Dons leaving no stone unturned in quest for promotion

Dons head coach Gary Thornton
Dons head coach Gary Thornton

Dons head coach Gary Thornton says no stone is being left unturned in the club’s bid to regain its Championship status next season.

“We’ve taken on board the lessons we learned last season and we’ve increased our budget which has enabled me to bring in some quality players in key areas where I felt we needed to strengthen,” he said this week.

Jack Ram

Jack Ram

“Having reached the semi-final of the League One play-offs I felt that we were over-powered by Barrow at Craven Park and that is something we’ve tried to address in our recruitment by bringing in the likes of Jamie Thackray.

“Jamie had intended to retire at the end of last season but we persuaded him to play on for another year and I think he will want to go out on a high.

“We were delighted to sign Hull FC’s ‘Feka’ Paleaaesina on a two-year deal.

“He played here on dual-registration last season and he was a real influence both on and off the field.

“Having him available every week is a huge boost and along with Jamie, the returning Russ Spiers, and Charlie Martin – along with the players already here – I feel we are going to be very competitive up front.”

Veteran Makali Aizue is also looking forward to the new season.

“Makali struggled with a knee problem last season and he missed a lot of training and by his own admission wasn’t at his best,” said Thornton.

“We knew he needed a knee operation at the end of the season but fortunately the problem wasn’t as serious as we feared and he’s keen to show what he can do in what will be his benefit season.

“He made his 300th appearance playing for us last season and we’ll be doing whatever we can to help make his benefit season a success but I would think a lot of his fundraising efforts will be over in Hull having spent a lot of his career with Hull KR.

“We’ve also kept over a dozen of last year’s squad – it was always the intention to develop the younger players - and although we’ve lost a few players I would have liked to have kept, I feel the current squad is stronger than this time last year.

“The work of club physio Karl Blenkin and new strength and conditioning coach Rhys Lovegrove will hopefully reduce the number of injuries.”

He added: “Under Karl the players worked on specific areas of the body where injuries commonly occur in rugby league when they first reported back for pre-season training last month.

“The sessions were designed to prepare their bodies for the rigours of pre-season training during which Rhys has been putting them through their paces.

“They were also designed to educate the players on lifestyle and things they can do to help prevent injuries away from the club.”