SUDBURY Gladiators have decided to pull out of the rugby league national play-offs due to a lack of available players.
The club were crowned Eastern Region Champions in their debut season after walloping rivals Bury Titans 44-28 in the area grand final at Hemel Hempstead on Saturday.
But after being paired with Telford Raiders, the winners of the Midlands division, in the quarter-final, Gladiators informed the league they would be unable to fulfil the fixture due to not being able to field a team anywhere near full strength.
Player/coach Andy Hunter, who still hopes the league will decide to promote Sudbury to the Southern Premier for next season, said: “I did not want to go out against Telford with a half-hearted side and get demolished so we have cancelled the game.
“We have done well in our first season and the guys are just happy with what they have done and want to enjoy some time off.”
A combination of family holidays and leave from the army have been behind Sudbury’s decision not to take the next step forward in the play-offs.
On Saturday, the Gladiators made a whirlwind start, rattling up 20 points in the opening 14 minutes with touchdowns from Dave McGhee, Carl Thompson (2) and Aseri Biutanaseva, who converted two.
Leading 28-6 at the break, with further tries from Tyrone Da Silva and Zak Maseri, Bury then came back, reducing the arrears to 10 points.
But Biutanaseva’s fourth try of the match and one from Sailas Verebasaga put the game beyond them to leave Sudbury champions.