Ellis adds experience to Knights ranks
York City Knights have pulled off a massive coup by recruiting former Super League hooker Andy Ellis.
The 32-year-old, who has spent virtually all of his career in the elite tier or top end of the Championship, has come out of retirement to join the evolution under James Ford.
He was due to train with the team for the first time tonight and could go straight into the side for the Kingstone Press League One clash against South Wales Ironmen at Bootham Crescent on Sunday.
Speaking to the York Press, head coach Ford reckoned Ellis’ influence on and off the pitch would be a boon “for the team and the club” in both the short and long term.
“The opportunity arose to sign a very, very good player,” said Ford of the ex-Hull KR, Harlequins and Wakefield star, a former Championship Man of Steel who helped Featherstone reach the Middle Eights last term.
“We’ve got some good hookers at the club in Pat (Smith), Harry (Carter) and Will Jubb on loan, but when the chance to sign a player of this calibre comes along you’d be foolish not to take it.
“His experience will be vital. He’s a bloke who’s played in winning teams at the top of the Championship, he’s played in Super League, he played for Featherstone in the Middle Eights last year against Super League opposition.
“He’ll bring the kind of experience that will facilitate the development of players around him.
“But it’s not just his experience, it’s his level of ability as well – his vision, communication, skill.
“I see him as a key signing, a real boost for the team and the club.
“I’m just really excited to bring in a player of this calibre.”
Ford had three hookers on the books throughout last season in Smith, Carter and prolific try-scorer Kriss Brining, who is now starring in Super League for Salford.
Ellis’ arrival takes that number to four but Jubb’s stay is temporary and he could be recalled by parent club Hull KR.
Ford added: “To have three hookers is important. He’s not a like-for-like replacement for Kriss as their styles are considerably different, but we’ve certainly got a player who has outstanding pedigree and who will be a massive benefit to the team and the club.”
Ellis began his career with Hull KR in 2003 aged 19, going on to score 18 tries in 50 appearances, and lifting the old Northern Rail Cup in 2005 with victory over Castleford.
He then starred for Barrow during a brief golden era for the Cumbrians, taking them up to the Championship and being named that tier’s Man of Steel after leading them to the 2009 title and the National Rail Cup final.
He scored 53 tries in 94 games during three seasons with the Raiders.
He then had nearly three years in Super League with Harlequins (eight tries in 39 games) and Wakefield (10 games) before moving to Featherstone, initially on loan, in 2012, helping them top the Championship that year and again 12 months later.
He briefly retired at the end of 2015 to concentrate on teaching but returned last March and went on to play 24 times last season, including in all seven matches in the Middle Eights.
He played 120 times in all for Rovers, notching 29 tries
He hung up his boots again, presumably to devote more time to teaching, but Ford reckons he has plenty of rugby left in him.
“I had a conversation with him a while back but things didn’t quite fit into place,” he said. “But one or two things have changed and that’s a positive for us at York City Knights, that we could be able to bring in a player of this calibre.”
“It’s great the club and the fans are supporting me,” he said. “Attendances do contribute to it as does the fundraising by KISS (the supporters’ club).
“We’d not be able to bring in players like this without the hard work of Jon Flatman (owner) and Mark Campbell (benefactor) or the support of the fans.”