Halifax coach Richard Marshall has given the first insight into what he sees as his strongest side for 2016 with the release of the club’s squad numbers.
Marshall, who lifted the Championship Coach of the Year prize after guiding Fax to a fourth-placed finish and then a wholly unexpected sixth in the Super 8s Qualifiers, has made a raft of changes to this year’s shirt numbers.
“There are a few changes,” said Marshall.
“They mean something in that they reflect where I probably expect players to be by the time we start playing.
“But they mean nothing if the first 17 sit back and rest on their laurels, because we know that 18 to 28 will be busting a gut to get in the side.”
Ben Johnston, who started this year at seven, takes the full back shirt from Miles Greenwood - who will start next year at 18 as he begins his comeback from a double leg fracture - after a string of impressive cameo appearances.
Former Featherstone half back Gareth Moore inherits Johnston’s half back jumper, with captain Scott Murrell keeping the number six; suggesting Marshall continues to see his skipper playing pivot rather than switching to loose forward.
Winger James Saltonstall moves from 20 to five after a strong debut season with his hometown club, while new backline recruit Will Sharp takes the number two shirt off Tommy Saxton, who goes to 19
Centres Ben Heaton and Steve Tyrer keep their places, but there are more changes up front, with Australian prop Mitch Cahalane - arguably the club’s most consistent player this year - taking the number eight alongside hooker Ben Kaye and former Ovenden junior Luke Ambler.
The returning Simon Grix takes the 12 from Andy Bracek, who goes to 24, while Dane Manning takes the other back row berth.
Jacob Fairbank slots in at loose forward, with the former Elland amateur the fourth Calderdale junior in the top 13.
The theoretical bench is made up of Cook Islander Adam Tangata, giant forwards Gavin Bennion and Richard Moore and young hooker Ryan Maneely.
“It’s a very strong 17, there’s no doubt about that,” said Marshall.
“If Gareth Moore is fit and playing on top of his form, I think he’s a starting half back, but Johnston did a great job for us this year and deserves a place.
“Miles is coming back after a serious injury, but we also know that if he’s 100 per cent and playing well then he’s going to be very difficult to leave out.
“Mitch and Jacob were both really good for us, Adam finished the year in good form and Bennion and Maneely should both offer us a lot.”
1 Johnston, Ben
2 Sharp, Will
3 Tyrer, Steve
4 Heaton, Ben
5 Saltonstall, James
6 Murrell, Scott
7 Moore, Gareth
8 Cahalane, Mitchell
9 Kaye, Ben
10 Ambler, Luke
11 Manning, Dane
12 Grix, Simon
13 Fairbank, Jacob
14 Tangata, Adam
15 Maneely, Ryan
16 Moore, Richard
17 Bennion, Gavin
18 Greenwood, Miles
19 Saxton, Tommy
20 Smeaton, Sam
21 Robinson, Adam
22 Robinson, Connor
23 Potts, Gareth
24 Bracek, Andy
25 Eccleston, Jake
26 Barber, Ed
27 Divorty, Ross
28 Martin, Joe