Harrison: New nines will spark our attack

Paul Mennell
Paul Mennell

Halifax have unveiled a trio of hooking talent for 2014, with incoming number nines Paul Mennell and Ben Kaye joining the re-signed youngster Keith Holden in the club’s 2014 squad.

Mennell’s arrival from Batley has been anticipated for several weeks, with the former Bradford and Huddersfield playmaker playing under Fax coach Karl Harrison at Mount Pleasant.

Kaye, who played Super League rugby for both Leeds and London, has been a mainstay of Featherstone’s table-topping sides over the last two seasons.

Mennell and Kaye look likely to kick off next season as the frontrunners to fill a position where Fax struggled in 2012, with Karl and Craig Ashall, departing half back Paul Handforth and, latterly, Holden all playing there with varying degrees of success.

“Mennell is a good player and a good bloke, who gives us options at half back and hooker,” said Harrison, who has already recruited two specialist half backs in York’s Simon Brown and Castleford’s Ben Johnston.

“He has come through good systems at Bradford and Huddersfield and he’s done a great job for Batley.

“He distributes the ball very well and he can defend in the middle of the park without people going through him.

“He’s also quicker than people think; if he gets through the line, he isn’t coming back.

“Kaye is rock solid, as tough as they come and he’s a smart kid who knows how to run a game. He’s played plenty of Super League and he’s been part of that tough culture that Daryl (Powell) built up at Featherstone.

“He was really keen to come here and, again, he’s a very good passer of the ball.

“We struggled at times this year with our distribution and both Paul and Ben will help us get the ball to where it needs to be that little bit quicker.”

Holden’s retention is no surprise after the former Warrington junior’s promising performances in Fax’s play off games against Sheffield.

The former England Schoolboy international made his Championship debut in the final league game of the year against Workington, was a shock pick for the 21-6 win at the Don Valley and held his place for the season-ending home loss to the eventual Grand Final winners.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but if we had been braver we’d have given Keith his chance earlier than we did,” said Harrison, who initially took Holden on trial last winter after he was released by Widnes.

“But he coped well in pretty tough circumstances for him and with a big off season under his belt he is going to put a lot of pressure on people next season.”