Bristol Sonics veteran Wes Rodgers wants to end his playing career on a high – with a shock Tetley’s Challenge Cup win over his first ever club, Hull Dockers.
The East Hull-born utility forward and former Hull Kingston Rovers Academy player announced his retirement at the end of the 2013 season, but has decided to lace up the boots for one final time against his first junior Rugby League club.
Naturally, he wants to end on a high by helping the Sonics to their first ever Tetley’s Challenge Cup win, in their first encounter with a National Conference League Premier outfit.
Wes Rodgers said: “As soon as the balls came out of the bag and I saw we’d been draw away at Hull Dockers, I decided I’d make myself available to play one last time. It was just too tempting. I still have loads of friends up in East Hull, and the Dockers are a great club. I know they’ll make us all very welcome – their hospitality is legendary.
“Playing there will bring back a lot of memories. I’d love to finish on a high by helping the Sonics to upset the odds. They’re a great side so it will be very tough, but we know that on our day we can cause anyone problems. There’s been a buzz in training for the last few weeks. All the players know what a big deal it is playing in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup, against one of the oldest and best-known amateur sides in the country. I can’t wait.”
The Sonics will go into Saturday’s game as underdogs, having lost their two previous Tetley’s Challenge Cup ties, to Leeds Met University and Eccles & Salford respectively. Hull Dockers, who play in the top division of the elite National Conference League, will offer Bristol their biggest on-field challenge to date.
Bristol Sonics captain Dom Swann said: “We’re expecting a very tough match, possibly in difficult conditions. This is what we all play for, though – to test ourselves against the very best. If we upset the odds and win, it would be the best result in the club’s history. We’re heading up there with a do or die attitude – nothing will be left in the changing rooms. If that’s not good enough, so be it, but we’re going to give it our best shot.”
Saturday’s game will be the Sonics first under new Head Coach Jason Talbot. He’s looking forward to taking charge of Bristol for the first time. He said: “We’ve not had much time to prepare, as this is way out of our season, but it’s the same for Hull Dockers. Both sides may be a little bit rusty, and ultimately it will come down to who defends and controls the ball better. They’re a strong, skilful side, with bags of experience. To be honest we couldn’t have got a tougher draw. It’s a great opportunity, though. We’re representing Conference League South, and we have aspirations to play at the same level as teams like Dockers. This is our chance to show just what we can do.”
Talbot has named a 17-man squad featuring a blend of youth and experience, with Sonics’ standout forward of 2013 Jake Robertson fit to feature after an off-season blighted by injury. There are also spots for talented youngsters Freddie Blanks, Lee Bartlett and Jack Binks, alongside Sonics veterans Joe Singleton and Tristan Moore. Former Sonics star Marcus Brooker, who recently joined Championship 1 side Oxford RLFC from Gloucestershire All Golds, will be an interested spectator, having decided to join his former teammates on the coach to Hull.
Bristol Sonics face Hull Dockers at The Willows Sports & Social Club, Hull, on Saturday 1st February, kick-off 2pm.
Bristol Sonics squad (v Hull Dockers, 1//13): Duane West (captain), Freddie Blanks, Mike Gaston, Tom Verber, Jonny Wheeler, Alex Potts, Dom Swann (captain), Wes Rodgers, Matt Williams, Jake Robertson, Jack Binks, Joe Singleton, Rob Verber, Lee Bartlett, Wijnand Womhoudt, Jack Spooner.