HALIFAX coach Karl Harrison has admitted that veteran Australian prop Jim Gannon is “proving me wrong” ahead of Friday night’s derby date with Keighley at the Shay (7.30).
Gannon, the former Huddersfield, Hull KR and Widnes front rower who began his English career with Fax when he arrived from Balmain in 1999, had initially been left without a playing contract for 2012 when Harrison arrived at the Shay last autumn, with only a coaching deal to work with Fax’s under-23s on the table.
But long-term injuries to forwards Makali Aizue and Sam Barlow forced Harrison’s hand, with Gannon subsequently penning a pay-as-you-play deal before Christmas.
Since then, the 34 year old has never looked back and is arguably the club’s form prop going into the clash with Jason Demetriou’s Cougars.
“Jim’s proving me wrong, and I am happy to admit that,” said Harrison.
“He was signed to cover for the injuries we had, but at the moment if he’s not the first name on the teamsheet he is pretty close to being the first.
“Jim came to see me after the friendlies and said ‘I’m enjoying it, what do I have to do to stay in the team for the rest of the year?’
“I told him: work hard, train well, and put the performances in.
“He’s picked the gauntlet up, he’s committed, he’s looking after himself really well and he’s playing well.
“Can he do it for the full season? I hope so.
“I think he needs to stay injury free, because if he misses a few weeks he might find it hard to get back to the same level, but you could never question his dedication.”
But while Gannon is certain to figure on Friday night, Barlow - who has made just two first team appearances since returning from ankle surgery and missed the cut for last week’s trip to Bramall Lane - is already sidelined.
The former Siddal junior has had six stitches in his finger after cutting himself in a kitchen accident and has been told he cannot train for a week.
“Barlow’s been told to keep the wound dry to prevent infection, which pretty much rules out any form of exercise,” said Harrison.
“It’s frustrating because it means he is losing another week on everyone else when he needs to be catching up.”
HALIFAX’S under-23s take on Keighley’s second-string at Cougar Park tonight (7.30).
Coaches Martin Gonzalez and Jim Gannon are expected to field some members of the club’s first team squad, although head coach Karl Harrison was not expected to make a final decision until today.
Hooker Ben Manning is injured, with Jake Smith deputising.