WITH no game this weekend because of Rugby League’s big day out at Wembley on Saturday, our new team leaders, Brian McDermott and Brendan Sheridan have two full weeks in which to prepare the squad for the hugely important game at Whitehaven.
As far as player availability is concerned, it will be all systems go to get our hookers fit, given that we currently have three of the four on the casualty list — club skipper Gareth Owen (back), Declan Gregory (ankle) and Matty Wilkinson, who is on long-term rehab after surgery to repair a broken leg sustained in pre-season training.
Owen, who had been complaining of a back strain last week, started against Bradford Bulls, but looked to be in a lot of pain when he walked back to the dug-out from the other side of the pitch on being replaced by Jamie Abram midway through the first half.
Unusually, he never returned for a second spell, Lewis Charnock going to hooker when Jamie Abram was replaced by Luke Nelmes only a few minutes from the end.
The younger Abram was on the field for more than 50 minutes, Owen confirming before he walked up the tunnel at the of the game that his back was giving him a lot of pain.
Gregory was ruled out because of his ankle problem and Owen now joins an injury list comprising of Tommy Brierley, Gregory, Ben Heaton, Dave Hewitt, Phil Joy, Jack Spencer and, of course, Wilkinson, who is making good progress and believes there is an outside chance of playing again before the end of the season.
On top of that, Joe Hartley was felled by a challenge that led to Bulls hooker Tom Doyle being sin-binned near the end and forwards Liam Kirk, Tyler Dupree and Danny Bridge all needed attention after a particularly physical forward battle.
Brian McDermott said after the game that, despite the defeat, he was pleased to see the squad’s “commitment and unity”.
It was only six days after his arrival at the club, of course, and by the time we go to Whitehaven he will have had a lot more time to settle in.
Currently second bottom, we have nine games left now in which to climb out of the bottom two in order to avoid relegation from the Betfred Championship.
The three teams immediately above us — York City Knights, Whitehaven and Dewsbury Rams — all lost as well, York 20-50 at London Broncos, ‘Haven 4-14 at Halifax and Dewsbury 12-24 at Newcastle.
Roughyeds will welcome the free weekend while York play Featherstone in Saturday’s A B Sundecks 1895 televised Cup Final at Wembley (noon), to be followed at 3pm by the Betfred Challenge Cup Final, featuring Castleford Tigers and St Helens.