Three-quarter Ben Heaton, who missed the closing stages of the 2019 campaign through an injury sustained at work, is back to full health and raring to go as Hunslet aim to secure promotion from BetFred League 1.
The 29-year-old, who scored eleven tries in thirteen games before damaging his thumb, has signed the second year of a two-year deal and aims to be a key figure in the 2020 campaign.
Heaton, who is sponsored by Leeds Bacon Company Ltd, said: “The tendon in my thumb snapped and had to be replaced with a tendon from one of my fingers.
“My thumb was just hanging floppy but I’ve now fully recovered.
“The last few weeks of last season were frustrating. I’d been going well until the injury, in fact I’d been vying with Gareth Potts to finish the year as top try-scorer. I might just have achieved that, but the injury stopped me in my tracks.
“The worse thing was having to watch from the sidelines, unable to do anything to help as we fell away a bit towards the end of the campaign.”
He reflected: “My injury summed up our season, really. Looking back on it the template was maybe set when prop Richie Moore had to retire after the first game. That was a real blow, he set the standards for the younger forwards to follow and they were already learning a lot from him.
“Injuries continued throughout the season. They’re part and parcel of Rugby League of course but we seemed to have more than our share, plus a few suspensions, and that didn’t help our cause.
“But I didn’t have to think at all about re-signing. This is a great club and I feel that I’ve some unfinished business to complete after we missed out on promotion last season.
“I’d been at Halifax for a long time before joining Hunslet and I didn’t particularly want to leave there – but coach Gary Thornton made a massive impression on me and I’ve had no regrets whatsoever. I’m really on board with everything GT says, he’s a great coach, and I now want to make up for last season and prove a point.”
Heaton admitted: “I’ve set myself a few goals, firstly to be our top try-scorer, secondly to play in Hunslet’s every game, and thirdly for us to win every match. Those are tall orders, including the last one, but you should never go into a fixture not aiming to win it.
“I’m confident about us having the ability to do just that, having been very impressed by the young lads at pre-season training.
“GT’s brought in younger players who are rapid, sharp and strong. They’ll certainly put pressure on us senior professionals for places, and they’ll definitely be looking to make an impact in our three pre-season friendlies, against Bradford Bulls, Batley Bulldogs and Leeds Rhinos.
“It’s clear that none of the established players can stand on our laurels when it comes to being selected, and that’s exactly how it should be. The kids Gary’s brought in are looking to make names for themselves – their attitude is superb, and players are staying back after training for extra practice, whether it’s kicking, passing or whatever. No one’s tossing it off at Hunslet.
“We’ve now got a great mix of youth and experience, and the fact that we’ve a smaller squad than last year actually helps; we’re a tighter-knit group and there’s a clear hunger among the players, which is maybe even driven by the younger lads, who are bringing something different to the club, and adding extra energy. They’re nipping at the heels of the established players and keeping us on our toes, and that’s got to be good; they remind me of how I was when I was their age.
“They’ll all be seeking to make a name for themselves in the pre-season games, and there’s no doubt that our preparations are going in the right direction. We’ll certainly be targeting top spot in League 1.”
Thornton said: “Ben missed a fair chunk of the season through his injury – and it hit us.
“Thankfully he’s now back to full fitness and hopefully he’ll stay injury-free next season. It’s great to have him back; he’s a big threat for us out wide.”
Hunslet have introduced a number of attractive packages to suit all requirements and budgets, ranging from the recently-launched `Spirit of 73’ Geoff Gunney Membership (in homage to the all-time great who helped launch New Hunslet following the sale of Parkside in 1973), which costs from £5 per month, to the £50 per month Frank Watson VIP membership, which secures a season ticket, match-day hospitality and a seat at the directors’ table at an away match.
The Graham King Gold Membership, at £26 per month, secures a season ticket and other benefits, while the Mick Coyle Silver Membership (£21 per month) offers a £50 discount off a season ticket, plus benefits.
Hunslet have also pegged season tickets at 2019 prices at £120 (£70 concessions, under 16s free).
All packages can be purchased online by CLICKING HERE, by ringing 0113 271 2730, or by calling at the club’s offices at the South Leeds Stadium.