After four years in the wilderness, Hunslet Warriors have returned to the National Conference League with a vengeance and are yet to be beaten.
Rebuilding brought steady progress over the last few seasons and in the 2008/09 campaign they finished runners-up in the league and were beaten in the cup final. Further success came the following year, the Leeds-based side won the Yorkshire League Premiership and then defeated National Cup winners Queens in the Play-Off Championship final. With the best defensive record in the country they were awarded the Ravensport Tough Tackle trophy and their application to rejoin the National Conference League was accepted.
The Warriors have grabbed their opportunity with both hands and after twelve games they have won eleven and drawn one. It is clear that the Warriors are far too strong for their opposition and Division 2 is perhaps not providing a great enough challenge.
Former head coach and Castleford Tigers legend Dean Sampson said: “I coached the side for two seasons and I feel we are definitely ready to play at this level again. No disrespect to the opposition in the Yorkshire League but our only challenge was against Queens, Fryston and Hunslet Old Boys. So far this season our hardest test came against Eastmoor and really, we know we are capable of mixing it with the best teams in the National Conference.”
Strength in depth is key to the success of any club in the National Conference and Hunslet have it in abundance. Sampson currently coaches the Warriors ‘A’ team and they play in Division 1 of the Yorkshire League, he added: “To me squad depth is really important and our second team are competitive in Division 1, meaning when in need there are players that can step up to that level of NCL.”
Behind the scenes Hunslet are a very well run club and their professionalism off the field also plays a massive part in being effective on the field.
Sampson explained: “The club is well backed and the players are equally well equipped. Pam Crosby does great work in getting our name out there, in terms of PR and dealing with any media opportunity she is brilliant for the club. We all have that team mentality built into us, both players and staff and it really helps.”
The Warriors are now aiming for the Premier division and are setting their sights high however club captain Caldon Bravo remains aware that it will be no easy ride.
“Winning brings enjoyment but we know we can do better. We do need better opposition to test ourselves but our attitude needs to change too. We cannot walk on the field and expect to get a result. East Moor caught us out really last week, we didn’t know how to handle it and they’re just behind us in the table.”
Despite only leading the division by four points, Hunslet have still recorded some attractive results recently. They easily despatched play-off hopefuls Shaw Cross 40-4 and third place side Egremont Rangers 42-16. Loose-Forward Bravo explained: “It would be fair to say that in two years time we should be playing in the Premier Division and our aim is obviously that, to be promoted twice in the next two seasons.”
With a clear aim they must now push and continue to play in similar fashion, Crosfields are next up for the Warriors and they will be looking to increase their lead at the top of Division 2.