OLDHAM hooker Kenny Hughes goes into hospital on Monday for surgery on a finger injury that troubled him for much of last season.
He will be available for Sunday’s second pre-season friendly at Barrow (2pm kick-off), but he is then expected to be sidelined for two to three weeks, which means he will miss the third and final warm-up match against Keighley Cougars at the Vestacare Stadium on Sunday, January 28 (3pm kick-off).
Roughyeds hope Hughes will be ready for the start of the Betfred League 1 campaign at Whitehaven on Sunday, February 18 (3pm), but that won’t be known until nearer the time.
Club captain Gareth Owen (foot) and young back-rower Liam Bent (dislocated elbow) will miss the Barrow and Keighley friendlies, but Phil Joy is likely to play at Barrow for the first time since he suffered a second dislocation of the shoulder against Batley Bulldogs last summer.
Coach Scott Naylor hasn’t yet confirmed his squad to travel to Barrow. At his disposal will be 19 contracted players plus five trialists who have been training with the squad throughout pre-season, including winger Chris Barlow, who made a try-scoring debut in the impressive 28-24 Law Cup win at Rochdale.
Naylor’s preference in this type of pre-season hit-out is for a squad of no more than 20 or 21, but the final number to travel might be influenced by what Barrow intend to do.
Said the Roughyeds boss: “A squad of more than 20 or 21 can get a bit out of hand, but the five amateurs have been with us since last November and they deserve a run-out.”
Looking ahead to the game, he added: “I think we can expect the toughest challenge we’ve ever had up there, and that suits me just fine. The reason I like a warm-up game at Barrow is that it’s always a place that challenges visiting players.
“We’ve got the longish journey to Cumbria and then the prospects of playing in bad weather, all of which will test our lads. That’s what I want. I want them to be tested so I can see what the lads have underneath the jersey. That’s what these games are for.”
Barrow, preparing for life in the Betfred Championship, beat Keighey Cougars 46-20 in their first run-out and will be determined to build on that with the Championship season due to kick-off in a fortnight.
Added Naylor: “On our last two trips to Barrow we’ve been the Championship side and they’ve been in League 1, but we’ve swopped positions in the structure and they’ll want to make that count, especially as they’re only two weeks away from the start of their league programme.”
The Raiders left out new skipper Martin Aspinwall, Shane Toal, Ryan Fieldhouse, Lewis Charnock and Karl Ashall against the Cougars, but they’re expected to figure on Sunday along with new Aussie signings Alex Susino and Dean Parata.