10:30am Thursday 29th May 2014
By Bill Marshall
There is always a fear that players will jump ship after a season ends in relegation.
However, Keighley’s director of rugby Graeme Sheffield says that only one marquee name will not be playing in 2014-15 after their demotion from SSE Yorkshire Division One and that is due to retirement.
Sheffield said: “Danny McGee has had a hard season and wants to take some time out, so we will need a new skipper, but we haven’t selected one as yet.”
With the new season starting on September 6, Sheffield has confirmed that training will begin on Tuesday, July 8.
He also revealed that Tim Brunskill would be standing down as forwards’ coach, with backs coach Kevin Young and Sheffield running the first team.
Michael Feather, Andy Marklew and Shaun Gard-ner will be running the second team, while Michael Phillips will be in charge of the Academy – an exciting new development whereby last season’s under-17s will be moving up en bloc, being assisted on the pitch by one or two experienced heads.
They will be the third team in essence and will support the fourth team.
McGee (pictured), whose generalship will be missed, lifted one of the awards at the club’s end-of-season bash – but maybe Sheffield wished he hadn’t.
He explained: “Danny was top tackler and one of the first names on the teamsheet.
“It shows his commitment if he was making something like 15 tackles a match – but he was playing at full back or fly half for much of the season. Some of the forwards need to take a good, long look at themselves if he has won that award.”
Elsewhere among the first-team gongs, flanker Shaun Minikin won the Sam Keighley Player of the Year trophy.
Sheffield said: “He thoroughly deserved it. His attitude is first class, he is always willing to listen and learn and he has become the first name on the teamsheet this season.”
Powerful winger Sam Walker was the supporters’ player of the year, with Sheffield saying: “Sam is the kind of exciting player that spectators like to watch.
“He doesn’t always do the right things but he is a confidence player, he likes to run at people and he can score tries from deep, which spectators love to see.”
Like Minikin, David Iliff has developed over the course of the season and has won the Willie Hafu Man of Steel Trophy.
Sheffield said: “This trophy doesn’t always go to the most improved player, but in this case it has.
“David, who is a quiet lad, has been a late developer and has been in the first team since the change of coach in October and has always competed well in the line-outs.”
Top trainer was Allan Ebbrell, and Sheffield commented: “It was difficult for Allan earlier in the season because there was Ben Blackwell and Marco Ferrazzano, who is more experienced and powerful but suffered a broken jaw, in the centres, but Allan took his chance from November onwards and deserved his award,as did all of the players.”
Second-team award winners were Josh Hannah (Alec Bailey Cup for player of the year), Danny Drake (players’ player) and James Walker (most improved player), and Sheffield said: “Josh is really a first-team player and was the top trainer in 2012-13 but was hampered by working in a bank and having to go on an extensive training course and therefore couldn’t commit to us as much as he would have liked.
“Danny has just finished his first year in rugby, is a raw talent, a cyclist and a fitness fanatic.
“He has embraced rugby’s ethics, has a good persona and was involved with the first team on a number of occasions. He will get better.”
Luke Carter won the Gary Farr Trophy as top try-scorer, befitting a good finisher, while the third-team awards went to Chris Hextall (player of the year), Jack Rawnsley (most improved player) and Tinashe Vambe (stalwart of the season).
Sheffield added: “A club is basically judged on how its first team are doing but the third team will be increasingly important as they are the first team and second-team players of the future.”
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