Halifax captain Scott Murrell has ramped up the expectation ahead of Sunday’s Championship opener at the Shay against Whitehaven (3.0), saying last season’s heroics “will mean nothing” if the club cannot build on it in 2016.
Richard Marshall’s unheralded part-timers emerged as the competition’s major surprise last season, clinching a place in the Super 8s Qualifiers and going on to finish sixth, claiming almost £780,000 in prize money.
Despite that record, and some impressive close-season recruitment, some bookies have Fax marked down to finish as low as seventh.
But Murrell has altogether higher expectations.
“We had a good season last year and we want to build on that now and raise the bar,” said Murrell.
“Personally, last year will mean nothing if we don’t back it up with another good year and continue to build momentum as a club.
“We are not getting carried away; we’ll take it week by week and worry about our own performances.
“Whitehaven are a good team; I’ve known (coach) James Coyle since we were 14 or 15, he was always a top quality player and he’s turning into a quality coach.
“He showed towards the end of last season when he got his squad together what he can do.
“It’s going to be a tough test to start the year with.”
While Marshall is not expected to name his matchday squad until later in the week, Murrell looks a certain starter at stand off, although the identity of his scrum base partner looks less clear cut.
New recruit Gareth Moore missed both the club’s pre-season fixtures with a mystery facial injury sustained off the field, with Ben Johnson and Connor Robinson apparently stealing a march.
“That’s the main thing about this year, the competition for places across the team; everywhere you look there seem to be two people going for every spot,” said Murrell.
“That’s healthy and good for the club and hopefully that will continue through the year.
“Gareth’s looked sharp in training; quick, he’s got good organising skills, which will take a bit of heat off me, and he’s got one of the best kicking games in the Championship.
“He will bring a lot to the attack, but at the same time Johnno and Connor have both stepped it up as well, so we’ll see what Richard decides to do.”