There are a few key components to the humble Eccles cake - the pastry, the sweet filling and the glaze.

It would seem all good things come in threes in the Greater Manchester town, the place where it all began for Sale Sharks trio Hollie Bawden, Detysha Harper and Alicia Calton.

Following some time apart to master their crafts elsewhere, the Eccles RFC products are together once again after Harper’s high-profile return to the North West from Loughborough Lightning over the summer.

The northern rugby trailblazers have come a long way since their days under grassroots coach Trevor Parrott as they target a top four finish with Sharks in Premiership Women's Rugby this season.

“I feel like it’s a full circle moment,” Bawden said. “We’ve always said, 'When are we going to do it?', but I didn’t expect it to be this soon.

“Obviously Tysh is a key player for us so to be able to be able to play back with her, I can’t wait.

“I’m really excited for it, it’s something I’ve not been able to do since I was 18.”

Versatile back Bawden became a Shark in 2020, when the club was first formed, after completing a stint at Loughborough Lightning while pursuing her university studies in the Midlands.

All roads led to Sharks, but the 23-year-old vividly remembers her formative rugby years with Calton and Harper on the Eccles pitches adjacent to Gorton Street.

“A lot of people would come, drop out, come, drop out, but we were the core three that stuck with it,” said Bawden.

“When I joined Eccles, all of us played and we progressively got really good. We all got into county, we all got into North of England and we were like, 'Oh, we’re actually alright at this'.

“I decided to move away to Loughborough for rugby and that was a turning point for me where I thought, ‘I can really go somewhere with this’.

“Sale have always been involved with Eccles, I remember when we were younger, we did the pitch walk at the Salford Community Stadium.

“We would be there waving our Eccles flags so we’ve always had that link there which has been great.

“Everything has come together for Sale and we’re excited to be able to put that into play and show everyone that we are going to be a top four team and we’re serious about this league.”

It is a similar story for Calton, whose path to Sale Sharks stemmed from a stint at Firwood Waterloo RFC in Crosby and Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).

As the Premiership Women’s Rugby season swiftly approaches, the inside centre turned scrum half is eyeing more game time with her fellow home-grown teammates by her side.

“Being 18, I was playing football and rugby and I saw the development more coming up through rugby going down that path,” said Calton.

“Sale Sharks had a link with MMU so it got enforced there, especially when Waterloo was not in the league anymore and then Sale came around.

“Even when we’re off, we’re still going to the pub with each other, we’re still watching the rugby together.

“This season I want to get more game time in a position that I’ve not really played in.

"I’ve played a few games but then I’ve changed positions so it’s just seeing that role on the pitch and how we want to play.”

Completing the three Salfordian musketeers in the Sharks fold is Harper, the Red Rose who returned to her roots in the summer.

Recovering from a long-term Achilles injury, the 24-year-old is targeting a spot in the squad to face Bristol Bears at Shaftesbury Park, who they face off the back of an Allianz Cup defeat at home against the same side.

But with the league firmly in Sharks' sights, and expectations higher than ever before, the prop believes there is no reason why the club she now calls home cannot make waves in the upcoming campaign.

“It made it so easy for me to come back because I thought, ‘Well I already know them and I've played with them for years’," Harper said.

“Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve had so much fun and that’s why I’m excited to get back.

“It’s going to be lethal when we’re all playing together because we all know each other inside out. I think that will speak volumes on the pitch.

“Alicia’s always round our house, Hollie comes in and out.

“For the league, our aim is to be in the top four and we believe we can do it because we’ve got a great bond and some absolutely insane rugby players.”