Rochdalians AFC First are celebrating after securing the Premier Division title.
It is fitting that manager Tony Luker has delivered the title in the season the club celebrate their 25th anniversary as part of the Lancashire & Cheshire AFL.
In the end, Rochdalians have been richly rewarded for a dominant league season that has seen them drop points in just five games, registering a league-high 17 wins in the process.
At the back end of any season when honours are being handed out, there’s always a worry that pressure will tell. Rochdalians emphatically bucked this trend. In the last month of the season, they racked up a perfect record of four wins in four, scoring 13 goals and conceding three in the process.
It has re-established them as the dominant force in the Premier Division; in their 25 years, this is the sixth league title they have captured.
And in recent history, their place at the top of the L&C AFL tree is secure – this league triumph is their third in just five seasons and now the team will have their sights firmly fixed on emulating the class of 2015/16, who retained their crown as the league’s best.
During the season, Rochdalians racked up 81 goals in 22 games – bettered by just one side, but no team could get near their impressive defence, which conceded just 31 goals – a goal difference of +50, double the tally of second-place High Lane Open.
It meant a title triumph by seven points, which is a fitting way for captain Davey Luker and his brother John to bow out, both of whom have announced their retirements.
The next generation of Luker will continue to influence the fortunes of the team next season, as Tony’s son Jamie has already broken into the first team.
The retirements will undoubtedly hit the side, but it is built upon a strong defensive unit. Although Davey will no longer be part of that, the contributions of Scott Hopley and Reece Gregory will give Rochdalians the platform to move forward.
And with the scoring feats of the likes of David Devlin and Nick Hands, whose goals have helped to fire Rochdalians to the title, they’ll be primed to defend their crown in 2019/20.