Simon Grix previews Halifax Panthers' Championship season - plus star man, ins and outs, title odds and key number
THINGS DON’T get much tougher in the opening month of the Championship season than for Halifax Panthers.
Simon Grix’s side host London Broncos in their first league game before a trip to Bradford Bulls is followed by a home clash with Toulouse Olympique.
The Panthers, who rebranded in December, won two and lost two of their four league games in 2020 but Grix feels the difficult start has the potential to set a high standard for the rest of the season.
“You have got to play them all at some point anyway,” he said.
“Hopefully having a cluster of good opposition to start means we get off to a high standard and hopefully maintain that throughout.
“It is going to be an interesting season. With the changes to pre-season, nobody is ideally where they would like to be.
“We are looking forward to it; it is going to be a really good season.
“Across the Championship, a lot of teams have strengthened and have added Super League quality.
“We are in the same boat we always have been, we want to be challenging the top end of the table.
“We are aware of what is in front of us. Overall, we are just looking forward to it after such a long time off.”
The promotion play-offs have been expanded from five teams in 2019 and 2020 to six teams for 2021.
A number of second-tier sides have bolstered strongly and Grix feels the number of teams with realistic hopes of challenging at the top end of the league is growing.
He added: “We are just going to take it one game at a time and hopefully put ourselves in a good spot come the end of the year.
“It seems like more teams are joining that bubble of wanting to be at the top end.
“It is going to be a really competitive season, for the neutral it is going to be very good to watch.”
Grix admits he has lost more experience from his squad than he would have liked with the likes of Scott Murrell – who played over 150 times for the club – and Steve Tyrer leaving the club while Keegan Hirst has retired.
However, the West Yorkshire outfit have signed strongly and Grix is happy with the shape of his squad heading into the Championship campaign.
He said: “We have added some quality to our squad. We have lost some experience which isn’t great but it is not the end of the world either.
“We have still got plenty of it in our team. We have done pretty well with what we have got.
“Everyone has recruited well and used this time off well.”
HALIFAX PANTHERS 2021
Ins: Liam Harris (Hull FC), Zack McComb (Sheffield Eagles), Dan Murray (Hull Kingston Rovers), Connor Robinson (York City Knights), Gadwin Springer (Toronto Wolfpack), Ben Tibbs (Huddersfield Giants), Greg Worthington (Toronto Wolfpack) Nick Rawsthorne (Hull KR).
Outs: Jodie Broughton (Batley Bulldogs), Reece Chapman-Smith (Dewsbury Rams), Dan Fleming (Bradford Bulls), Tom Gilmore (Batley Bulldogs), Keegan Hirst (Retired), Tommy Lee (Released), Scott Murrell (Keighley Cougars), Steve Tyrer (Widnes Vikings).
Last year: 8th place (after four games)
Player to watch: Halifax-born Nick Rawsthorne joined his hometown club last month from Hull KR. Between 2018 and 2019, he scored 27 tries in 34 games for Toronto Wolfpack.
Odds to win Championship - 20/1