Write us off at your peril! Incoming League 1 champions Dewsbury Rams ready to mix it in the Championship again, roars new head coach Dale Ferguson

They may be the long-shot outsiders with the bookmakers to cause an almighty shock in their first season back to the Championship, but it is a status which doesn’t bother those associated with Dewsbury Rams according to new head coach Dale Ferguson.
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The Rams bounced straight back into the second tier, following their relegation in 2022, thanks to a wonderful League 1 campaign in which they only lost on two occasions.

However, two disappointing performances in the 1895 Cup group stage against Keighley Cougars and Bradford Bulls, as well as exiting the Challenge Cup at the hands of York Knights, suggests 2024 could prove to be a tricky year.

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Some tipsters are even offering 150/1 for Dewsbury to win the Grand Final.

Dewsbury Rams' head coach Dale Ferguson. Photo credit Thomas Fynn.Dewsbury Rams' head coach Dale Ferguson. Photo credit Thomas Fynn.
Dewsbury Rams' head coach Dale Ferguson. Photo credit Thomas Fynn.

But Ferguson, who has taken over from Liam Finn for his first ever coaching role, admitted: “I thrive under these conditions and I have done throughout my whole career. I have come through at Wakefield and then Bradford when they were facing relegation.

“A lot of teams I have played for have always been the underdogs. Even at international level with Scotland when we have played against the top four.

“But who doesn’t love a good underdog story? I have just liked to prove people wrong throughout my whole career and that’s what I hope to do this year at Dewsbury in my first year in coaching.”

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And at his disposal is a squad which has a seemingly good blend of youth and experience, with 24-year-old Jimmy Beckett, the departing Finn’s player of the year in 2023, leading the side and 42-year-old Paul Sykes into his 26th season of rugby league.

But Ferguson believes this could be the campaign where youngster Bailey O’Connor, 21, who only signed from amateur side Lock Lane ARLFC before last season, shines as a full-back, centre or even half-back.

Ferguson said: “I didn’t really change too much in regards to last year as I wanted to keep most of the squad as I thought it was going to be a strength moving forward that we had a year’s practice coming to Championship.

“It made pre-season a lot easier and bringing in a few people to smarten us up a little bit with some good young talent has kept some people on their toes in training.

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“I think it has worked, although the first two games (against Keighley and Bradford) didn’t go as we wanted them to. However, it didn’t panic me because it wasn’t anything like the characteristics that we showed all the way through last year or through pre-season. I didn’t stress and the first glimpse of what we can produce was the York game in the Challenge Cup. I was really positive even though it was a loss. We competed really well and I am happy with where we are at.

“The main goal has been cementing a solid spine and then adding to it. We have got the likes of Jimmy Beckett and Rohan Dixon in the middle who can lead and we can bring on some of the new young middles and having Paul is a valuable asset to the club. He is a legend to the young lads.

“I was really surprised that we kept hold of Bailey after last year but he wanted to stay and show his worth at Dewsbury. I think it is a testament to him. He will play a massive influence this year. I honestly believe he will be playing in Super League in the next couple of years.”