Leeds Knights: Ryan Aldridge keeping options open ahead of NIHL National campaign
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Back in early summer when he was in the throes of putting his own stamp on the Knights’ roster – he has since brought in 13 new faces in all, when counting those on two-way deals from the lower reached of the NIHL leagues – Aldridge believed his lines were, if all deals came off, pretty well set.
But going into the Yorkshire Cup pre-season tournament with rivals Hull Seahawks and Sheffield Steeldogs, the 44-year-old former Swindon Wildcats and Basingstoke Bison coach, was happy to allow himself to be swayed in terms of his line make-ups ahead of next Saturday’s league opener at home to defending champions Telford Tigers.
A win over the Steeldogs at Elland Road tonight will guarantee White Rose bragging rights for the Knights with one game to spare, having won both encounters last weekend.
It will undoubtedly bring plenty of satisfaction within the Knights’ organisation, but Aldridge knows it counts for little in the grand scheme of things.
"Since the start of the summer, the lines have been pretty well set in my head, but they can easily change, particularly if people who I thought of playing together, just don’t gel,” said Aldridge.
"One thing these games also allow me to do, though, is have a good look at the younger guys we have in the team and how much they are likely to play for us down the stretch.
"At the minute it is simply about getting the players on the ice, getting them to gel and work through the systems.
"Obviously you don’t want to go into the start of the season on the back of a run of losses, but it’s certainly not about winning.”
The addition of the Seahawks and fellow newcomers Bristol Pitbulls for the 2022-23 campaign is a development tat has been warmly welcomed by Aldridge, who believes it has probably created a more level playing field across all 11 teams.
"I think the league is a bit more spread out this year,” he added. “Milton Keynes have signed a few, but then lost a few, Telford have lost a couple of bodies from last year, so I think it’s evened things out.”