KEIGHLEY player-boss Jason Demetriou reckons he was lucky to be able to sign Halifax pair Danny Jones and Neil Cherryholme for his newly-promoted side.
Demetriou, the 35 year old Australian utility player who made his name in Super League with Wakefield, has embarked on a significant autumn spending spree after steering the Cougars out of Championship One in his first season in charge.
Jones and Cherryholme were both unwanted by incoming Halifax coach Karl Harrison and are likely to come face-to-face with their former employers in the Boxing Day friendly at the Shay (12.0).
“I was surprised both of them didn’t get offers from Halifax, because they’re both good, proven Championship players with a lot of experience,” said Demetriou, who is likely to start at centre against Fax in what promises to be his final season as a player.
“A lot of the time recruitment comes down to luck, and it’s Keighley’s gain that Halifax didn’t want those two, because if they had they would probably have stayed there.
“Neil’s a great worker, one of those players who will do all the little things you want as a coach, and Danny’s a real talent; I’m excited about seeing him play alongside Sam Obst and Paul March.
“The challenge for us now is to turn what looks like a good team of individuals into a consistent Championship team.
“I’ve told the boys I want to see them play with intensity and commitment on Boxing Day, show me they can compete with one of the top sides in the competition.”
While Jones and Cherryholme represent significant additions for the Cougars, it is Demetriou’s capture of his former Wakefield teammates Obst, Michael Korkidas and Semi Tadulala that has raised eyebrows in the Championship at a time when most clubs have cut their playing budgets.
But Demetriou insists their arrivals have more to do with friendship and off-field opportunity than reckless spending.
“I’ve known them all for a long time and they have all got an eye on life after football,” said Demetriou.
“Sam got a pay out from Hull for next year when he was told he wasn’t wanted and he’s got a development job with us as well.
“Korky is working for a charity in the Keighley area and Semi is playing for match payments.
“I was given a budget and I have stuck to that budget.
“We will have spent a similar amount to the other sides in the competition.
“Keighley have been in administration twice in the last few years and I’d consider it a failure on my part if we ended up anywhere near that kind of situation again.
“It’s a long time since the club have been in the market for the kind of players we have now and there’s a real buzz around the place.
“We’re certainly looking at being in the top half of the table rather than the bottom.
“I think everyone is looking forward to getting the ball rolling on Boxing Day.”
HALIFAX are offering a special admission deal to Boxing Day’s game, which includes pre-match mince pies and refreshments and access to the players’ bar after the final whistle.
The prices, including match ticket, will be £17.50 for adults, £12.50 for concessions and £9.50 for kids.
Further details are available from the club on 01422 342792.