Leeds Tykes on the up again after being named England Rugby's club of the month
After more than a decade of decline that has seen three relegations, two rebrands and one near-extinction, the club that once won the Powergen Cup at Twickenham is looking upwards once more.
For Leeds have begun their first season in National Two North – the fourth tier of the English rugby pyramid – with eight wins out of eight, scoring a bonus point for four tries in every game and amassing 346 points in the process.
They won all three games in October, a feat that brought them to the attention of the game’s governing body, the RFU, who have named Leeds Tykes their club of the month.
For general manager Jake Brady, who has continued playing this season, the recognition is a real pat on the back for all the good work being done at the club’s Sycamores base in Bramhope.
"Hopefully that acknowledgment gets people who aren’t from around here looking at Leeds,” he said, “and they might just say ‘it’s nice to see them in the news for the right reasons’.”
Brady attributes the upturn in fortunes to the new coaching team the club assembled; attack coaches Mike Aspinall and Pete Lucock, defence coaches James Phillips and Rob Rawlinson, all working under director of rugby Pete Seabourne.
"Our new coaching team is excellent, they’ve spent a lot of time planning, preparing, having conversations and figuring out what the team needs and how best to develop and take those small steps," said Brady.
"So far they’ve nearly got everything right and they’ve been the major difference. Plus we’re getting buy-in from the players.
"It’s easy when you’re winning games. Everyone is having a good time.”
On the team’s potent attacking threat, Brady explained: "There’s been a big emphasis on our attack. When Mike took over and Pete Lucock came in, that was the key area we felt we needed to address.
"They’ve spent all summer working out a way they wanted us to attack and tried to implement that with different theories, looking at how it might fit in with the players we’ve got.
"The players are really enjoying the coaching sessions and the intensity we’re training at.
"It’s not the finished product either. At the start of the season we were scoring most of our tries through the forwards, catch and drive and that sort of stuff.
"But as the season has gone on that balance has swung into scoring more attacking tries from set plays or phase plays, which is down to the small changes that they’ve made.”
Winning your first eight games might have people automatically thinking promotion, but Leeds are not getting carried away with themselves, especially with a top five made up entirely of Yorkshire clubs; Sheffield Tigers, Hull, Wharfedale and Rotherham Titans, the latter who are also unbeaten to start the season and have a game in hand.
"We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves,” said Brady, whose Leeds team welcome Rotherham on November 25.
"It’s only two thirds of the way through the season. Right at the very start of pre-season we had our first meeting and a few people mentioned promotion but we reined that back in a bit. What grounds do we have to say that? We’ve got to earn the right to talk about promotion.
"We’ve done that after the first eight games. But there’s a long way to go.”