England calls and promotion push pleasing West Bowling

RYAN Hunkin could not be much more content right now, with reasons to be cheerful on the club and international stage.

Hunkin, who works for the Bradford Bulls Foundation, has seen a fine run of form put his West Bowling side into the promotion frame in Division One of the National Conference League.

But he missed their last game, a narrow win over lowly Milford, as he was working as assistant coach for the England Community Lions Under-17s, as they went to Marseille to take on France in two Test matches.

West Bowling teenager Lewis Magson starred for England on the tour, with the first team’s good run no doubt inspiring him.

The Bradford side have won four league games in a row to jump up to fourth in the table, just five points off the summit.

The top two go up to the Premier Division automatically, although Bowling looks likely to need a play-off to get promoted.

Hunkin said: “We’ve been changing players throughout the year thanks to things like weddings and stag dos.

“But that’s settled down now, which has probably contributed to our good run.

“Those who’ve played due to others being away have got used to the speed of the league and we’ve got young lads fighting for game time too.

“Tyler Dacosta and Joel Lincoln are in our Under-16s but have had some first-team rugby this season, and Louis Beattie and Charlie Baker have both trained with the seniors too to get that open age experience.

“Personnel has changed each week, but I think we have maintained that structure and ball discipline throughout the year.”

Talking about the promotion picture, Hunkin said: “If we can beat (fifth-placed) Ince Rose Bridge this weekend that will give us a bit of breathing space ahead of our last three games.

“If we lose a couple in a row we could drop to seventh or eighth, and that’s possible, because it’s a competitive league.

“You don’t ever tend to blow teams away, but we’ve looked after the ball well recently, which has helped us at the back end of games.

“Ince Rose away will be a massive challenge for us this weekend, as they’re a big, aggressive side, whose giant winger is the top try-scorer in the division.

“We’re aware of their threats, but just need to play to our strengths.”

Hunkin’s own strengths as a coach have been recognised, and talking about his England adventure, he said: “I helped the Under-16s Community Lions out with a trial they had at West Bowling.

“And then an old friend of mine at Stanningley, Martyn Oxbury, is leading the 17s, and asked if I could help out at a trial and now has me as his assistant coach.

“It was a fantastic experience, and another environment for the young team, a trip to France.

“We’ve got some regional games coming up against a French side in the autumn, France’s national team will come over here next year, and we’ll go back out there in 2024.”

On Magson’s involvement, Hunkin said: “Lewis has come back to Bowling from Wakefield Trinity, and he really hit the ground running out in France, winning the coaches’ player of the game award for the first Test.

“Charlie Bahan was another ex-West Bowling player out there, he’s now at Siddal.

“With Lewis, it’s even more good recognition for our club.

“We have a lot of lads on scholarships and/or playing representative rugby.”

Elsewhere in amateur rugby league, it is a big weekend for Queensbury, who take on Castleford Panthers in the Yorkshire Men’s League Plate final this morning.

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