Dave Craven: Unfancied Rams reaping rewards of Morrison’s hard work

Dewsbury Rams' coach Glenn Morrison.
Dewsbury Rams' coach Glenn Morrison.
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AMID all the rhetoric over the winter about divisional restructuring, three and eights plus promotion and relegation, there was very little mention of Dewsbury Rams’ potential involvement in all of it.

That is because, in fairness, the Heavy Woollen side was never really perceived as much of a player in proceedings.

While Championship big guns Featherstone Rovers, Halifax, Sheffield Eagles and Leigh could start salivating at the prospect of competing for a place in Super League once more, Dewsbury were perhaps more concerned about ensuring they did not fall out of the division.

There are, of course, five teams relegated in September and for those who go down, the path back looks pretty treacherous once the new format comes into play in 2015.

So, then, how refreshing to see Dewsbury not only competing but actually holding their own at the top of the sport’s second tier.

Glenn Morrison’s side have won their opening three games – one of only two clubs to do so – and are only denied outright pole position by Leigh’s superior points difference.

Given the confidence and ability in their ranks, they host bottom-placed Whitehaven tomorrow fully expecting to be able to make that four wins from four and adding to the growing feel-good factor around Tetley’s Stadium.

It should not really be that surprising; Morrison is one of those perpetually positive people and, if you ask anyone who knows, a pretty decent coach too even before the Australian second-row had hung up his boots after a splendid career here with Bradford and Wakefield.

He has used his vast contacts built up over his last eight years in the British game to assemble a decent-looking squad which is proving particularly difficult to break down.

Of those, the addition of experienced hooker Wayne Godwin has been a real coup.

It surprises many that Morrison’s former Bradford team-mate, who does not turn 32 until Thursday, is not still playing in Super League where he has featured with Castleford, Wigan, Hull and Salford.

That competition’s loss is certainly Dewsbury’s gain, though, and there is a steely edge to their pack with such grizzled campaigners as ex-Hull KR and PNG prop Makali Aizue, Tommy Gallagher and former Royal Marine Ryan Hepworth.

With a half-back partnership of Tom Hemingway – who has found his way to his hometown club after initially starting out at Huddersfield Giants – and Anthony Thackeray dovetailing nicely, they are well set.

Like Godwin, the giant centre Karl Pryce is another Super League talent who has discovered the Championship perhaps too early in his career and he is someone who will be desperate to prove he can still hack it at the elite level.

In the meantime, though, the 27-year-old offers genuine strike threat for Dewsbury, as does the lively full-back Louis Sheriff who fleetingly showed up well for Hull KR before spending a season Down Under at Redcliffe.

It may be more than 40 years since Allan Agar, Mike Stephenson et all famously secured Dewsbury’s solitary league title and over 70 since they last won the Challenge Cup.

But, with Morrison pounding the town’s streets delivering fliers and wife Robyn – whose cheerleading team are now staples on Sky TV – driving their marketing, they are making progress on and off the pitch.

Denied a place in Super League because of ground issues after Rich Agar’s Grand Final winning drop goal in 2000, they will be long-odds to go on and repeat that feat at Headingley this season but do not rule it out.

Regardless, it is pleasing to see one of the game’s oldest clubs enjoying a revival of any sort.