Halifax coach Richard Marshall says the club are already seeing the benefits of funding a bigger playing squad in 2016 ahead of Sunday’s showdown with Batley at the Shay (3.0).
Fax, bolstered by the prize money from last season’s successful Super 8s Qualifiers run, have handed out 31 first team numbers this year as well running a newly re-formed reserve set up.
That has given the current Championship Coach of the Year options he could only dream of last season, allowing him to leave livewire Ben Johnston - a near automatic selection in 2015 - out of the 17 that beat Workington 20-0 at Derwent Park last weekend.
And with Marshall suggesting there will be “minimal” changes to his line up for the clash with John Kear’s Bulldogs - who are level with Fax on two wins from three starts - Johnston, and senior professionals like Adam and Connor Robinson, Andy Bracek, Tommy Saxton and Sam Smeaton, could all find themselves on the sidelines this weekend.
“We never had this situation last season, never,” said Marshall, who was at Rams Stadium on Monday night to see a largely youthful Fax second string lose out 30-22 to a more experienced Dewsbury line up in a game that saw full back Miles Greenwood make a successful comeback after a year-long absence with a broken leg.
“There’s real competition everywhere and that’s pushing players to perform better, it’s a very competitive environment at the moment.
“You look at last week when Jake Eccleston and Ben Heaton came into the backline; they both played well because they knew that if they didn’t do that, they probably wouldn’t be playing again against Batley.
“No one is sure of their place this year; everyone has to be on watch.
“Young Brandon Moore and Elliot Morris are both knocking on the door and Miles did well on his comeback.
“I think we’ll start with the same forwards this weekend, there might be a change in the backs but then again there might not.
“I think any change will be minimal though.”
Marshall labelled John Kear’s Bulldogs as the ‘form team’ of the Championship and is well aware of the challenge that awaits.
“John’s a master motivator and a very good coach,” he said.
“He inspires them to be work hard for each other, to play with a lot of energy, and they’ve got some very good players in that team as well.
“As a team, we need to match and surpass that enthusiasm.
“We snuck both games against them last season but they were both hard, physical encounters and very, very close.
“I hope we have a similar kind of game on Sunday, because that’s what we want as a team.”
Halifax (probable): Sharp; Saltonstall, Heaton, Tyrer, Eccleston; Murrell, G.Moore; Cahalane, Kaye, Ambler, Manning, Divorty, Fairbank. Subs: R. Moore, Barber, Maneely, Tangata