Hunslet RLFC’s Phoenix Bar was packed last Tuesday (15 November 2023) as supporters met to discuss where the Club stood financially, the IMG grading and their new Coach for the 2024 season.
Out-going Press Officer Phil Hodgson received a traditional jersey for his work and said it was “an honour to have served the club” as he looked forward to handing on the press role.
CEO Neil Hampshire then took on the task of explaining the IMG Gradings and League structure.
Hunslet’s score currently puts them as a Grade C club, but this was no surprise, and with some amendments already set in motion the club should raise the score to Grade B for this time next year. These include raising the South Leeds Stadium’s capacity (by utilising the grass banks) and securing ‘primacy of tenure’. None of this can currently stop them being promoted to the Championship if the team achieves this on the field.
The club would have liked to have merged League 1 with the Championship, but this was rejected. However, there was news that Newcastle may be back in for 2024 (making League 1 nine teams strong).
It was agreed by the RFL that there would be an extra 4 ‘Loop fixtures’ giving Hunslet 20 League games.
There will also be a re-vamped 1895 Cup in which one League 1 club will pair with two Championship clubs in a round robin, and the travel allowance to play at Cornwall has been increased.
Detailing the ‘health of the club’ Neil said:
“We had our best season since 2014 last year, finishing second in the league. The play-offs were disappointing but overall it was a positive season”
“However, recruitment comes at a cost and we ran at financial loss for 2023 and this is set to continue for 2024 as costs increase. We have budgeted for this and have reserves to see us through, but running at a loss is not sustainable and as a supporter-run club we all have our part to play, therefore there will be price increases this year.”
Season Tickets for 2024 will be £130 (£80 concessions)
Match Day Tickets will be £16 (£12 concessions) and under 16s free. Tickets bought online will be cheaper.
Membership packages have risen to: Pryce £20; King £360; Watson £600; Watson Hospitality £780.
The mood in the room at this news was very positive.
It was then the turn of Head Coach Dean Muir to meet the fans and he was joined by three of his players: Jimmy Watson, in his 11th season at the club, and new signings Billy Gaylor and Toby Everett.
Dean gave an insight into his background in Rugby League and what attracted him to coaching and Hunslet:
“As a player I was never going to be fast enough to make it but I had the ‘smarts’ and that is the aspect of the game I love so coaching was the natural progression. I jumped at the opportunity to join Hunslet and am looking to building something. Ryan and ‘Burts’ have done an exceptional job on recruitment and I have been able to add to that since my arrival. We are five sessions into pre-season and I’m really pleased with how it’s going. We’ve got a group of really good people which is key to any success.
“The (job) interview was the hardest I’ve ever had, a real grilling. That demonstrated to me what the Club means to people. The Board, staff and volunteers are always on it, grafting away all the time. The players are doing the same, I’m really enjoying it.”
Attention then turned to the players, Jimmy Watson said that training three times a week was hard to get used to after 11 years of pre-season training, but he was feeling fitter and thought it was a really well balanced squad.
The average age of the squad is 24 which is young, but there is some good experience there and with teams like Oldham and Keighley spending big money it’s felt Hunslet may go under the radar a bit, but Muir thought:
“That’s OK, I’m confident we’ll be in the mix for promotion come the end of the season.”
Photo: New Coach Dean Muir takes questions from the fans
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