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Excel sponsor's pride at York City Knights youngsters progression

York City Knights were delighted to see the return of their popular boys’ player development programme, Excel, for the first time in 2022 last month.

The programme, which initially started in its current guise back in early 2019, sees boys playing rugby within York and the wider region able to experience high-quality coaching in state-of-the-art facilities as part of the open-access programme.

Without funding from the RFL to fund such a programme, however, the Knights are reliant on goodwill and donations from partners and supporters to enable the programme to continually develop.

Excel, which has seen Toby Warren, Myles Harrison, AJ Towse and – via Hull Kingston Rovers – Brad Ward graduate into our men’s first team squad, has found a loyal pair of supporters in Steve Sharp and Dave Darking over recent years and, after first donating back in 2019, Steve shares that the duo are now in their third year of support.

“An advert came out looking for a couple of sponsors for the Excel programme and that’s when we gave our first donation. It’s gone from there and this is the third time we have done it.

Discussing how their interest began beforehand, Sharp pointed to Darking’s initial donation.

“He won the prize draw at a match and won £200. He donated it immediately to the player development work that was going on and I thought that it was a good idea.

“I matched the donation and it’s started from there.”

Steve himself has been involved in coaching rugby league in York ever since retiring as a player.

“I played rugby in my youth at school and then went to open age. When I retired at York Acorn, I took up the junior coaching mantle doing under 15s and under 17s.

“I know the importance of getting lads to come down and train, to be positive about things but here, it’s a completely different outlook.

“Compared to going down to the Knavesmire in freezing cold conditions, these players have professional facilities that the Knights are providing and it’s great to see.”

A supporter of York rugby league for many years, Steve noted the pride it gives him in seeing the players developing and moving towards the first-team squad.

“It’s a big buzz. I obviously played myself but being part of the Excel programme from the start and seeing three lads from there in the first-team squad three years later is great.

“It’s fantastic to see both the Club and the programme growing compared to where it was all those years ago. I remember going to Clarence Street when I was a schoolboy, so to remember where it’s come from to seeing where it is now is fantastic.”

The next block of the Knights’ Excel Player Development programme for boys currently in Year 7 at secondary school begins on Monday 9th of May and will have five sessions. Booking is now open – head to to book on!


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