HALIFAX coach Karl Harrison believes he has secured a matchwinning scrumbase pairing after kicking off what is expected to be a flurry of transfer activity by snaring half backs Paul Handforth and Anthony Thackeray on two year contracts.
The duo were officially unveiled by Harrison today, four days after his former club Batley took the unusual step of announcing that Handforth would be following his mentor to the Shay, a move which left Shay officials fuming.
Handforth, 30, played Super League for Castleford and Wakefield at both hooker and half back before moving on to Featherstone and Batley.
Thackeray, a Hull junior who broke into first team football with the Tigers, was released by Widnes at the weekend after spending most of this season on loan at lowly York, despite being initially signed on a Super League deal for 2012 by the Cheshire club.
“They’re both quality players and they’ll compliment each other perfectly, which is what I was looking for,” said Harrison.
“If we make sure they have a forward platform to play off, and we will, I can see them causing all kinds of problems for opposition defences.
“Thackeray’s exciting: he can sniff a try out of nowhere, he can kick the ball extremely well and he’s very, very quick.
“Handforth’s as close as you get to an old fashioned half back, he gets his team around the park, has a great kicking game and on his day he’s the best in the division in my opinion.
“He’s tough too, he played three games for me last year with broken ribs.
“He could have stayed at Batley for more money than we offered, but he’s come here to win things.”
The arrival of Handforth and Thackeray casts an obvious doubt over the future of this season’s regular playmakers Danny Jones and Ben Black.
Black, a Grand Final matchwinner less than a year ago, seems certain to be deemed surplus to requirements and could swap places with Handforth, with Batley the apparent front runners for his signature.
Courier Sport understands the Australian, who has also been linked with Swinton, was due at Mount Pleasant for talks yesterday, along with the March brothers, Paul and David, and - apparently - Fax front rower Makali Aizue.
Jones’ destiny is less clear cut, although the Ovenden junior, who rejoined his hometown club from Keighley last winter, will inevitably be linked with his former mentor Barry Eaton, who has taken the reins at Hunslet.
“Ben’s a near legendary figure in Halifax, and he’s been a great servant to the club,” said Harrison.
“But I’m sure he wouldn’t be happy playing second fiddle to Handforth and Thackeray, which is probably what he would be doing at the start of next year.
“Danny’s a bit different, the door is not closed to him completely.
“I wouldn’t say it’s out of the question he will stay but, as of this moment, he hasn’t been offered a new deal.”
Fax’s other main half back option, the teenager Anthony Bowman, is believed to be on Harrison’s 2012 hit list.
Catalan’s David Ferriol and Leeds’ Ryan Bailey are in danger of missing Super League play-off matches this weekend after both props were charged with disciplinary offences.