Loan laws rule out Wharfedale hooker Luke Cole

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Luke Cole, pictured carrying the ball, has been an unfortunate victim of the loan system Luke Cole, pictured carrying the ball, has been an unfortunate victim of the loan system

Wharfedale coach Jon Feeley has praised the patience of young hooker Luke Cole after he was again ruled out of the squad for Saturday’s SSE National League One trip to Henley.

Cole has been kept out by the regulation which restricts each club to just four loan players in their match-day squad.

Wharfedale’s injury problems have meant that Cole’s fellow Leeds loanees, prop Jake Armstrong, scrum half Matt Dudman, centre Jason Georgiou and flanker Jack Barnard fill the four loan spots, and Feeley understands the frustration that Cole, who scored two tries for the Foresters last week, must feel.

“Luke is really unlucky,” he said. “He started the season as first choice but then had eight weeks off after having surgery on a double hernia.

“When he returned, we pressed him into action at Coventry as we were short of hookers, but since then both Ian Larkin and Dan Stockdale have returned to full fitness.

“While it is fortunate that we have three excellent hookers, that doesn’t make the situation any easier for Luke. It certainly isn’t his form or attitude in training that is the problem. It is just the ruling over loanees.

“It is to Luke’s credit that he accepts the situation, and though he could go back and train with Leeds, he wants to be part of things at Wharfedale.

“Like all the loanees, he has bought into our ethos, and it has been great for me as a coach to work with players who are so committed to our cause.”

Last Saturday 36-28 defeat by Richmond, their fifth in a row at home, was described by Feeley as the most disappointing of his side’s losses.

He said: “There were areas we got so right and yet others where we let ourselves down.

“It was no coincidence that we performed better with our experienced player back on the field, but I felt we tried too hard to get the win.

“Richmond were there for the taking in the second half but we were too anxious to win and took some poor options.”

During the match, fly half Tom Barrett set a new club record for points in a season. He took his tally to 288 to beat the previous best set by Jonathan Davies in 2001-2002.

His performances have led to him securing a contract to play for Greene King IPA Championship club Rotherham Titans next season.

“We wish Tom all success with his new club and thank him for his exceptional contribution. He will always be welcome at The Avenue,” said Feeley.

With Phil Woodhead sidelined with an Achilles injury that could curtail his season, Wharfedale have selected an unchanged side for the trip to Henley – one of five away excursions in their final seven games.

Wharfedale, who have won just two of their last seven matches, also face games at Old Albanians, Doncaster Knights, Worthing Raiders and Cinderford, as they look to stabilise their league position.

Saturday’s opponents Henley are scrapping for National League One survival, so they will present a real test for Wharfedale.

“It won’t be easy,” said Feeley. “They beat Doncaster on their home pitch, and anybody who can do that has to be respected.”

Henley Hawks were first promoted into National One in 2002-03, when they went straight through to the Championship as runners-up.

Two seasons in that company was enough for them, followed by two more seasons back with Wharfedale before their relegation again in 2007-08.

Henley Hawks got their first season back at level three underway with a stunning 51-17 victory over Tynedale and, despite losing at The Avenue in November by 39-24, their home form kept them in mid-table until December.

Since then, like Wharfedale themselves, they have been suffering with injuries, and have won only once, against Hull Ionians.

And, again like Wharfedale, their home form has deserted them, losing their last five home matches.

Henley are second from bottom and will feel that unless they can win against Wharfedale, their first season back in National One is likely to finish with their relegation.

Otley will be without prop Paul Hill at Stourbridge in SSE National League Two North as he is on the bench tomorrow night for England under-20s against Wales at Kingston Park, Newcastle.

Wharfedale: Christian Georgiou; Scott Jordan, Joe Donkin, Tom Davidson, Josh Prell; Tom Barrett, Matt Dudman; Chris Steel (captain), Ian Larkin, Jake Armstrong, Richard Brown, Richard Rhodes, Jack Barnard, Aaron Myers, Rob Baldwin. Replacements: Adam Howard, Dan Stockdale, Josh Burridge, Alex Powell, Nick Taylor.

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