New-look West Hartlepool continue their countdown to the new North One East programme today with their second pre-season friendly.
West host old North One rivals Rochdale at Brinkburn (kick-off 3pm) with new director of rugby Peter Robinson saying the squad looks in “good shape”.
Long-term coach and captain Iain Dixon and Danny Boatman, who came close to taking the club up last season, have both stepped down.
Dixon has taken charge of the club’s academy while Boatman has retired after a decade’s great service at Catcote Road.
West have also lost flanker, Lee Maddison, who has moved to the Midlands with a new job though his former Rovers team-mate, Liam Austwicke, has moved across from the Friarage and will feature in the back division.
A first half hat-trick from Alex Barker proved the highlight on the opening friendly last Saturday.
West ran in eight tries in a 50-5 victory against a young West Bridgford, skipper Ryan Painter touching down twice, though this afternoon’s game will be a tougher examination.
Robinson heads up a new management team, with former centre Stu Hardy operating as head coach with Carl Miller and Stuart Waites assisting with the coaching.
“The lads seem to be enjoying the sessions,” said Robinson. “We’ve had great turn-outs, 30 to 40 people every week.
“We’re starting the season in reasonably good shape.”
A number of players are missing through holidays, while Carl Miller, who looks set to captain the side, is recovering from injury.
“We’ve lost Danny Boatman who has retired and Lee Maddison has a new job in the Midlands,” added Robinson.
“We’re not sure what Aaron Myers is doing this year, we’ve not seen too much of him.
“Those lads formed much of our back row last season.
“We still have Sam Miller and Carl Miller though he’ll probably not make the start after breaking his leg near the end of last season.
“We’ve signed Liam Austwicke from Rovers and he looks a really good player, so I’m looking forward to seeing him play. He’ll add to the strength of the backs.”
Scott Butcher, who has produced some outstanding displays on the wing for the club, could provide a timely boost to the side with a switch to the back row.
He played at flanker against West Bridgford last weekend and is selected there again today.
West have another big match next Saturday when they entertain Blaydon in the semi-final of the Durham Senior Cup.