Duane Straugheir, who has put pen to paper on the second year of a two-year deal at Hunslet, which will keep him at the South Leeds Stadium until the end of next season, is looking forward to the 2020 Betfred League 1 campaign with huge confidence, both from a personal perspective and in terms of the squad that’s being assembled by Head Coach Gary Thornton.
Straugheir, who is sponsored by Alan Stephenson and Kenny Sykes, turned 30 last September but admits to enjoying a new lease of life in the build up to the new campaign. He confessed: “As I approached 30 I started to worry a bit, I wondered whether my knees might start to go or whatever.
“But I feel great, I’ve still got the buzz, and the atmosphere in the camp is tremendous.
“I want 2020 to be the best year of my career and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be as we aim for promotion after missing out last time.”
Straugheir – universally known as `Straff’ – continued: “Age is just a number really, but with it comes maturity and experience. It’s all about how you’ve looked after your body, and how you continue to look after it.
“I feel fine physically, and I’m certainly smarter than I was ten years or more ago!
“For example when I was young I didn’t quite appreciate the benefits of playing alongside older players but now the boot’s on the other foot I value being able to help bring on younger lads.
“You put pressure on yourself as a captain and the lads look to you for guidance on the field. Gary Thornton is an excellent coach but once we’re out there he can’t do much more than pass messages on. My job’s to ensure that we do what he says, and I’m also a shoulder for them. Some lads can maybe find it easier to talk to other players than to coaches, which is only natural, and part of my role is to be there for them.
“I’ve got a great relationship with Gary, and if he says something needs doing I’ll make sure it gets done.”
“There’s a different feel about the place this year,” confided Straugheir. “It’s great to have Dom Brambani, who I played with at Sheffield, on board.
“GT’s doing a fantastic job in retaining the players he has and in bringing in others, and there’s an excellent mix of experience and youth running through the side, with plenty of senior players supporting me as captain.
“There’s a lot going on behind the scenes at Hunslet as non-executive directors Damian Irvine and Jason Peterkin continue their `due diligence’ process. We’re happy to leave off-field business to others while we continue with our own preparations.
“I’ve been here for three years now and this has been the best start to pre-season preparations I’ve experienced here.
“The team spirit is tremendous and we’re confident of making a real impact in the promotion battle. This group of players are ready to go to war for Hunslet.”
He concluded: “There’s not a massive divide, if any, between the leading teams in League 1 and those in the bottom half of the Championship. And the same can be said of sides in the lower reaches of Super League and the top half of the Championship. It makes you think when you remember that we were unlucky to lose to Championship side Halifax in last year’s Coral Challenge Cup and that, after having scraped through against us, Halifax went on to reach the semi- finals, pushing St Helens hard before eventually losing. That evenness of quality throughout the competitions can only be good for Rugby League.”
Thornton said: “Straff always leads from the front and the players look up to him.
“We really missed him when injury ruled him out of the last few weeks of last season. The importance of players can be highlighted when they’re not there, and that’s exactly what happened last season.
“I had no hesitation at all in offering him the captaincy again. He’s a great bloke to have around off the field as well, and he’ll never ask players to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.
“It’s important to have players around who can positively influence the younger lads. I’m really pleased that he’s taken the second year on his contract; it’s a massive boost for us.”
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 visiting hunsletrlfc.com, by ringing 0113 271 2730, or by calling at the club’s offices at the South Leeds Stadium.