Leigh Miners Rangers hit the road this weekend for the inaugural National Conference League summer season with a trip to Hull Dockers.
Whilst early March on Humberside might not evoke a balmy sense of summer there is very much a new look to the Miners side this season as Paul Whitworth and Allan Coleman take the helm for their first competitive match against a Dockers side who pipped Miners to the final play-off place in the last season of winter rugby. The joint coaches have seen creative influences Ryan Smith and Leon Brennan move on to pastures new, signing for Wigan St Pats and Welsh professional outfit Crusaders respectively, but with Scott O’Brien back in the side and taking on the captain’s armband this term there is plenty of cause for optimism as the side will continue to develop the youngsters such as Martin Gray who came to the fore during the interim season campaign.
That shortened autumn season saw Miners in easily the toughest group and they acquitted themselves well. Dockers also found themselves in a strong pool and finished with a similar record to the Leigh side, suggesting that this weekend will be a tight encounter. Miners have a decent record at Tower Grange and will hope for similar fortunes to 2007 - the last time they opened the season at Dockers - when a victory on Humberside set the tone for a season which concluded with the league leadership and a Grand Final placing.
After their trip to Dockers Miners will be in Challenge Cup action on the weekend of 10th, with their second round opponents to be drawn this week. As the reigning Challenge Cup Community Club of the Year in recognition of their sterling showing against Barrow last March, Miners will be looking for another good cup showing this season. The first home league fixture brings floodlit rugby to Twist Lane as newly-promoted Ince Rose Bridge are the visitors on Friday March 16, 7.30pm ko.
The U18s start their campaign on March 11 whilst the women’s team also kick-off in the next month. The Alliance team are awaiting the finalisation of the Tier 4 structure.