Opportunity knocks for new players to lead Wharfedale

The ability to adapt is the watchword at Wharfedale this season.

Wharfedale head coach Jon Feeley

Adapt the way they play when the weather turns; tailor their game to make opponents think; and, finally, show patience as new recruits take time to adjust to the Greens’ easy-on-the-eye style of play.

That approach to the game bore significant fruit last season as Wharfedale, under rookie head coach Jon Feeley, shocked National One by storming up to third place by Christmas.

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A second half of the season that saw them tumble back to a traditional position of ninth in the 16-team league, serves as a 
reminder as the new season begins with a trip to Hartpury College, that ‘Dale remain a work in progress.

“We came out of the traps quickly and took a lot of teams by surprise because they weren’t prepared for our style of rugby,” recalled Feeley.

“That surprise element was probably our greatest attribute.

“The problem after Christmas was when the weather turned it slowed up our game and we couldn’t adapt. We also lost the bulk of our front five and that really hit us hard. We’ve strengthened that area particularly because at this level you can’t hide a makeshift front five.”

Like all clubs, pre-season has been one of integrating new signings and attempting to put bandages on the areas weakened by clubs from higher divisions who have poached last year’s stars.

“We’ve got a few changes and I’m looking forward to seeing how they bed in and how they adapt to how we play,” added Feeley.

“We lost Tom Barrett to Rotherham and Aaron Myers to Darlington, that’s a key No 10 and No 7 who were important decision-makers for us.

“Their departure gives new players the chance to make an impression.

“After last season, the task for us now is to innovate and come up with something new.

“The focus in pre-season has been on our key skill-sets and developing a pattern.

“We want our philosophy to be 15 players who can make decisions, who can move the ball and affect the play in all areas.”

Wharfedale begin at Hartpury facing a side full of students strengthened by a location in the union hotbed of Gloucestershire.

“The one thing student teams struggle with is changing patterns, they can’t adapt, so we need to make them make decisions,” said Feeley, who has named new signing Cameron Hudson at centre and former Otley player Simon Willet in the second row, with fellow recruits Anthony Oxley and Matt Van Sertima on the bench.