Johnston set for debut on familiar ground

Ben Johnston
Ben Johnston

Young Halifax half back Ben Johnston is hoping to showcase his talent on familiar ground against Castleford in Boxing Day’s pre-season opener (noon).

The 21 year old playmaker, a member of Daryl Powell’s full time squad in 2013, quit the Tigers in the autumn to join Fax, despite having a year left on his contract at Wheldon Road.

And now the rookie number seven, who caught Fax boss Karl Harrison’s eye playing for York on a dual-registration deal, is gunning for his former teammates.

“There were no hard feelings about leaving; the time was right for me to make a move,” said Johnston.

“I felt I would have mainly been playing on dual-reg again next year and with no disrespect to York, I want to play at a higher level than Championship One.

“I spoke to Karl and he sold me his vision for the club and I could tell straight away that he was someone I could work with.

“We’ve not been told the team yet for Boxing Day, but I obviously want to be involved if I can.

“I’ve grown up with a lot of the players in that Castleford team and to play against them would be great.

“I know it’s only a friendly, and everyone talks about just getting a solid hit out under your belt, but every game I play I want to win.”

Johnston is one of a clutch of new playmaking talent bought by Harrison during the close season, alongside fellow half back Simon Brown and hookers Ben Kaye and Paul Mennell.

“All the main positions have changed, really,” said Johnston, who played alongside Brown for the City Knights last season.

“It’s going to take a while to gel, but we’ve been picking up the pace in training and things are looking more and more fluent.

“I like playing next to Browny; he takes care of the organisation and the kicking game and leaves me free to do my own thing.

“Playing behind the pack we’ve got here - which I think is the best in the competition - is going to make a massive difference for us, compared to what we experienced at York last season.

“It’s difficult to set things up when your forwards aren’t dominating in the middle.”