JUST OVER 24 hours after announcing the addition of two young prospects to their roster, Leeds Chiefs went the other way by adding a wealth of experience for their latest recruits.
The addition of forward Andrew Hirst and defenceman Steven Duncombe’s for the Elland Road club’s inaugural campaign in NIHL National was revealed at Saturday night’s shirt launch held at The Liquorist in Leeds city centre.
Fans were introduced to player-coach Sam Zajac’s latest signings along with a number of their fellow team-mates at the Greek Street venue.
Teenage goalie Harrison Walker and 18-year-old defenceman Tyler Nixon were announced on Friday night on two-way deals with the Chiefs, who are expected to announce the final member of their roster - their second import signing - on Tuesday.
Zajac and his team will hold a series of practice sessions throughout the coming week ahead of their first-ever game next Sunday (4pm) against Sheffield Steeldogs, which will serve as a high-profile season-opener for the newly-formed second-tier league.
And with Hirst and Duncombe on board, first-time coach Zajac is confident he has put together a roster boasting a balanced blend of youth and experience and one not short on skill or speed.
“These two guys are both really experienced campaigners,” said Zajac. “Hirsty is a small guy, good offensively and someone who works his nuts off. He brings a lot to the roster.
“I was actually quite surprised when Sheffield released him, but he was a guy I had an eye on to try and tempt over, anyway so that helped open the dialogue.
“I’ve played against him for a number of seasons now and he can be a right handful.”
A product of the Sheffield junior system, 26-year-old Hirst has played the majority of his senior career with Sheffield Steeldogs, his best-ever season coming in the old EPL in 2013-14 when he amassed 55 points, including 25 goals, in 55 games.
At 34, Duncombe brings a vast amount of experience with him, including two years as a player-coach at Blackburn Hawks, from where he switched to Sutton Sting in the middle of last season.
Another product of the Sheffield system, the 6ft 4ins blue liner spent three seasons with Sheffield Steelers before moving across to their second-tier neighbours the Scimitars on a permanent basis in 2006.
He remained at Ice Sheffield after the team became the Steeldogs and stayed there until a player-coach role tempted him to Blackburn in 2016.
“He’s a big body, super-experienced and knows what it takes to win at this level,” added Zajac. “It seems like he’s been around for so long and will bring so much veteran leadership to the dressing room. All the young guys respect a guy like Duncs.
“Although he’s had a lot of experience in the last couple of years or so on the coaching side, having spoken to him this summer, he’s looking forward to getting back to just playing again, so I think we’re going to get a revitalised Steve Duncombe which will be great.”