Champs have to keep lid on enthusiasm

Shelf FC'Newly crowned Halifax AFL champions at league presentation dinner
Shelf FC'Newly crowned Halifax AFL champions at league presentation dinner

Reigning title holders Shelf FC are all dressed up with nowhere to go as the opening Premier Division matches of the season take place tonight (Friday).

The Westwood Park outfit were due to travel to Foster Park for a battle of the champions against last season’s runaway Division One winners Denholme United.

However, the game is off due to a bereavement close to the Denholme club, leaving Shelf to keep their powder dry ahead of a home clash with Ryburn United in seven days’ time.

Manager Matthew Till reports his squad fit and raring to go after an exhausting but successful climax to last season.

Shelf overhauled Ryburn in the shadow of the winning post after clearing a massive fixture backlog at the end of one of the wettest winters on record.

Till said Shelf were well-prepared after pre-season friendlies against Wyke, Ealandians Reserves, Field and Bingley side Myrtle Park.

“All the lads are looking forward to it and our main aim will be the title again,” he said.

“To win a bit more on top would also be good.

“We took our eye off the ball a little in the cup competitions last season, losing to Greetland and St Columba’s on penalties, and we are in the County Challenge Cup for the first time.”

Till said Shelf had a couple of defenders returning from long-term injuries, Sam Holmes (foot tendons) and Dave Shirazi (broken leg), while promising pair Will Parkin and Euan Gardner were being promoted to the first team squad.

Looking back on last season, Till said: “The weather was ridiculously wet and it was a real drain on the lads.

“I think we played 13 games in the last three weeks of the season - we seemed to be playing every other night.

“We were quite fortunate that the lads were so committed. They had a good few weeks off after the season and are all back rejuvenated.”

Midgley United boss Craig Gee felt Ryburn United, who topped the table for much of the season, were unfortunate to be overhauled by a Shelf side who ended up playing opponents with little to play for.

Till said Shelf had only called off a couple of home games due to waterlogging and their pitch was now in excellent shape, the recent rain having helped with the grass growth after a long dry spell.

A handful of sides have left the AFL in the close-season, including one of the two Ryburn teams to the West Riding County Amateur League.

Ryburn retain a team in the Premier and Till is unsure how strong a side the Ripponden club will send to Westwood for the opener.

Till expects last season’s West Riding Trophy winners Sowerby Bridge to be strong contenders for honours this season along with a couple more clubs.

“Shelf United will be there or thereabouts while Denholme’s pitch suits them and not many visiting sides like to go there,” he said.