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SONICS APPOINT NEW COACHING TEAM

Bristol Sonics have stepped up their preparations for the 2015 Conference League South season by appointing a new coaching team.

 

Former skipper Dom Swann, who stood down as captain last autumn, will work alongside former Hull KR Academy player and Sonics veteran Wes Rodgers, and experienced player/coach Lawrence Rycroft.

 

The trio, who has over 40 years of playing and coaching experience between them, has vowed to improve the first team’s fortunes following a difficult 2014 season.

 

They’ll get a first chance to work with the Sonics’ squad on Monday, February 16th, when pre-season training commences at Dings Crusaders’ Landseer Avenue ground in Lockleaze (6.45pm meet for a 7pm start).

 

Dom Swann said: “Jason Talbot did a terrific job in difficult circumstances last year, and helped bring through a group of young players. We think he’s laid the foundations for a great 2015 season, though we’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us. Conference League South will be stronger this year than ever before, so we’ll have to be at the top of our game to move up the table and compete for honours.”

 

Lawrence Rycroft, who joined the Sonics in 2013 and, like Swann, will combine playing and coaching, said: “We’ve identified areas to work on, and put together a plan that will give us the best chance of competing strongly in 2015. We think there’s the makings of a great side, based on the players who appeared regularly last year. We’re keen to get fresh blood involved, and places will be up for grabs from the first training session onwards. This is a new start, and the beginning of a new era for the Sonics.”

 

Wes Rodgers, who retired as a player at the start of 2014 after many years service to the Sonics, said: “I wasn’t around much last season but understand that it was a difficult one. When Dom and Lawrence asked me to come back and join the coaching team, I jumped at the chance. We know it will be hard work this season, but we showed back in 2012 during our Conference League Three campaign that it’s possible to build momentum as the season progresses. That’s what we’re aiming to do this season – get the players up to speed, used to the systems we want to play, and then look for gradual improvements between March and September.”

 

All three are keen to get new players involved this season, and have urged any prospective players – regardless of whether they have previous Rugby League experience – to head down to pre-season training when it begins on February 16.

 

Dom Swann said: “We’re looking for players for both first and second teams, and we’re keen to take a look at anyone who fancies giving Rugby League a go. It’s a hard, fast and rewarding sport, and we’ve got a great bunch of lads. We’ll be looking at improving the social side of things as well, so it should be a great experience.”

 

Bristol Sonics begin pre-season training on Monday 16th February at Dings Crusaders RFC, Lockleaze, Bristol (7pm start).

 


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SONICS SET FOR NEW CHALLENGES IN 2015

Bristol Sonics’ first team will face their toughest test yet when Conference League South 2015 kicks off on March 21st.

 

The Sonics, who have spent the winter rebuilding following on-field struggles in 2014, will have to get the better of more teams than ever before if they are to succeed in 2015.

 

Conference League South has been expanded from six teams to ten, with Coventry Bears ‘A’, Torfaen Tigers, Llanelli-based The Raiders RLFC and Bristol’s oldest on-field rivals, Gloucestershire Warriors, joining the competition. The latter have been promoted following a partnership agreement with Championship 1 side University of Gloucestershire All Golds, who will provide players and coaching staff,

 

While all of the new clubs will provide a stern test for the West of England’s biggest community club, it’s the chance to renew first team rivalries with Gloucestershire Warriors that’s arguably the most exciting development. Bristol Sonics’ longest serving player, stand-off Dom Swann, is certainly looking forward to facing the Warriors again.

 

Swann said: “It was the games against the Warriors that the first team always used to look forward to most, so it’s good to have them back at our level again. They’ve struggled recently, but with the addition of lots of players from the All Golds and the University they should be very strong. We’ll have to be at our best to beat them, that’s for sure.

 

“From a player’s perspective, having ten teams in the league this season is much better. It’s exciting to go face different clubs, such as the two new Welsh teams. There are four teams with very strong links to professional clubs in the league this season, too, which means the standard will be very high. It’s going to be a tough ask for us to challenge for honours, but we feel like we’re in a better place than we were this time last year.”

 

The Sonics will begin their Conference League South campaign with a home fixture against Nottingham Outlaws at Dings Crusaders’ Landseer Avenue ground on March 21. The following Saturday they travel to Oxford Cavaliers, before returning home to host 2014 Conference League South Champions Valley Cougars on April 11th.

 

The Sonics are set to announce a new coaching team and pre-season training dates next week, following the departure of Head Coach Jason Talbot, who is relocating to Milton Keynes.

 

The club is also about to embark on their biggest recruitment drive to date, in order to attract both new players and volunteers.

 

Swann, who stepped down as first team captain in December following a decade in the role, said: “We’ve got a great group of players, but we’re always looking for new faces to add to both first and second team squads. Rugby League is a terrific sport to play – exciting, fast, tough and all-action. The vast majority of our squad started out as Rugby Union players, and many still play at a good standard in the winter. You don’t need previous experience of Rugby League to give it a go, just a willingness to get stuck in.”

 

Any players interested in finding out more, or trying Rugby League in Bristol, should contact Wes Rodgers on 07730 600 721, or email wes.rodgers@bristolsonics.com

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SONICS YOUNGSTER GETS WALES CALL-UP

Bristol Sonics youngster Dieter Thomas could make his international debut on Saturday, when Wales’ Under 16s take on their English counterparts at Dyffryn Pennar Park (kick-off 2.00pm).

 

The Sonics Academy player, who impressed the Wales coaching set-up during his appearances in this summer’s Cross Border League, is the first from the club’s junior ranks to receive an international call-up.

 

Thomas takes his place in Lee Cullen’s 20-man squad for the eagerly anticipated contest alongside players linked to Super League clubs Widnes Vikings and Warrington Wolves, as well as graduates from the South Wales Regional Academy.

 

Bristol Sonics Junior Chairman Ian Waters said: “It’s fantastic to see Dieter get his chance with Wales. He’s performed brilliantly this year and if selected will do his country proud. It’s a great moment for the Sonics Academy and tops off a great season.”

 

Bristol Sonics Chairman and co-founder Phil Cole said: “Our congratulations go to Dieter on his call-up for Wales under 16s. We’ve spent a lot of time and effort over the last few years getting the Sonics Academy up and running, and it’s great to see it paying dividends. For Dieter to have a chance of taking on established players from England’s Rugby League heartlands shows how much potential there is for players from the West of England to progress. Hopefully this is the first of many similar call-ups for Sonics’ youngsters.”

 

Wales U16 squad to face England (30/8/14): Lewys Willacott (South Wales Regional Academy), Rhys Lloyd (South Wales Regional Academy), Connor Kawulok (South Wales Regional Academy), Geriant Lawrence (Warrington Wolves), Geriant Lawrence (Warrington Wolves), Jaymes Price (South Wales Regional Academy), Reece Brunt (Warrington Wolves), Nathan Ainsworth (Warrington Wolves), George Shaw (Warrington Wolves), Ryan Davies (South Wales Regional Academy), Connor Parker (South Wales Regional Academy), Aled Cockwell (South Wales Regional Academy), Dylan Reed (South Wales Regional Academy), Sion Jones (South Wales Regional Academy), Macauley Harris (South Wales Regional Academy), Jack Samuels (Penallta Storm), George Mbofana (South Wales Regional Academy), Iestyn Humphreys (Askam Sandrats), Liam Silver (Torfaen Tigers), Dieter Thomas (Bristol Sonics), Jordan Gilbert (South Wales Regional Academy).

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TWO WINS ON SUPER SONICS SATURDAY

Saturday 5th July 2014 will forever be known as Super Sonics Saturday, as Bristol Sonics’ celebrated the club’s first festival of Rugby League by recording two vital wins.

 

The Sonics first team grabbed their first win of a difficult Conference League South season, ending an eight-match losing streak with an impressive 46-18 win over Oxford Cavaliers.

 

Previously, Sonics’ seconds had put in a gusty backs-against-the-wall performance to squeeze out Swindon St George 20-18 to record back-to-back wins in the West of England League for the first time this season.

 

With a bumper crowd cheering on the home sides, and junior academy training sessions kick-starting a memorable afternoon, it provided a perfect send-off for Sonics stalwart Aran Simm, who leaves for a new life down under later this week. “Simmo” was able to play a big part in the day, pulling on a shirt to put in a shift for the second team, as they held on to a slender two-point lead for the last 25 minutes of a nerve-shredding contest with Swindon.

 

The day’s big news, though, was the first team’s win over Oxford, who have been struggling in recent weeks and turned up one player short. The Cavaliers put in an admirable and gutsy display, and at no point took a backward step despite their struggles. They may have tired badly in the closing stages, but they gave as good as they got for 65 minutes.

 

From the start, it looked like being Bristol’s day. A mistake from Oxford 30 metres from their own line 3 minutes in gave the Sonics a scrum in a promising position. Loose forward Will Tobin scooped the ball up from the base of the scrum, scooted left and had enough juice to outrun the visitors’ defence and cross over for the opening try of the game.

 

Having started well, the Sonics began reverting to type. A string of penalties and mistakes early in the tackle count resulted in long periods of Oxford pressure. The Cavaliers blew a number of good positions, and the Sonics’ inability to keep hold of the ball while exiting their own 20 meant that the Cavaliers, attacking with as much gusto as they could muster, would cross the whitewash at some point.

 

There was therefore a grim inevitability about the way hooker Wes Newton picked through the home side’s goal line defence with depressing ease on 15 minutes, with Any Winfield’s conversion putting the Cavaliers ahead.

 

Three minutes later, with the Sonics once again camped in their own 20, Newton repeated the trick, crossing for a second try that was once again converted by Winfield.

 

Things weren’t going to plan for the Sonics, but on 26 minutes they finally began to click into gear. After squandering a good attacking position, the Sonics got the ball back 40 metres out and set about putting Oxford under pressure. A few tackles later, prop forward Tony Harvey surged through on the left and touched down. Sadly, full-back Michael Harrison couldn’t convert.

 

Six minutes later, the Sonics took the lead, and this time Harrison was the instigator. Spotting Oxford’s full-back standing deep, he put in a beautiful chip kick which was collected on the bounce by centre Mike Gaston. He managed to find Harrison with a delicious offload, and the British Army player sprinted away to touch down. He converted his own try to put Bristol 16-12 ahead.

 

Many in the crowd thought that Oxford would crumble, but to their credit the Cavaliers hit back hard. On the stroke of half time Wes Newton completed a brilliant hat-trick of tries – once again converted by Winfield – to put the visitors 18-16 up at the break.

 

A few stern words from coach Jason Talbot at half time had the desired effect, and the Sonics were a team transformed in the second half. Their line-speed was much better, their defence tighter, and their attack much more pleasing on the eye. As Oxford tired, Bristol took control of the game, slowly stretching their lead before piling on the points in the closing stages.

 

After four minutes of the second period the Sonics regained the lead, second-rower Dan Harvey – brother of prop Tony – somehow found enough strength to barge over from close range, with Harrison converting. Six minutes later Harvey crossed again from an almost identical position, putting the Sonics in a strong position at 26-18 with 50 minutes gone.

 

By now, the Sonics were punching holes in the tiring Oxford defence when they attacked, and easily wrapping up the Caveliers’ attackers when they had the ball. That said, Bristol were still prone to errors, and hooker Mitch Spencer’s reaction to having a try ruled out for a double movement ended with him being sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes.

 

It made little difference to the outcome, though, with the Sonics scoring four tries in the final 12 minutes. Harrison was again in the thick of the action, with his ugly offload giving winger Ryan Goodman the chance to force his way over in the right corner.

 

A few minutes later centre Shaun Allen scorched away from halfway for what looked like an inevitable score, but Oxford’s full-back brilliantly hauled him down inches from the line. With the Cavaliers defence still back-peddling, there was space for Bristol skipper Joe Singleton to scoop up the ball from acting half and dive over for a try underneath the posts. Harrison added the easy conversion.

 

With five minutes to go, Harrison broke clear and ran 45 metres to touch down between the posts – converting himself – before winger Jack Farler finished off a sweeping passing move to complete the scoring seconds from full-time.

 

It was a much-needed win given the side’s struggles this season, and naturally Head Coach Jason Talbot was delighted with the victory. He said: “We’ve been improving week on week, and today things finally went right for us. We did some good things in the first half, but our completion rate was poor and our goal-line defence left a lot to be desired. We addressed these concerns at half time and put in a much better second half performance. We shouldn’t get too carried away as we were playing a depleted side, but the way we kept them scoreless in the second half and scored plenty of points shows that we’ve turned the corner. Hopefully we can build on this over coming weeks, starting with next Saturday’s home game against Leicester.”

 

Earlier, Bristol Sonics ‘A’ provided home fans with plenty to cheer by holding off a late rally from Swindon St George to win 20-18 in the West of England League.

 

The Sonics started poorly, and were 12-0 down within as many minutes thanks to tries from Swindon’s Liam Rowe and Sam Argent, both converted by Gwyn Jenkins.

 

Slowly and surely the Sonics clawed their way back into the game, with half-back Rob Bell crossing from close range to register their first points of the afternoon. He converted his own try to put Bristol within six points of the visitors after 17 minutes.

 

Five minutes later the Sonics reduced the arrears further, veteran Johan Schoeman touching down in the corner after being released by winger Jordan Selig. Bell couldn’t convert, but it felt like Bristol had the wind in their sails.

 

Unfortunately, some handling errors and a string of penalties allowed Swindon a chance to hit back. From the position gained by a Bristol knock-on close to their line – admittedly under pressure from three Swindon attackers who looked to be offside – Gwyn Jenkins scooted over for a converted try the visitors a 10-point lead.

 

With seven minutes to go until half time, Rob Bell showed a great turn of speed to sprint away and touch down, with his conversion putting the Sonics 14-18 down at the break.

 

The second half was something of an arm wrestle, with defences dominating and both sides scrapping for the win. It took 15 minutes for the next score to come. In the end, it turned out to be decisive. Player/coach Tristan Moore, returning to the side after a number of weeks out, ran a perfect line to open up Swindon’s defence and touch down wide on the left. With Rob Bell off injured, it was left to hooker Harry Brooker to calmly add the extras and give Bristol a vital two-point lead.

 

As the game progressed and no further scores were added, tempers began to fray. Both sides just about managed to keep their cool. Swindon, though, blew a great opportunity to win it in the dying seconds, dropping the ball with the line begging. As it was, the Sonics held on for a vital win to send “Simmo” off to Australia a happy man.

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GET READY FOR SUPER SONICS SATURDAY!

All four Bristol Sonics’ teams will be in action on the same day for the first time in the side’s history this Saturday (July 5th), as the club hosts the city’s first ever festival of Rugby League.

 

Super Sonics Saturday will take place on Saturday July 5th at Dings Crusaders’ Landseer Avenue Ground in Lockleaze, Bristol.

 

From 11.30am, sports fans will be able to take in no less than four games, with the club’s Under 14 and Under 16 Academy teams, adult second team, and adult first team all in action.

 

Entry for Super Sonics Saturday will be free all day, and fans will be able to quench their thirst and satisfy their appetite thanks to a bar and food. The club will also be holding a raffle, with exclusive Rugby League themed prizes including signed international shirts, match tickets and Sonics branded merchandise.

 

Special edition matchday programmes, featuring articles about the club and Rugby League in Bristol, will also be available.

 

The action begins at 11.30am with the Sonics Academy U14s and U16s simultaneously in action across two pitches. The Under 14s, who last weekend claimed a memorable 44-28 win away at Swansea Valley Rhinos, face Leicester Storm from the Midlands.

 

At 1pm, Bristol Sonics ‘A’ – the club’s second adult side – will be looking to continue their good run of form when they face local rivals Swindon St George in the West of England League.

 

The highlight of the day will then follow at 3pm, as the Sonics’ first team take on Oxford Cavaliers in Conference League South, one of the UK’s leading elite amateur Rugby League competitions.

 

Bristol Sonics Chairman Phil Cole said: “We’re all really excited about the prospect of hosting Bristol’s first Rugby League festival on July 5th. It means a lot to be able to have all of the club’s teams playing on the same day. Supporters can watch the future of the club in the shape of our under 14 and under 16 teams, and watch our adult sides battling it out with local rivals. The bar will be open and entry is free, so there’s no better chance to come and watch some Rugby League in Bristol, whether you’re a confirmed fan or an interested newcomer.”

 

For more details on Sonics Super Saturday, fans can visit www.bristolsonics.com, or connect with the club on Twitter via www.twitter.com/BristolSonicsRL

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TALBOT: SONICS “HEADING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION”

Bristol Sonics’ Head Coach Jason Talbot believes his side is “heading in the right direction”, despite a disappointing start to the season.

 

The Sonics are rooted to the bottom of Conference League South following a trio of heavy defeats, but Talbot remains convinced that his side will be in the play-off picture at the end of the season.

 

Talbot, who took over coaching duties at the Sonics in January, said: “We’ve had a tough start to the season, but we’re heading in the right direction. In each game we’ve had decent spells, we just need to play better for longer periods. With so many personnel changes over the close season, this team is still a work in progress. We’ve barely trained together as a squad due to a number of factors, but over the last couple of weeks numbers have improved and the commitment is impressive. It will still take time to get where we want to be, but the signs are good.”

 

This Saturday, (May 31st) the Sonics travel to the East Midlands to face old foes Leicester Storm. The Storm has enjoyed a mixed start to the season, but should prove a stern test for the struggling Sonics.

 

Last season, the Sonics twice came from behind to claim dramatic, last-gasp victories in Leicester, and captain Dom Swann would love a repeat performance. He said: “In both of those matches last year we struggled for long periods, but we had enough desire and belief to hang in the game and take our chances when they came. We may need a similar sort of backs-against-the-wall performance on Saturday to defeat what I hear is a big, strong Leicester side. We could do with getting a win sooner rather than later, and Saturday would be a great time to notch up our first points of the season”.

 

Bristol Sonics A, the club’s second team, will also be looking to notch up their first win of the season when they host Oxford Cavaliers A at Dings Crusaders’ Landseer Avenue ground (K.O 2.30pm, free entry).

 

The Sonics’ second string, which features a number of young players from the club’s Academy set-up, produced a stirring second half comeback in their first game of the campaign a fortnight ago. Although they lost 70-50 at local rivals Gloucestershire Warriors, there were many promising signs for coach Tristan Moore.

 

He said: “We struggled a bit to begin with at Gloucester, but we were excellent in the second half. We trailed 38-8 at half-time, so to score 42 points in the second half was a tremendous achievement. Many sides would have folded, but the lads dug in and showed what we can do. We’ll be looking to tighten up defensively this weekend and hopefully that will be enough to put us on the road to a first win of the season.”

 

In a big weekend for the Sonics, the club’s Under-16 Academy Side will also play their first match of the season. They travel to Cheltenham to face Old Patesians on Sunday.

 

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JUNIOR RL RETURNS TO BRISTOL THIS SUNDAY

Junior Rugby League returns to Bristol this weekend, with the first of a series of regular training sessions for U14 and U16 players at Dings Crusaders RFC.

 

The popular Bristol Sonics Academy, run by the city’s Rugby League club, will offer training sessions and matches for junior players throughout May, June and July.

 

Training sessions take place at Landseer Avenue, home of Dings Crusaders RFC and Bristol Sonics RLFC, on Sunday mornings (10:30) and Wednesday nights (18:30), starting on Sunday 11th May and Wednesday 14 May respectively. Matches will take place on Sunday mornings, with the fixture list for the season due to be published on the Bristol Sonics website within the next couple of weeks.

 

Players between 12 and 16 years of age are welcome, regardless of previous Rugby League experience. Coaching will come from qualified, accredited, CRB-checked coaches, including a number of Bristol Sonics first team players.

 

Enrolling in Bristol Sonics Academy costs £20 for the season. All players get an exclusive Sonics Academy t-shirt when they pay their membership.

 

Bristol Sonics have seen an upsurge in interest in their Academy programme following October’s Rugby League World Cup 2013 match at the Memorial Stadium. It’s hoped that this year’s Junior Rugby League program will be the best yet.

 

A number of last year’s under-16 players have already made their open-age debuts for the Sonics, with Jack Farler appearing for the first team in their season-opener against Sheffield-Hallam Eagles a fortnight ago. Another Sonics Academy graduate, Morgan Rees, is in line to make his debut against Nottingham Outlaws this Saturday (Dings Crusaders RFC, kick-off 2.30pm).

 

Bristol Sonics Junior Chairman, Ian ‘Muddy’ Waters, said: “We’re really excited about this year’s Bristol Sonics Academy. Offering opportunities for youngsters to get a taste of Rugby League is of huge importance to the club. Rugby League is an exciting, all-action game where you’re involved in the action almost non-stop. It’s a great game to play, and any interested juniors are encouraged to come down on Sunday or Wednesday and give it a go.”

 

Bristol Sonics’ Club Captain Dom Swann said: “The Bristol Sonics Academy is the future of the club. We’ve already seen a number of players come through our junior ranks and play for the first team. In future, we’d love to be able to field an adult team entirely of former Academy players. The earlier you start playing the game, the more you can get out of it. I didn’t have a chance to play League as a junior where I lived, so it’s great that youngsters in Bristol are getting a chance to give it a go.”

 

For more information about Bristol Sonics Academy, prospective players and parents should check out www.bristolsonics.com or contact Ian ‘Muddy’ Waters on 07787 436158.

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SONICS TO MAKE LANDSEER AVENUE HOME

Bristol Sonics have agreed a deal with Dings Crusaders RFC which will see the latter’s Landseer Avenue ground in Lockleaze become the home of Rugby League in the city for the foreseeable future.

 

All open age and junior training sessions and matches will be held at the ground, starting immediately. Training sessions for the club’s two open age teams will take place on Tuesday and Thursday nights (6.45pm for a 7pm start), beginning today, 22nd April.

 

In addition, the Sonics will work with Dings Crusaders to make Landseer Avenue the focal point of Rugby League in Bristol. This will include hosting regular social events at the ground, increasing branding and working to raise awareness of the sport in the city and the important role the ground plays in the Sonics’ activities.

 

Bristol Sonics Chairman Phil Cole said he was delighted that agreement had been reached to make Landseer Avenue the Sonics’ home base. He said: “We’re thrilled that a deal has been agreed that will see the Sonics calling Landseer Avenue home for the foreseeable future. We have nothing but admiration for Steve Lloyd and all at Dings Crusaders for the way in which they’ve made the Sonics welcome on the previous times we’ve used the ground. We’re positive that securing a lengthy deal to make Landseer Avenue our base will help us push Rugby League forward in the city, following the massive boost given to the game following Bristol’s successful hosting of a 2013 Rugby League World Cup fixture last October.”

 

Bristol Sonics’ Club Captain, Dom Swann, said: “The players enjoyed the experience of playing at Landseer Avenue last season. The place feels like home and we’re positive that we can make it a “fortress”. The ground is easily accessible and has great facilities, so hopefully we can use this to build interest and get more fans supporting us on match days. We’re looking forward to kicking off the season this weekend at our new permanent home.”

 

Bristol Sonics’ first team begin their 2014 Conference League South campaign this Saturday at Landseer Avenue, with a difficult game against 2013 champions and 2014 title favourites Sheffield Hallam Eagles (kick-off 2.30pm).

 

Junior Rugby League will return to Landseer Avenue from Sunday May 11th, with regular training sessions and matches at both Under 14 and Under 16 level. More details will be announced in due course.

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COACH KEEN TO WELCOME NEW PLAYERS

Bristol Sonics’ Head Coach Jason Talbot has confirmed that the club is looking for new players for the 2014 Rugby League season, which begins in April.

The Sonics begin pre-season training on Wednesday 26th February, and Talbot is keen to welcome new faces.

Training sessions will take place weekly on Wednesday nights (7-8:30pm) at Dings Crusaders RFC in Lockleaze. Talbot is keen to stress that places in both the first and second team squads are always up for grabs.

I want to make it clear that all of our sides are picked on merit,” the Dewsbury-born coach said. “If you commit to coming down to training and want to play Rugby League, regardless of whether you’ve played the sport before, you’ll be considered for selection and will almost certainly get a game. There’s a difference in standard between the first and second teams, but many of our first team regulars started out in the second team and progressed to the firsts. If you’re good enough and willing to learn, we’d love to have you on board.”

The Sonics run two open-age adult teams. The club’s first team plays in the elite Conference League South competition, while the seconds play in the more social West of Englnad League.

We’re looking for players of all abilities,” Talbot said. “If you take your rugby seriously and want to progress, we can offer a high standard with our first team. We have players who come from good quality amateur and semi-professional rugby union clubs, players brought up on League, students and keen youngsters. Some of our other players hadn’t played much rugby of either code at all until they came to us, but have worked hard and are now first team regulars. If that standard’s too high for you but you want to give it a go, our second team players and coaches will make you very welcome.

Whatever your motivation, we’d love to see you at training.”

Sonics’ captain Dom Swann, who has been with the club since its first season in 2003, echoed Talbot’s sentiments. He said: “Rugby League is a terrific sport to play – it’s all action, with big hits, but the basics are easy to learn. Many of us started playing union, so if you’ve played that code you should be able to pick up League pretty easily. If you haven’t, you can still make the grade. If you’ve ever watched Super League on Sky or the Challenge Cup on the BBC and thought ‘I’d like to give that a go’, I’d encourage you to come down to training and see for yourself.”

Bristol Sonics will be training weekly on Wednesday nights at Dings Crusaders RFC, Landseer Avenue, Lockleaze, Bristol, BS7 9YS (see map below) from 26th February. Sessions, which last an hour and a half, begin at 7pm.

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WES WANTS ONE MORE WIN

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.