Before signing up with Scarborough Pirates this season I had watched them sporadically over a number of years and had been impressed from afar with a several members of their young side.
Regular readers of this column will be fully aware of my admiration for the playing abilities of brothers, Sam and James Millward, for instance, both of whom I have unfortunately not had the opportunity to play with this season due to their study and work commitments respectively.
However, now a Pirate myself I have gained an insight into the subtleties of some of those players whom I have watched for several seasons, that only a teammate could gain and have been impressed, without exception, by the attitude and commitment of each player in both the first team, coached by Chirs Keld, and the ‘A’ team, coached by Mick Shepherd.
However, a number of players of players have really stood out by producing superb displays in all of the Pirates’ five consecutive victories at the start of this season’s campaign; five victories which see the Pirates maintain a 100 per cent record and have taken them to the top Yorkshire Division 4.
Captain Adam Lee has perhaps shone the brightest of those players, playing at either hooker or half-back I have been impressed with his leadership off the field and his energy, drive and skill on it.
The hooker position is a pivotal role in the game of rugby league and requires excellent distribution skills and a keen eye for a lazy marker, not to mention the explosive power required to exploit this.
Adam has all of these talents in his arsenal and demonstrated them all to great effect in Saturday’s comprehensive victory over West Bradford Barbarians, a team who were expected to pose a great threat to the Pirates’ unbeaten record.
Apart from the powerful darts from dummy-half, much of the work that Adam gets through perhaps goes unnoticed, but that is testament to his consistently high levels of performance and unassuming manner.
Another player who hasn’t perhaps grabbed the headlines but is a superbly talented individual and a real team player is winger Tom Jenkinson.
Tom possesses great pace and excellent footwork, and despite his small frame is extremely strong. But it is Tom’s mental toughness and attitude that has impressed me most. He is akin to a terrier, never knowing when to give up the chase for a seemingly lost cause and on more than one occasion this season this attitude has paid dividends for the team when Tom has chased kicks down field, forcing an error from his opposite number as he hurries them into a mistake.
As a winger, returning kicks is an essential skill but Tom does this with aplomb, usually making more metres than he probably should, thus relieving the pressure from the team and putting us on the front foot from the very first tackle.
The next unsung hero of the Pirates season so far has been Jack Hakings, the multi-talented back-rower. Jack is in much the same mould as Adam Lee, quiet and unassuming but incredibly hard working, very effective and in possession of an excellent attitude towards the game.
I believe Jack is also an excellent footballer and his soccer skills have given him the foundations of a superb kicking game in rugby league which he regularly uses to great effect when relieving pressure from the Pirates or putting pressure on the opposition. As an all-round rugby league footballer Jack is a huge asset to the Pirates squad.
At 19 years old one may be forgiven for thinking that Regan Stirk ,or ‘Reg’ as he is known, may be a quiet and shy young lad. He’s not.
Brimming with confidence Reg is one of the jokers in the side, constantly winding people up with his ‘banter’ and playing it for laughs, the sort of court jester which every sports team up and down the land has within its ranks and is all the better for. However, it’s not Reg’s jokes that have impressed me this season - they haven’t impressed anyone - but his precocious talent on the field.
Despite his tender years Reg is a big, strong boy who is more than a handful for most defences, he also has an uncanny ability to break tackles; not only this but he has the pace to finish from way out too, demonstrated on at least two occasions on Saturday, and this makes him a threat from anywhere on the pitch.
Lastly and by no means least is the enigmatic and lively character Jack Johnson. Jack is something of a law unto himself both on the field and off it, and there is certainly never a dull moment where he is concerned.
On the field though he is not one to take a backward step and is never happier than when putting in one of his trademark big hits, much to the delight of the Eastway faithful, or the Jack Johnson Appreciation Club as they are sometimes referred to, usually by Jack himself.
Obviously’ I’ve already got a fair bit to mull over for next week’s column, as the administration of the Bradford Bulls and Jamie Peacock’s international retirement came after my deadline.