York’s position as champions of the North One East and thus promotion to the North Premier was confirmed through the Rugby Football Union’s points-per-game system earlier this month.
The result sealed a second promotion in three seasons for the club and puts them into the fifth tier for the first time in their history.
Local talent has been at the heart of their fruitful period and, according to director of rugby Ian Thomson, it’s a method that won’t change anytime soon.
“What we don’t do is bring people in from outside the city, generally,” he said.
“We’ve got the odd one that has moved into the area or an overseas player, which always helps to bring in a new angle.
“But generally we’re a side made up of home-grown players.
“In our last game of the season, 11 of the players in the 18-man squad had come through our youth section.
“And this is something that we’re looking to try and maintain going forward into the new league.
“It’s about building a great team spirit and making sure that everybody is thinking in the right ways.
“That means that they spend a good amount of time doing their strength and conditioning and coming to training twice a week.
“We’ve also got a great coach in Lee Denham in head and forwards coach and Dec Cusack who has come on board this year as a player and our backs coach.
“Dec has come in from Doncaster and he’s been a great addition. The other players have really soaked up the new techniques and patterns that he’s brought in.
“Clifton Park has really been a great place to be this season, as it was when we won Yorkshire One.
“It was a similar sort of set-up and a lot of the squad that got us out of that league have got us out of this league as well. Continuity is the secret.”
Ensuring promotion was the goal for the club at the beginning of the campaign, though Thomson is also mindful of the bigger picture – with the seconds, thirds and veterans sides not to be forgotten amid the first-team’s success.
“We did start the season with the aim of going up because we wanted to progress the club,” continued Thomson.
“But at the same time, the aim is to grow organically and be sustainable as we go up and up the leagues.
“The way that we’ve gone about things has been very much the York way, which is about being strong within, we make sure that the new players coming into the club are welcomed and integrated very quickly.
“Our second team have done really well in the Merit Premiership – they made it into the top half and have done really well
“The third team have done well and we’ve got a veterans side too, so there’s something for everyone.
“We’ve created a pathway from the seconds to the first-team too.
“As the season has gone on, that pathway has become more apparent as we’ve had the odd niggle.”
Fixtures in the North Premier await York next season, a prospect which excites Thomson.
“It’s daunting but it’s exciting,” added the director or rugby.
“We’re moving into uncharted territory for ourselves really.
“In the last two leagues that we’ve played in, we know about the sides that we were coming up against, whereas we haven’t played some of these sides in 20 years, so we’re stepping into the unknown.
“The likes of Birkenhead Park and Macclesfield we’ve not come up against for decades.
“We’ve got local fixtures against Otley and Sandal, which will be interesting and challenging.
“But, I think most of all, everyone is just really looking forward to it.
“We’ve planned well and we’ve put things into place to make sure that the club is dealing with the challenges that will be coming ahead.
“It’s a promising time.”
Any planning for next season will have had a fair amount of disruption due to the coronavirus pandemic, though York are continuing to work hard to be in regular contact with one another at the club as well as sponsors and partners.
“I’ve had video meetings with the coaches and the full rugby committee,” added Thomson.
“I’ve been putting plans in place for the rugby side of things at the club.
“We’re all still working at it.
“What’s happening at the moment with the virus is awful and it’s dreadful. Hopefully this will be over at some point.
“When this is over, we want to be ready to hit the ground running on day one of the new beginning and be ready to face the challenges ahead.
“Partners and sponsors are in place and being contacted. We’re putting together plans for pre-season training and fixtures at the moment.
“All of those are in place now and that puts us in a good place for when the isolation measures are relaxed.”