Harrison: Fax will field best side on Boxing Day

Scott Murrell
Scott Murrell

Halifax coach Karl Harrison will field his strongest available side at Castleford on Boxing Day (noon) as he aims to kick off his side’s pre-season programme with a win.

Fax were due to finalise their line up for the meeting with Daryl Powell’s Super League outfit after back-to-back training sessions on Sunday and Monday.

Former Tigers front rower Ben Davies (knee) and utility forward Adam Robinson (pelvis) are already ruled out through injury, while new half back signing Simon Brown is a doubt with a hand injury, although Harrison tipped him to recover in time.

Young hooker Keith Holden, who burst into Harrison’s line up at the end of last season, will also miss out after being hospitalised with pneumonia, although he is expected to figure against Keighley on January 5.

“We’ll go with the best we’ve got and see where that gets us,” said Harrison, who expects to use “around 20” members of his 2014 squad.

“We’d like to start with a win, but whether that is going to be possible I don’t know.

“I’ve not spoken to Daryl, but I’d hope they pick a strong side, that’s what we’re expecting and that’s what we want.

“I need to know where we are as a team and the players need to know that too.”

It looks likely that, providing Brown makes the cut, all Harrison’s close-season recruits will make their debuts, with most focus on the former Sheffield stand off and fellow playmakers Ben Johnston, Ben Kaye and Paul Mennell.

How that quartet dovetail with captain Scott Murrell, who should find himself playing more in his favoured loose forward spot next year, will be key to the club’s 2014 ambitions.

“We’ll see if Brown is fit and then select from there,” said Harrison.

“They’ll all get a chance to play and I’m excited to see them.

“Kaye’s missed some sessions through illness but he’s back with us now, Mennell’s looking very sharp and for Johnston it’s a chance to play against his old club in his first game for his new club.

“There are definitely going to be times next year when we select a pivot player at loose forward, whether that’s Murrell or Callum Casey, who has trained extremely well.

“There are also times we’ll probably go with a third front rower in that position; it will depend on the opposition and how we want to play.”