HALIFAX’S in-form loose forward Craig Ashall will definitely miss next weekend’s Co-operative Championship opener against Hunslet after entering an early guilty plea for his part in the fracas that animated the Northern Rail Cup clash with Featherstone nine days ago.
Ashall was red carded by referee Robert Hicks, along with Rovers forward Michael Haley, with half an hour of the match remaining and had been due to appear before tonight’s meeting of the Rugby Football League’s disciplinary committee on a grade B striking charge.
That could have carried a maximum two game penalty, but under the RFL’s new Australian-style early plea system - which allows players with a clean record over the previous 12 months to opt out of a hearing - he will now automatically receive the minimum one-game penalty, ruling him out of the clash with the Hawks.
But Ashall’s teammate Dane Manning will be making the trip to Red Hall, along with the three Featherstone players charged in relation to the incident: Stuart Dickens, Haley and Andy Bostock.
Of the five, Dickens’ grade C head butting charge is the most serious and could see the Rovers captain sidelined for up to a month.
Manning’s offence is rated as a grade A, which carries a maximum one game suspension.
“We have entered an early guilty plea for Craig, which should equate to one match,” confirmed Fax boss Karl Harrison.
“We can’t do that with Dane, because he was sent off playing for Batley last season.
“We will be going to represent Dane and contesting it.
“There is no disputing he’s thrown a punch in a fracas, although whether he was defending himself or not is arguable.
“We’ll debate that point; he’s thrown one punch when there are others around him throwing punches.
“For me, I’d have thought a fine would be sufficient, but that’s going to be down to the panel to decide.”
Ashall’s absence will present Harrison with a selection conundrum at the back of the scrum, although the former Leeds youngster Callum Casey made a timely - and impressive - return to action in Sunday’s 16-12 win at London Skolars.
“I thought Callum played really well actually,” said Harrison.
“Lee Paterson had a run in the back row on Sunday and looked really comfortable as well.
“We’ve also got Josh Barlow, Joe Chandler and we are not far off getting other people back as well.
“For now, picking a team next week should not be a problem for us.”
HALIFAX’S under 23 side begin their league programme at York on Thursday night (7.30).
The draw for the last eight of the Northern Rail Cup will be made on Thursday night.at half time during the Co-operative Championship opener between Batley and Leigh.
Widnes have signed Warrington scrum-half Gareth O’Brien on a month’s loan.