THERE’S MORE to the sport than Super League.
The switch to a summer season has caused problems for many sides in the community game’s flagship National Conference League, but one to have thrived is Hunslet Club Parkside.
Formerly known as Hunslet Old Boys, the south Leeds outfit are a couple of wins away from completing a remarkable season.
They have already won the BARLA – British Amateur Rugby League Association – National Cup and face Wigan St Patrick’s at Mount Pleasant, Batley, on Saturday in the National Conference Trophy final (3pm).
Not only that, but Parkside are top of Conference Division One and need just one victory from their two remaining matches to seal a third successive title, having won the third and second divisions in the past two years since moving up from the Pennine League.
Parkside are coached by Paul McShane, who has collected a Super League leader’s medal as a player for Castleford Tigers this year and could go on to lift the Grand Final trophy at Old Trafford next month.
If all goes well for him over the next few weekends McShane may end the year having won five honours as player and coach with two different clubs, which is some achievement.Peter Smith
If all goes well for him over the next few weekends McShane may end the year having won five honours as player and coach with two different clubs, which is some achievement.
It could be a good weekend for rugby league in south Leeds.
Hunslet play host to London Skolars on Sunday afternoon, a week after an 18-12 victory over the same opposition sealed top spot on the Kingstone Press League One Shield table and home advantage for this weekend’s final.
It has been a disappointing year for Hunslet, who were 10th at the end of the regular season.
They have started to turn things around since experienced campaigner Gary Thornton was appointed coach in May and winning the Shield would give them something to build on going into next year.
Hunslet have had a tough time in recent seasons, but there is the possibility of new investment coming into the club and if that materialises they could be on course for a much better season in 2018.
Back to Mount Pleasant and another meeting between sides who faced each other last weekend. Batley Bulldogs have finished second in the Championship Shield table – sixth overall in the second tier – and play Sheffield Eagles on Sunday in a knockout semi-final.
Bulldogs beat Eagles 34-18 in the sides’ final league game last weekend, but the play-off may come down to who wants it most.
By the time they kick off, either Toulouse Olympique or Dewsbury Rams – who meet on Saturday afternoon – will be through to next week’s final.
After losing their opening eight games, Dewsbury have undergone a remarkable transformation since Neil Kelly returned to the club in April and if Rams win in France, Batley will have every incentive to set up a home derby in the final.
However, should Toulouse prevail, either Batley or Sheffield will have to go to France, at a week’s notice, for the decider.
Batley have been there three times already this year, in the Championship, Challenge Cup and Shield, including their most recent visit a couple of weeks ago.
Matt Diskin had a tough start to his time in charge, but Bulldogs have clicked over the second half of the campaign and the former Leeds Rhinos hooker is one of a number of coaches outside the top-flight – others include ex-Castleford Tigers players Andrew Henderson (London Broncos) and James Ford (York City Knights) – who look to have a bright future.
Featherstone Rovers won’t win anything this season, but Sunday’s last game of the campaign at Halifax is a final of sorts.
Rovers lost all seven games in the Qualifiers last year and have managed just a draw so far this term.
Halifax are one point below them in the table, after six defeats and this weekend’s winners will probably finish seventh.
That is worth an extra £50,000 in central funding, which is a significant sum at that level.