HALIFAX’S Grand Final-winning half back Ben Black has declared himself fit for Friday night’s Northern Rail Cup opener against Swinton.
The Australian number seven, who hit the golden point drop goal that secured victory over Featherstone in last season’s Championship decider, has missed his side’s last two warm up outings, against Batley and Hull KR, with a shoulder injury.
But Black has insisted he will be ready to face Steve McCormack’s Lions at the Willows, giving boss Matt Calland the chance to pair him with new recruit Danny Jones at the scrum base.
“The shoulder’s good and all being well I will be playing this week,” said Black.
“I had a needle in it a couple of weeks ago and it’s been feeling a lot better since then.
“I can take contact on it okay and it’s not hampering my passing, so we’ll see how it goes.
“I hurt it in the gym before Christmas and at the moment I can only really feel it if I’m trying to do weights with it.
“It’s been pretty frustrating over the last few weeks, missing games and stuff, so I just want to get started now.
“It’s a chance to get out there with Jonesy and start getting a partnership going.
“The Northern Rail is a definite goal for us this year and we want to get off to a good start.”
Fax have not played since the last-minute 26-24 pre-season loss to Hull KR at the Shay 10 days ago, with last weekend taken up with a training trip to RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire.
“It was good, but pretty tough too,” said Black.
“We worked hard, especially with the ball, and I think it helped the new guys to feel more comfortable in the team.
“I’m sure we’ll benefit from it.”
Crusaders are involved in a race against time to get three of their overseas players in the country in time for the start of the new season.
Half-back Rhys Hanbury, second rower Frank Winterstein and new signing Hep Cahill are stranded in Australia awaiting visas, leaving the Welsh club with a touch of deja vu as they prepare for their opening game against Salford at the Millennium Stadium in 12 days’ time.
Two years ago six overseas players missed the entire pre-season and arrived on the eve of the club’s historic first Super League game after being held up by red tape, while this time last year head coach Brian Noble was still putting together his squad following the club’s move from Bridgend.