19th January 2019, 11:19 | ChallengeCup

Lilley embracing Challenge Cup 'buzz' at Stanningley

Lilley embracing Challenge Cup 'buzz' at Stanningley

Stanningley joint-Head Coach Jordan Lilley has helped lead something of a resurgence at his former club in recent years.

The 22-year-old halfback spent his junior career at the Leeds club and, after returning to the club as a coach alongside Leeds Rhinos' Ashton Golding in 2017, has seen their Open Age side seal successive promotions.

Stanningley have been handed a trip to 2017 NCL Champions Thatto Heath Crusaders in Round 1 of the Challenge Cup on January 26, and Lilley can't wait to test his side ahead of their upcoming Division 1 campaign.

"It's an exciting draw for us," he said.

"I want to challenge the top teams. We're a team which is progressing well at the minute so we want to be snapping at the heels of the top teams and this will give us a good test.

"We've just been promoted into Division 1, so it will give us a good indicator about where we're at.

"The boys are really excited - we were back in training in December because the lads are that keen. They want to be as fit and skilful as they can be.

"There's a real buzz around the place about playing in the Challenge Cup," he added.

"A lot of our lads haven't played in it before. But if we turn up, I'd back us against anybody - I'm looking forward to seeing how we get on."

After a raft of retirements, the west Leeds outfit slipped down to Division 3 in 2017, and the club came up with a five-year plan to return to Division 1 for the first time since 2012.

They managed it inside 12 months, and Lilley is looking forward to kickstarting the 2019 season in St Helens.

He said: "We set a five year plan to stay in Division 2 and build but we've done it in the space of a year.

"We've got 50-60 players turning up to train and wanting to improve every week which is great.

"It's my amateur club. Me and Ashton love the club - I feel passionately about Stanningley and it pained me to see them at a point where they were struggling for players on a Saturday.

"For us to go from Division 3 at our lowest point, to now being in Division 1 with plenty of young talent coming through, it's a really exciting time for the club.

"I've heard Thatto Heath's a really good facility," he added.

"We'll look to make it a really enjoyable trip for the boys and our fans as well.

"We've got a lot of family, friends and old boys who used to play who I'm sure will be backing us.

"We'd have loved a home game, but we'll do what we can to make it feel like a home game."