THE future for rugby league in Ellesmere Port is looking bright – despite a tough start for the town’s team on the field, writes Dave Powell.

After being accepted to the North West Merit League last year, Ellesmere Port ARLFC found players hard to come by and endured a winless campaign in 2010.

But following a strong recruitment drive, they now have a squad of 20 on their books and expect to be much more competitive in 2011.

Player/club secretary Chris Smith said: “Things are going well and the awareness of the club in the local community is definitely increasing.

“Last season we had a real struggle attracting players to the club at the start but we managed to complete our fixture list in the North West Merit League and that was a major achievement for us.

“This season has been a lot better as we have been able to attract a lot more players to the club and that has meant that we have been more competitive on the field this season.”

The 2011 season, which runs through the summer months, has seen Ellesmere Port open up with three defeats, but Smith is confident a first victory is just round the corner.

The 27-year-old, who lives in Ellesmere Port, said: “We are a much stronger team this season and we have been a real challenge for our opposition in the games so far.

“What we have to remember is that we are taking on teams from places like Salford and Wigan – the real rugby league heartland. Lads there have the core skills in rugby league from a young age but round here we have to acquire them in our 20s and 30s.

“We have a lot of players who have come to us from rugby union, which is great, but it isn’t ideal as there is a major difference in the two codes.”

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Ellesmere Port boasted a thriving club in the 13-man code, but more recently the town has been the sole preserve of rugby union.

Having revived the team last year, Smith is hopeful Ellesmere Port RLFC will soon be able to launch a youth team as he attempts to lay foundations for the long-term sustainability of rugby league in the area.

“We are hoping to that we will have a youth team up and running for next season but we are still on the lookout for new players for the senior side as we want to be as competitive as we possibly can,” he said.

Port’s first three games this season resulted in defeats to Little Hulton (40-8), Bamber Bridge (36-24) and Chester Gladiators (42-38). They go to Accrington and Leyland Lions this Saturday.

The club welcomes new members. The club trains on Wednesdays at Whitby Sports and Social Club, Ellesmere Port (7pm). For information, contact Chris Smith on 07817 327807.