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Plenty of positives as Vale of Lune look for strong second half of season

Vale of Lune’s Barry Lees takes a look back at their season so far.

‘The Vale's 2022/23 NW2 fixture list took on a different look from that of last season. Although the Vale were among the non-movers, other promotions and relegations caused the division to shift, at least geographically. With all of the Cumbrian sides out of the picture, and with the notable exception of Douglas I.O.M., the Vale became the northernmost venue in NW2. The M6 southbound has become like a second home.

Newly appointed head coach Rob Quarry, ably assisted by Dave 'The Professor' Grecic and player/coach Henry Chadwick, have brought a new energy and optimism to the squad. Whilst experienced players such as Chris Ramwell, Damon Hall and Olly Jacques continue to lead the backs, the generously-built Mike Bradshaw has come in to join co-captain Andy Powers to fortify the forwards. The combative Jack Ayrton and the brick wall of Wallbanks continue to provide the forward power and Billy Swarbrick's distribution brings it all together with composed efficiency.

New faces in the squad have brought new possibilities. Teenagers: Louis Evans, Jack Batty, Sam Peters, James Bonia and Isaac Quarry have all made their mark and their selection for the first team has been not only justified by performances, but appreciated by the supporters who have taken them to their hearts. 

The first two league matches brought scant benefit to the Vale's league position. However, the next two showed the resolve and determination of the squad. Wins against Broughton Park and Douglas on the Isle of Man took the Vale up the league table. The pattern of two losses then two wins has continued. Whereas the win against Winnington Park may have been expected, the win against the higher placed Rochdale was against the run of previous results.

The Vale's second and third teams continue to return impressive wins. The players also provide reserve contingency for the first team. Injuries cannot be predicted but the Vale has the strength and depth to remain competitive and maintain the performance level expected. The list of casualties, including Alex Briggs, Matt Mount, Owen Branford and co-captain Harry Fellows, gives cause for concern. However, the Vale continues to fulfil fixtures without compromise due to the supporting teams willingness to step up when called upon. This club ethos does not come into existence overnight. There are ten teams in the Mini/Junior and Colt sections of the Vale, currently putting over two hundred youngsters on a pitch in a Vale shirt from the age of six. It is no accident that over half of the present first team squad have come through the youth Rugby structure at the Vale of Lune.

Since the Vale's Rugby League cousins, Heysham Atoms, have come to play their home games at Powder House Lane, the cross-over of seasons has also enabled players to broaden their skills across the codes. Atoms' Dan Helme and Jonny Silverwood have strengthened the Vale's back line, whilst several Vale players have turned out for the Atoms in preparation for the RU season. Whilst remaining separate clubs, there is clear evidence that the bringing together of the two rugby codes has been to the benefit of both.

As mid-season approaches, the Vale sit mid-table, poised to consolidate whilst ready to snatch points from opportunities of their own creation. Hopefully, the injured players can return to do what they do best and push for higher league positions.’

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