DONCASTER Knights are close to completing their squad for the coming season with only two more names to be announced to make up the 27 man squad.
The most recent announcement, which gave us all great pleasure, was the return of prop Tom Davies, who left us a year ago to join Cardiff Blues in the Magners League, but is back at his home club to complete his studies.
Tom played though a number of the age groups at the club and, whilst we were all delighted when he got the opportunity to test himself at a higher level, we are equally pleased that he has decided to return to his roots.
It has been an interesting past five years in terms of the demographics of the Knights’ squad.
When we first reached the second tier of English rugby we had five or six Welshmen in the squad, understandably perhaps when our Directors of Rugby were either from Wales or had played in that country. Then, last season, they all left for various reasons and all of a sudden we had five Scotsmen. Now, we will only have one Welshman (Tom) and one Scotsman (Dougie Flockhart) but we will have five Irishmen – Zac Farivarz (who was with us last season) and newcomers winger Michael Keating, full-back David Mcilwaine, prop Royce Burke-Flynn and No 8 Michael Noone. Those of you who have watched the Heineken Cup games recently will have seen the strength of the Irish provinces with Leinster ending up deserved winners and both Ulster and Munster reaching the quarter-finals.
Throw in to the mix the Tongan and Fijian players we have had and you can see what a cosmopolitan group Knights’ squad has become.
Whilst some of our older members are unhappy about this move away from local talent (my old friends Peter Waddington and Peter Penny in particular), I recall that when I first came to Doncaster in 1966 we relied heavily on players posted to RAF Finningley and RAF Lindholme.
More recently, the side that won the Yorkshire Shield in 1979 had six “imports” so to speak.
As a club we are very conscious of the need to retain home grown talent but, unfortunately, we will always lose the likes of Michael Cusack and Lewis Thiede when the opportunity to play at the higher level arises.
However, we are again looking at ways of strengthening our links with our younger players and I should be able to give more details about this over the summer months.