Halifax’s close-season half back signing Gareth Moore and fit-again centre Steve Tyrer both look likely to make their first appearances of 2016 after being named in the squad for Sunday’s Championship opener against Whitehaven at the Shay (3.0)
Moore, the former Batley and Featherstone half back, joined Fax in the autumn but did not feature in either of the club’s pre-season fixtures after sustaining unspecified facial injuries in an off-field incident over Christmas.
Tyrer, who finished 2015 as arguably the club’s in-form threequarter, also missed the warm up fixtures at Widnes and Keighley after close-season wrist surgery.
Boss Richard Marshall will not name his 17 until the club’s final training session at the Shay on Saturday night - which will be open to the public, starting at 6pm - but Moore is tipped to partner skipper Scott Murrell in the halves, with Tyrer lining up alongside Sam Smeaton in the centre after Ben Heaton was omitted.
Marshall confirmed only injured trio Scott Grix, Gareth Potts and Gavin Bennion were not considered for selection, leaving plenty of talent on the sidelines against Haven.
“Steve is likely to come straight back in,” confirmed Marshall, who has included full back Miles Greenwood, who has been sidelined for 12 months with a broken leg, in his initial 21-man selection.
“He finished last year very strongly and I think he will be even better this season; his leadership and his professionalism this winter have been first class.
“Sam’s been impressive since he came here and Ben is still struggling a little bit after being knocked out at Widnes, so we need to tread carefully there.
“Gareth’s in the squad and we’d like to see him on the field now and see what he can do.
“I think he knows he needs to play well; we’ve got Miles Greenwood coming back, which would free up Ben Johnston to play in the halves, Connor Robinson pushing for a place and James Woodburn-Hall on trial, so there’s pressure there.
“Gareth’s a good organiser, he’s got a left foot kicking game and he can take the line on so he could offer us some options alongside Scott.
“We’ve got some good depth, which may change as the season goes on, but at the moment we’re not under any pressure to play anyone who’s not 100 per cent, which is the way we want it to be.
“We’ve got a short turnaround before the Sheffield game next Friday so we’ll get the first game out of the way and then see where we’re at.”
One player who will not make the side, this week at least, is tearaway 19 year old hooker Brandon Moore, who has been in super form since switching from Castleford.
“That young man was very, very close this week,” said Marshall.
“He’s ready to play at this level and I think both Ben Kaye and Ryan Maneely know they need to perform on Sunday.”
Looking at the bigger picture, Marshall is firmly focused on starting the season with the same kind of form they finished 2015 as his side go in search of back to back top four finishes.
“We didn’t really get going last year until June; maybe that was because I had just come in, maybe it was the pitch conditions, who knows?” he said.
“We finished really strongly last season, but we don’t want to put ourselves in a position where we need to go on a 10-game winning streak again.
“Ideally, we want to get ourselves into that top four early on and then stay there.
“As a benefit of finishing where we did last year, we were able to plan and there’s a legacy in place because of that in terms of investment in the team and the things around it.
“I’d be bitterly disappointed if we didn’t make the top four again; it’s a bit like winning a game during the season, you always want to back it up with another the following weekend.
“We’ve not made wholesale changes - we’ve lost one player, Jack Spencer - and signed a raft of quality players, so the focus has to be on improving.
“Looking around, Leigh have got a quality team, Dewsbury are looking strong, Featherstone have made some decent signings.
“Sheffield have gone full time so they’ll be strong and London will be better than last year, which as a former player down there is something I think is important for the game.
“But let’s not kid ourselves, our two toughest away wins last year were Batley and Hunslet, so let’s not gloss over the rest of the competition.
“But we want to be excellent at home, build some form there, and then be pitting ourselves against the full time teams again in the Qualifiers at the end of the year.”
Halifax (from): Johnston, Sharp, Saltonstall, Smeaton, Tyrer, Murrell, G. Moore, Ambler, Kaye, Cahalane, Manning, Barber, Fairbank, Tangata, R. Moore, Maneely, Bracek, Divorty, C. Robinson, A. Robinson, Greenwood