Rugby Union

hsb  Jimmy Browne playing for Harrogate against Caldy.  (120414M1c)
hsb Jimmy Browne playing for Harrogate against Caldy. (120414M1c)

Promotion - that’s the be all and end all for Harrogate RUFC this season.

Their last-gasp relegation from National Two North last term still rests uneasy in the bellies of the players and management staff.

But rather than dwelling on the past, player-coach Mike Aspinall and team manager Graham Siswick are looking to raise the club like a phoenix from the ashes of last season.

Harrogate play their first ever game in National Three North at home to Billingham on Saturday (3pm ko).

They know it won’t be easy.

National Three North is a notoriously hard league to battle out of as there is only one automatic promotion place up for grabs. Harrogate will be up against sides like Burnage, Sandal plus old foes Kendal and Waterloo.

But with some changes in the back room and on the pitch, plus a lot of hard work, Harrogate have set their stall out to make that place their own.

“Our goal this season is to regain our place in the division above,” said Siswick.

“We can’t underestimate the task ahead. There’s only one automatic promotion spot next season and everyone will be going for it.

“We are working hard, the boys are all together. We will see when the talking stops how we will do on the field.

“But we’ve got to be looking at promotion.”

There have been a number of changes at Claro Road in the close season with coaches Ryan Peacey and Andy Rock leaving the club.

They have been replaced by Leeds Carnegie pair Andy Boyde and Rob Rawlinson.

One big change for this season is Claro Road stalwart Ed Smithies’ departure for pastures new.

The long-serving skipper who has played more than 300 games for Harrogate has accepted a job in New Zealand and goes with all the best wishes of the club he has served so well over the years.

Smithies has played at the club for 11 seasons and captained the side for the last four. He clocked his 300th game in Harrogate colours at home to Otley last year.

The captain’s armband has been taken by prop Jimmy Browne. The aforementioned Peacey won’t play this season but second rower Max Lewis rejoins, as does Rob Almond from Moortown. Back row forward Nathan Smith slots in after a season in Australia.

Harrogate were due to take on Darlington Mowden Park in a friendly on Saturday, but were left without a game after their visitors cancelled the clash.