Over the past 17 (and a bit) years, the Knights have had plenty of top drawer players and, in the midst of Covid-19 enforced lockdown, we have put the task of naming their all-time best XIII to three journalists who have spent plenty of time covering the Knights for both The Press and BBC Radio. First up, we bring you the team of Andy Atkinson, BBC Radio York’s lead commentator for the Knights over the past few years.
So get ready for nostalgia as Andy takes you through his team…
There is always the dilemma of whether one picks what one thinks are the best players in each position, regardless of how many games they played, whether one goes for the best players but with a volume of games behind them or whether one picks the players who one considers entertained them the best.
Probably Ryan MacDonald, Ian Bell and Lee Mapals would figure in that last category!
Full Back: Let’s start with the best fullback, in my honest opinion, ever to wear York City Knights colours and that’s no easy place to start as there aren’t too many bona-fide fullbacks – plenty of converted wingers or half backs!
One nobody would consider is Ben Reynolds, on loan from Cas, but he had a cracking stint there in 2014, scoring 168 points. However, it’s got to be between Matt Blaymire and Matty Marsh and I just think that the all-round ability of the Knights’ current No 1 wins it for him.
Selection: Matty Marsh
Right Wing: Tom Lineham and Austin Buchanan both have a shout but that stunning 2005 season of Peter Fox’s, on loan from Leeds ( 25 tries in 26 starts ) just cannot be ignored.
Selection: Peter Fox
Right Centre: This goes along similar lines. Chris Langley and John Oakes were considered but the other half of ‘Berk and Jerk’ in 2005, Dan Potter gets the nod for his powerful and incisive running and some handy last-ditch defending too in that promotion season.
Selection: Dan Potter
Left Centre: This position pits powerful union convert Neil Law, current coach James Ford, the ever-reliable and under-rated Mike Mitchell and Greg Minikin in competition. Has to be Minikin’s pace and footwork for me, just!
Selection: Greg Minikin
Left Wing: Now this is a real curate’s egg, the Knights have had lots of them but what about quality?
Alex Godfrey was a real entertainer in every sense of the word. Kieren Moss, on loan from Hull KR, was pure class in his short stint in 2018 and there’s an excuse for filling the spot with Lineham, or maybe even Danny Wilson but I’m gonna bend the rules even further because I would want this bloke in my team, Ben Cockayne gets the 5.
Selection: Ben Cockayne
Half Backs: There are lots of classy Number 6’s – Danny Ratcliffe, Anthony Thackeray, Liam Harris, the aforementioned Mr.Cockayne, all with different attributes, but surely you can’t select anyone but Danny Brough whose fabulous 2004 season didn’t quite get Rich Agar’s Knights the promotion they deserved.
The other half back slot is well contested, too. Jonny Presley was a great servant to the club in two stints. Connor Robinson’s story is far from over yet but I’d have to choose between the trickery and pace of Scott Rhodes (so reminiscent of Steadman in his heyday at times), the sheer will, guile and determination of Paul March and the cool, calm organisational skills of Chris Thorman.
It would have been an interesting combination if it had happened, to say the least, but Brough and… Thorman.
Selections: Danny Brough and Chris Thorman
Prop: Not too many ‘eights’ come to mind – Paul ‘Beans’ Broadbent at the outset but the guy that followed him would have it for me – tough as teak, hands like flypaper, Rich Wilson.
Selection: Rich Wilson
Hooker: An embarrassment of riches at hooker – Kriss Brining, Andy Ellis, Jamaine Wray, Jack Lee but it has to be between the two 2005 ‘nines’. The sheer jack in the box qualities of Jimmy Elston or the craft and precision of Lee Jackson.
I loved watching Jimmy Elston and, controversial as it may be, Jacko’s on the bench!
Selection: Jimmy Elston
Prop: An awful lot of good ‘tens’ – Rich Hayes, Alex Benson, Adam Sullivan, who was another two stint man, Jack Aldous but I’m gonna go for Graeme ‘Cocoon Pool’ Horne, in the twilight of his career at York but I don’t remember many Knights players, who could have such a dramatic effect and influence out there in the very thick of it, when needed.
Selection: Graeme Horne
Second Row: The first of the second row berths is a no-contest in my book. I can’t see past probably my favourite ever Knights player, Ryan Esders. I watched him progress from the Conference with the Dockers and on into Super League. In his wake are some good players – John ‘The Bull’ Smith, Aussie Dave Buckley, Ross Divorty, Jordan Ross and Joe Batchelor.
Selection: Ryan Esders
Second Row: The other second row again I don’t have to think too long about, another Aussie, Simon Friend. Hard as nails and a real team player. I suppose that’s harsh on Ian Kirke, Rob Spicer and Sam Scott who have all done fabulous jobs in the 12 shirt.
Selection: Simon Friend
Loose Forward: And so to loose forward. Mentioned in dispatches, the wonderful Trevor Krause, Jason Golden and Lee Patterson but between two for me, Captain Fantastic Tim Spears and ‘The Artist’, Damian Ball. Spears’ phenomenal leadership skills get him the shirt and the skipper’s armband too.
Selection: Tim Spears
Head Coach: Now, onto the Coach.
Chris Thorman, David Woods, Gary Thornton, Mick Cook – we’ve had some good ones, haven’t we?
It’s between two for me.
James Ford for his ability to create an environment that allows players to thrive and love their rugby league and another superb man-manager, who fostered a creativity within his team that was a joy to watch, Richard Agar.
Hardest pick of the lot this and I am pretty sure that the future may well cause me to reconsider but the current Rhinos coach shades it.
Selection: Richard Agar
Andy Atkinson’s All-Time Knights Team:
1. Matty Marsh, 2. Peter Fox, 3. Dan Potter, 4. Greg Minikin, 5. Ben Cockayne, 6. Danny Brough, 7. Chris Thorman, 8. Rich Wilson, 9. Jimmy Elston, 10. Graeme Horne, 11. Ryan Esders, 12. Simon Friend, 13 Tim Spears (c).
Subs: Lee Jackson, Adam Sullivan, Paul Broadbent, Sam Scott.
Head Coach: Rich Agar.