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4 May 2017
It’s been a tough season for Preston Grasshoppers first XV. A season full of disruptions and injuries, and that has led to several young players, many in their first season in the first XV, carrying a lot of responsibility. The team lost six players in the off-season and 13 more since then. Injuries to key players left a young team struggling to make an impact.
Despite knowing they were to be relegated from National League Two North following a defeat against Harrogate early in April, the team have kept their heads up and shown real determination and spirit. There have been flashes of brilliance and a few surprises that bode well for the future.
The 2017 season drew to a close at the weekend when Hoppers entertained Wharfedale. Hoppers Head Coach Garth Dew, in his last game in the role said, ‘It was a great effort and the lads showed a good attitude.’ An end-of-term win wasn’t to be. The closing scoreline was Hoppers 34-41 Wharfedale.
Garth Dew explains, ‘The Club is looking to add experience to the squad for next season, and I think that, alongside the lessons from this campaign, will stand it in good stead for next year. It has been a massive honour to be Head Coach of my hometown club over the last three seasons. Despite us not having the greatest season on paper, I hope that I have passed on some valuable knowledge and experience to our young squad which will help them progress through their rugby careers.’
Haleys relationship with Hoppers stretches back many years thanks to the involvement of Managing Director Tim Haley who enjoyed a long and successful playing career at Lightfoot Green. He played at the Club for over 30 years, just hanging up his boots in 2009. This was the second season that Haleys was the main shirt sponsor.
‘We’re keen supporters of Hoppers and all that they do in the community,’ said Tim Haley. ‘Several members of our team attended the official launch of the new artificial grass pitch that was presided over by England Rugby Coach, Eddie Jones, earlier in the year. We regularly attend matches and events, and one way or another a number of the Haleys team have connections with the Club.’ Tim Haley’s son, Mike, played for Hoppers before moving to Sale Sharks.
Haleys is also a founder member of the Hoppers Business Network (HBN) which evolved when a number of businesses that were supporters or sponsors of the Club formalised their association into a business group. HBN holds networking events at the Club, welcoming other local businesses and entrepreneurs who can become involved with Hoppers or do business with other HBN members in a friendly and informal environment.
‘The Club is already looking forward and a number of changes have been implemented,’ explained Tim Haley. ‘Gareth Dyer has been appointed to the role of Head of Rugby Operations. He will re-join the club’s Executive Rugby Committee with responsibility for 1st and 2nd XV rugby at Lightfoot Green. His return to the club is timely following the decision to defer the appointment of a Director of Rugby. This will give time to assess the changing landscape both in terms of its new playing status for next season and likely regulatory changes that will be coming into effect at the end of the next campaign.’
Gareth Dyer said, ‘Whilst naturally I am delighted to be back involved with the club that I hold a great affinity with, it’s disappointing that my return coincides with the club having suffered relegation at 1st XV level. Relegation hurts but it is time to quickly draw a line under that and focus 100% on making sure we recover strongly. The Hoppers family must pull together and work hard collectively to get the club heading back to where we want to be. We are a great club with great people involved throughout.’
The Club has also announced the appointment of a new coach. Paul Arnold joins the club from neighbours Fylde where he has been Head Coach for the last two years. Prior to that he was Forwards Coach at the Woodlands before assuming the head role towards the end of the 2014/15 season.
He is also Assistant Coach to England Counties Under 20’s.
‘I thoroughly enjoyed my seven years at Fylde and I learnt a lot during my time at the Woodlands but I felt now was the right time for a fresh challenge and I am excited to join Hoppers,’ said Paul Arnold. ‘The club’s potential is huge and I am looking forward to working with everyone at Lightfoot Green and getting Hoppers back to where they belong as one of the best clubs not only in Lancashire but also in the North.’
‘We’re proud of our association with Hoppers and are already looking forward to next season. All teams have ups and downs and we’re confident of a great fight back,’ said Tim Haley.Go Back