LoveRugbyLeague to celebrate all things great about the rugby league Championships. For the rest of the season, ‘Championing the Championships’ campaign will put a weekly spotlight on each Championship and Championship 1 club to focus on their most memorable moments, look back at the clubs heroes and reward the loyal fans. Read more…

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