A specialist neurologist will have the final say on whether Halifax centre Ben Heaton will be available for selection for Sunday’s Championship clash against Swinton at Sale FC’s Heywood Road ground (3.0).
Heaton was knocked unconscious in the third minute of last weekend’s stunning 32-24 win over Bradford at Odsal, with coach Richard Marshall going close to ruling the in-form threequarter out of the clash with the Lions in his post-match Press conference.
But while Heaton is still considered a “significant doubt” for the trip to Manchester, Marshall will listen to the medical evidence before making a final decision.
“Ben’s on the mend and I think he’d tell me he wants to play,” said Marshall.
“He is doing the RFL’s return to play protocols, but because it’s his second concussion the rules say he has to see a neurologist and he’ll do that on Friday.
“We’ll see what comes of that; I might put my player welfare hat on and sit him down this weekend, but if the specialist tells us there’s no medical reason to do that then we’ll look at it again.
“He’s definitely doubtful, but that’s as far as it goes at this point.”
The picture is complicated by further injuries suffered by Salford loanee Matt Sarsfield, who has a dead leg, and Simon Grix, who sat out training on Tuesday night with a groin problem.
With a third back rower, Dane Manning, a long term absentee with a broken thumb, Marshall’s selection options could be limited.
“If we were missing all three of those players as well as Dane, it would mean we’d have to reshuffle quite a bit,” said Marshall, who named Gavin Bennion and Richard Moore as two potential call ups.
“I’m hopeful that won’t be the case though.”
Fax sit third on the league ladder after their success at Odsal, level on points with Batley, one clear of the Bulls and three clear of Featherstone with four games to go, but such fine margins mean success against the Lions is essential.
Swinton brought about what Marshall described as “the lowest point of my season” when they notched an improbable 38-35 win at the Shay in a game that looked to be well out of reach until the final few minutes.
“We were in total control in that game, which is what hurts and we still hope that it doesn’t come back to haunt us when we look at that final league table,” said Marshall, who was nevertheless fulsome in his praise of the team where he finished his own playing career and began coaching.
“Our performance that day was well below what we consider acceptable and for the boys who played that day this is a game they will want to win for various reasons.
“Swinton are a very, very good attacking team; they’re not the biggest, but they make up for that with speed and skill.
“They throw all kinds of shapes at you in attack and we need to be ready to combat that this time.
“But we’re going into this with some form and with some confidence, so we’ll see how far that takes us this week.”