On the eve of Sunday’s Championship opener at Widnes (3.0), Halifax coach Richard Marshall has said he believes his team do not get the ‘credit’ or the ‘respect’ they deserve for their recent achievements.
Marshall’s part-timers, who have defied the odds to finish in the top four of the competition for the last two seasons, head to Cheshire with most pundits predicting a home win for Keiron Purtill’s full-time outfit.
Despite their achievements under Marshall - and a close-season recruitment that brought the likes Quentin Laulu-Togagae, Ben Kavanagh, Ben White and Shaun Robinson to the Shay - Fax are ranked as low as eighth by some bookmakers, with odds of 16-1 for a Grand Final win.
“It’s no different to how it’s been since I came here, but generally our players don’t get the credit they deserve,” said Marshall.
“We’re not seen as a fashionable club, we don’t have the big budgets of Toronto and Widnes, but what we do have is heritage, a talented group and a great work ethic.
“We went to the season launch the other week in York and I’m not sure we were really treated in any respectful manner, given what we’ve achieved in recent seasons.
“Let’s be honest, it’s the first league game of the year, we’re away at the full-time second favourites and they should be winning this.
“They’ve got a player in Anthony Gelling who probably costs as much as a quarter of our squad put together.
“But we’re used to being underdogs now and we’re excited to try and start with a win.
“The preparation has all been done now, everyone is ready to play.”
Marshall confirmed that his team will include skipper and half back Scott Murrell, who has yet to play in pre-season, but not former Widnes back rower Shane Grady, who is still recovering from knee surgery.
Fax’s plans have been complicated by a leg injury sustained by Wales international Chester Butler on Tuesday night.
The youngster had been pencilled in to start alongside Steve Tyrer in the centres.
Widnes have issues of their own, with captain Hep Cahill, front rower Jay Chapelhow and centre Krisnan Inu all ruled out.
“Chester strained his quad and couldn’t complete the session, so we need to monitor him and make a decision closer to the game,” said Marshall, who is likely to spring a late selection surprise, calling up prop Mitch Clark on dual-registration from partnership club Castleford.
“He was going to be in the team, and he still will be if he’s fit, but we’ll see.
“James Saltonstall is still struggling with his hamstring, so he’s a big doubt too.
“Scott will play, but Shane won’t, he needs at least another week.
“I know Widnes have been talking up their injuries, but we’ve a few missing as well.
“It won’t be our strongest side, but it will be the best side we can select and we’re confident we can go there and perform.”