Halifax Panthers boss Grix expecting tough test from Batley Bulldogs in Challenge Cup clash
Halifax Panthers will play their first competitive game in a year when they host Batley Bulldogs in the first round of the Betfred Challenge Cup on Saturday (7.30pm).
Following last weekend’s 30-16 pre-season victory at Oldham, head coach Simon Grix has identified areas to work on for his new-look team and he is expecting a tough test from his near neighbours.
Grix said: “Twelve months off is a long time for both sides, and I think it will affect both teams. I expect a tough game from Batley. From my experience they’ve always been a difficult team to beat.
“They’ve been one of the sides who we’ve always had really tough battles with.”
He added: “[The new players] have settled in really well and bought into what we’re trying to do. We will try and address a few things which we didn’t get right last week. Actions speak louder than words, and the new guys have shown the right attitude so far.”
Of course, preparations have not been ideal with restrictions in place for training and matches. Grix added: “Training the day before a match, we aren’t going to get as much out of that session as we would like to. We have to bear in mind the lads’ recovery time ahead of Saturday’s match.
“You have to plan a session, and then have to check the latest Covid-19 protocols to ensure they all fit. It’s a really difficult time for all sports, but for rugby league especially as for a long time we had to train socially distanced.
“Rugby is a contact sport, and we have had to miss out a huge aspect of it.”
Grix is keen to use the cup clash as a springboard for a successful campaign in the Championship but admits there remain many unknowns ahead. He said: “Due to the current situation, it may be that the strongest team might not be the champions.
“It may well depend on how unlucky teams are with Covid-19 and isolation, as if you lose a couple of your key men it will impact the side.”
Grix hopes supporters will also return to boost his team’s charge, saying: “Obviously, the fans create the atmosphere. In the time off I’ve been watching some football, and those special moments in a game are really missing – the momentum and the crowd and the atmosphere.
“You really miss all the singing and chanting and celebrating, and I can’t wait to have our fans back in the ground as soon as restrictions allow.”
Panthers 21-man squad: 1 Scott Grix, 2 Nick Rawsthorne, 4 James Woodburn-Hall, 5 James Saltonstall, 6 Liam Harris, 7 Connor Robinson, 8 Elliot Morris, 9 Brandon Moore (c), 10 Daniel Murray, 11 Matt Garside, 12 Ed Barber, 13 Jacob Fairbank, 14 Kevin Larroyer, 15 Gadwin Springer, 16 Will Calcott , 18 Connor Davies, 19 Conor McGrath, 20 Curtis Davies, 21 Zack McComb, 24 Ben Tibbs, 27 Paul Brearley.