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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Shape up or ship out

GREAT Britain do it, the top Aussies do it, Barrow did it, now Whitehaven are going to have a go – that’s wrestling.

Not necessarily Cumberland & Westmorland style.

And when Whitehaven’s refreshed players resume training on Saturday week some of them might not fully appreciate what they’re in for.

Because Haven’s new Barrovian head coach will show he has a lot more about him than being a football purist, that expansive rugby doesn’t equate to an easy ride in preparation or training.

Paul Crarey clearly has a tough side to his nature, I detect already it will be a case of shape up, or ship out. “It’s what you do in training and performance that matters most to me, more so than reputations,” he says.

Crarey promises intensive training, and wrestling will play a part in making his Haven side fit for purpose come 2008.

“What wrestling does is give players physical contact without knocking lumps out of each other and at the same time it definitely improves tackling technique. All the big clubs have started using it and it was one of the first things I introduced when took over at Barrow two years ago.”

Besides his pledge to introduce more attractive and entertaining rugby, Crarey’s aim is to make Whitehaven fitter and more athletic – he doesn’t want forwards who look more like body builders!

And this is his simple message: “If you are not fit and you don’t make the times, then you don’t play. We have a test.”

What the coach really means to say is that Paul Taylor has a test. It’s fair to say that if Crarey is pleased with his new player signings so far then he’s delighted to have brought master fitness conditioner Paul Taylor from Barrow to the Recreation Ground with him. The former Cleator Moor international runner won’t ask anyone to do what he couldn’t or wouldn’t do – that often means going through the pain barrier.

With the mind almost as important as the body in modern day rugby league, Crarey is also calling in a sports psychologist Gordon Chapman, from Dalton, who by all accounts did a lot to improve mental attitude at Craven Park. In fact, P.C. attributes his influence to Barrow’s feat in pulling off last season’s surprise draw at Whitehaven.

Training at the Recreation Ground will apparently be so intense that Crarey fears that some of his new charges “will fall by the wayside” he hopes he’s proved wrong, of course, but what he does promise is that it will be different and enjoyable, all geared towards the fast, free-flowing rugby he wants to see on the field.

Who will occupy the pivotal attacking roles in Crarey’s expansive game plan, notably No.6 and 13?

Barrovian recruit Liam Finch is bound to figure somewhere among the middle backs and will 2008 be the season in which Carl Rudd really gets the freedom to realise all the rich potential he showed as a junior at Wath Brow Hornets?

I was interested to hear the view of ex-Whitehaven and Wath Brow coach Barry Smith, the subject of next week’s Sports Nostalgia: “I don’t think Haven have allowed Carl to be the player he is, if you allow him to he will make things happen, he’ll get you a score when you most need it,” says Barry.

No doubt Paul Crarey will do his utmost to capitalise on Rudd’s undoubted talents but at the same time regarding the team’s new style and who will play exactly where he says: “I don’t want to give too many secrets away at this stage.”

Welcome, meanwhile, to the latest new recruits: Paul Lancaster, another wing flyer, from Whitehaven rugby union, and county prop Ryan McDonald.

If “the Lancaster Bomber” had stayed at The Playground he might eventually have got near to equalling the prolific try scoring feats of Alan Briggs (59) and Bill Anderson (45) but instead in changing codes he intends to be hot on the heels of Calvert and Adebisi in challenging for a Haven wing spot.

His new coach has yet to see him play but Crarey says: “Everybody’s talking about him, he’s got pace to burn and I’m looking forward to developing his ability along with the rest of the good young lads we have down here.”

As for McDonald, well wasn’t he here before? Yes, of course, on a three-year deal but he never managed to don the chocolate blue and gold, pulling out because he couldn’t travel from his Leeds base. Now that he’s back in his native West Cumbria Big Mac wants to give it a real go but is he up to it?

“Ryan is determined to prove his doubters wrong and everybody deserves another chance. Some people said I wasn't up to it when I was given the Barrow job, but I turned that club round as I am going to do at Whitehaven,” vows Paul Crarey.

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