The majority of last season's National League 3 surprise package return for St Albans Centurions on Saturday when they make their bow in the Powergen Rugby League Challenge Cup, 106 years after the competition started!
Neither of the St Albans amateur clubs who existed in the 1970s, nor the Centurions in their previous eight year lifespan, have entered the world-renowned Challenge Cup competition before but that will all change on the southern outksirts of Bradford on Saturday when the Cents take on Pennine League club Birkenshaw in a first round tie.
Most of the men in navy and gold will be familiar to fans who followed their tremendous debut season in the National League at Woollams last summer.
Coach Peter Tonkin has named a 21-man squad after training on Monday night and will trim that to 17 for the trip north. Skipper Tom Eisenhuth hopes to recover from a shoulder injury but he is included, along with fellow Aussies scrum-half Jamie Zonta and utility man Adam Cox, Albanian three-quarter Craig Gunnell, last season's arrivals from Luton Matt Thomas and Richard Smith, plus star centre Dene Miller. The youngster from Welwyn Garden City put in a performance guesting for South London at Blackheath recently that had his opponents - the star-studded Australian Legends touring team - asking about his credentials!
Forwards Jon Warner, who played a few games on loan at NL2 club London Skolars last season, John Longden, Matt Saunders and Brian Molyneux all return to action for the Cents while teenage sensation Oli Fountain could get a place on the bench.
Little is known about opponents Birkenshaw, other than that they have picked up after a bad start in the Pennine League Premier Division and are mid-table. With swathes of talented League players to chose from in and around Bradford, they should provide the Cents with a very tough mid-winter task. While St Albans are extremely unlikely to get to return to Bradford to play the cup holders and Super League champions, Bradford Bulls, nor reach in the final in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on 15 May 2004, they hope to give a good account of themselves and Hertfordshire rugby league in the heartlands of the game.
Kick off at East Bierley is 1.30pm.
Centurions squad (from):
1.Adam Cox 2.Greg Vincent 3.Matt Thomas 4.Dene Miller 5.David Bell 6.Jamie Zonta 7.Craig Gunnell 8.Scott Drewe 9.John Longden 10.Alex Murphy 11.Matt Saunders 12.Brian Stokes 13.Graham Lumley 14.Richard Smith 15.Robin Lamb 16.Brian Molyneux 17.Jon Warner 18.Tom Eisenhuth 19.Andrew Wheldon 20.Peter Williams 21.Oliver Fountain
For more info contact Gavin on 07796 442041