Halifax coach Richard Marshall has said his team will play “tough but fair” in Sunday’s potentially explosive Championship showdown with Leigh.
Both Fax’s 2014 fixtures against Paul Rowley’s side, who went on to secure both the League Leaders’ prize and the Grand Final, boiled over into acrimony.
Fax were in control at the Shay before an all-in brawl tipped the momentum back in the visitors’ favour, while the return game at the LSV saw Fax back rower Dane Manning red carded and banned for 10 games after his tackle on former teammate Sam Barlow sparked more mayhem.
“They’re a team that likes to play close to the line and play with a lot of aggression, but I think you can say that about a lot of teams,” said Marshall, who spent two years with Leigh as a player, packing down alongside his former Fax teammate and current Centurions’ coach Paul Rowley in their front row.
“Look, whatever has gone on in the past is history as far as I am concerned, but there is going to be rivalry because they’ve been two of the best clubs in the Championship over the last few years.
“As long as that rivalry is respectful between two great clubs, it’s good for the game.
“I hope it’s an intense game, an aggressive game and that’s the way we’re preparing for it.
“We’ll play hard but fair.”
While Leigh have bolstered an already talented line up over the winter, the biggest difference is the Centurions’ newly-found full time status, the legacy of off-field investment and last year’s £500,000 prize money jackpot.
“That kind of money creates a gulf between teams, I’d be lieing if I said any different,” said Marshall.
“I think Paul’s got something like 30 full time players; we’ve got a squad of 24.
“From a coaching perspective, the difference in the amount of contact time you have with the players, and the sessions and analysis it allows you to do, is massive over the course of a season.
“But in a one off game, which is what we are treating this as, there is no reason why we cannot turn them over if we perform on the day.”
Marshall said he did not expect to make major changes to the team that won at Whitehaven on the opening day, although he predicted “one or two” alterations.
One of those could be the inclusion of Jacob Fairbank, the Huddersfield prop or loose forward, who joined his hometown club on loan earlier in the week.
Fairbank, the nephew of the former Test prop Karl, has already had one successful temporary spell at the Shay, playing in the side that lost the 2011 Northern Rail Cup final to the Centurions.
“I’ve seen Jacob have some really, really strong games for Huddersfield and I know he’s well respected here,” said Marshall.
“I think he will add something to us in terms of grit and determination in the middle of the field.
“We are getting a local player with a real desire to prove a point.”
Fairbank, who has not featured so far for the Giants this year and is in the final year of his contract, effectively replaces another temporary recruit, Andrew Dixon.
Dixon was signed from Salford on a similar basis, only to pen a permanent deal with Leigh without playing a game for Fax.
Ironically, the two could now go head to head at the Shay this weekend.