Ahead of their Qualifiers opener, Halifax boss Richard Marshall has warned big favourites Toronto Wolfpack: “We’re not going to blow our own chance now.”
The runaway Championship League Leaders’ Shield winners arrive at The Shay on Sunday (3pm) bidding to start their crucial final leg for a Super League place in 2019.
Having spent vast sums to get to this point, many people feel the Canadian outfit will achieve back-to-back promotions inside just two years of existence.
But part-timers Fax, who finished fourth, are ready to cause them problems at the first hurdle.
Marshall admitted: “We know they’re a quality side and they have improved quite a lot since we played them down here in February and also since we faced them in London.
“They’ll be aiming to get in that Million Pound Match at least or Super League automatically by getting in the top-three.
“They’re a big set and without doubt the best side we’ve faced this year, with a very good defence who work really hard and are very aggressive, too.
“They’ll be big favourites to win this game and many will fancy them to get into Super League.
“We have got to overcome all those challenges but we’re happy with that.
“We’ve got the second best defence in the league and we work hard as well. We all know that.
“We’ve got a really good record at home as well losing just once and we don’t have to go over there to play them.
“We’ll have a better chance of causing an upset here and we’ve prepared well.
“We’re coming off the back of a bit of a break and we’re refreshed.
“We’ve worked really hard to get this opportunity and we’re not going to blow it now.
“We’re looking forward to it. We’ll be preparing to put on a real show.”
Toronto lost just two of their regular 23 rounds although one of those was the final fixture at home to Featherstone Rovers which will offer Fax further encouragement of forcing a shock.
But Marshall has picked out one player he feels is a particular danger.
“I think Gareth O’Brien,” he said, about the ex-Salford Red Devils full-back.
“I coached him at Warrington and he’s a fantastic player.
“He shows up on the edge and is able to run, kick and pass really well. He’s a real threat for them.
“But they have an expensively assembled squad which they keep improving.
“They signed Mason Caton-Brown from Wakefield for the Qualifiers even though I think wing is a position they’re already really strong in with Matty Russell - real strong out of dummy-half - and Liam Kay.
“The last time we played them here Josh McCrone got a ban for a dangerous tackle and they do tend to run close to the line in terms of aggression.
“But I’m sure they’ll be thinking bigger picture now and getting to Super League.”
Like the majority of the competition, Fax had last weekend free due to the Challenge Cup semi-finals.
“We gave them some time off and some lads went away - but some are still at work,” explained Marshall, highlighting, once more, the realities of life at the club and why it is such an achievement to reach a third Qualifiers in just four yea
“They just got on with their own training and recovered ready to come back in.
“We’ve still got a bit of a hangover with injuries. Simon Grix and Shane Grady, for instance, although hopefully one of those will be available by Sunday.
“Adam Tangata we know will probably miss the next four weeks with a knee injury but we’ve others coming in like Jordan Baldwinson, Sam Wood and Liam Cooper.”
Leeds Rhinos prop Baldwinson, Huddersfield Giants centre Wood and St Helens back-row Cooper all arrived on loan ahead of the transfer deadline and all hope to debut on Sunday.
If not, they could feature in Saturday’s reserve grade game at Wigan Warriors.