Ryan Duckett has paid tribute to Tom Rock, his predecessor as Otley’s director of rugby.
The 36-year-old former Bradford Bulls chief executive, who is in an interim role at Cross Green following Rock’s decision to join the RAF this month, said: “Tom has been fantastic for us and leaves the club in a good position.
“He has put some good structures in place and has brought back pride to the club, making the players feel it is special to put on an Otley shirt.
“Tom has also worked very hard to build up the relationship between the teams at the club, and that has put heart and desire back into it.
“He has also helped to bring players through, and you could see the improved strength in depth in Saturday’s Granville Clark Memorial Trophy match.
“Bradford and Bingley had a stronger, more experienced side out whereas Otley, in many areas, had an average age of 20 or 21, or even 19 at one stage in the front row in what was a mix of players from the first and second team.”
While Rock has left, Duckett is still being helped out by forwards’ coach Marl Luffman and Otley Saracens coach Steve Goodwill.
Duckett, who had two spells as a player with Otley, added: “Mark knows all the lads from Leeds and is a very good technical coach, while Steve’s work was seen on Saturday with the players coming through from the second team, which is now a lot stronger.”
As for the rest of the season, Otley may currently be fourth in SSE National League Two North, but Duckett is setting his ambition a little lower than that.
Otley only escaped relegation with literally the last play of the final match last season, and Duckett said: “Our aim is to finish in the top half of the table (eighth or better).
“There are no easy games in this division and we will keep focusing on each game.”
Otley’s next match on Saturday will be a test of their mental atttitude as it is at home to bottom-of-the-table Stockport, who have only won one of their 15 league matches so far (28-20 at home to Huddersfield on November 24).”
League points apart, the Cross Greeners will want to give second row Freddie Watson a winning send-off.
The 22-year-old has a job opportunity Down Under, and this weekend is expected to be his last game.
However, neither former Old Otliensian Tom O’Donnell nor Simon Willett are expected to play.
Meanwhile, Duckett, who is still seeking a return to full-time sports management, has confirmed that he is retiring as a player.
He said: “I have ligament damage in my left shoulder and I could not lift that arm above head height before Christmas.
“I know I won’t be able to play again this season and I have decided to hang up my boots.”
Duckett has also played for West Park Bramhope, Cleckheaton and, this season, for Ilkley before rejoining Otley.