Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting IGNEWS to 80360, or email
Ilkley have a decent shot at going up - head coach Rhys Morgan
Lowly Heath may have notched one of the shock results of the SSE Yorkshire Division One season before Christmas with their 23-20 victory at leaders Driffield.
Small wonder then that Ilkley’s head coach Rhys Morgan is not discounting fourth-placed Wath-upon-Dearne or fifth-placed York in the shake-up for promotion.
However, Morgan reckons, on the balance of probability, that the champions and the runners-up, who go into a play-off, will come from the top three clubs, which are currently Huddersfield YMCA, Driffield and Ilkley.
He said: “Things can change quickly if you go four or five games without a win while other clubs are picking up five points each time.
“Teams can sneak up on your blindside like Keighley did last year.
“They were nowhere at Christmas, yet went on a run to get that second play-off place when it seemed nailed on for Driffield or Malton & Norton.
“But I think the top two places this season will come from Huddersfield YMCA, Driffield and ourselves, and we have every chance of being promoted.”
Having already played YMCA and Driffield away but not at home, a lot of Ilkley’s fate will rest in their form at Stacks Field.
Seven of Ilkley’s final 12 games are at home, including three of the next four matches, starting with Driffield on Saturday.
Morgan, who is finding life less hectic now that Ollie Renton has come on board as forwards’ coach, is hoping that Stuart Vincent can make a return on Saturday.
Head coach Morgan said: “Stuart pulled a hamstring, then tried to come back too soon and tweaked it again.
“I haven’t been in touch with him, other than to exchange festive greetings, but it would be a great boost for the new year if he were to turn up at training tonight and declare himself fit.”
Morgan is already feeling the benefits of having Renton on board as a coach, in addition to Simon Smith.
He said: “I have been doing my Level Three coaching, which involves assessments, and Ollie’s appointment means I don’t have to try and run a training session for 35 lads by myself and do things like pick up all the tackle pads etc.
“Ollie’s enthusiasm is infectious – he is the right man for the job – and if we can’t train outdoors then Ollie is the kind of person who says ‘We’ll go and do some road work’ rather than us just sitting back and calling it a day.
“He is also quick to remind me that Ilkley have only lost once this season while he has been play-ing!”
With the retirement of Ryan Duckett (injured) and Tulie Makaafi also set to depart next month, there is scope for Ilkley to add to their back three.
“We need more strength in depth there,” admitted Morgan ahead of a crucial second half of the season.