Halifax captain-coach Scott Murrell is unlikely to return to action in Saturday’s Championship clash with Toronto (6.0 GMT) with coach Simon Grix confirming he is now actively planning for life after the veteran half back.
Murrell, who started his career at Leeds, has been the lynchpin of Fax’s game since arriving at the club in 2012 after a career-defining seven year spell with Hull KR.
But the veteran playmaker, one of the outstanding Championship players of recent seasons, missed Sunday’s 24-18 loss to Featherstone with a combination of groin and ankle issues which seem likely to keep him sidelined against the Wolfpack.
“Scott will travel with us in his coaching capacity, and he’ll continue his rehab in Canada,” said Grix, who will fly out with his players on Thursday for the game at the Lamport Stadium against the runaway Championship leaders.
“There’s an outside chance he’ll come through and play but, realistically, I’m not expecting it.
“He’s been carrying some knocks, which have limited his training, and he knows he’s not been good enough over the last few weeks.
“We probably missed his control on Sunday but as a club we’re at the stage where we need to start planning for life after Murrell rather than wait until he’s actually gone.
“We are actively looking for someone to play that role next season - game management, kicking game - but those players are few and far between, so it’s not an easy task.
“I’ve had a conversation with Scott about next year and he knows what he needs to do, which is to be in better shape physically.
“If he’s in good shape and he’s playing well, he might play every game next year, but it’s up to Scott; he understands where he is at.”
Fax should welcome back hooker Brandon Moore, who has signed a new contract for the 2020 season, after a one week suspension, while Grix said rookie talents Reece Chapman-Smith and Connor Davies were also pushing for selection.
The visitors, who have now lost five straight league games, will start at long odds to cause an upset, with their coach placing the emphasis on improvement and performance rather than a result that seems out of reach.
Fax will remain in Canada after the game, flying back on Tuesday after opting to extend their stay.
“We made that decision when we were winning games, around the time of the Challenge Cup quarter final, so it was a little bit of a reward for everyone,” said Grix, whose side will be making their first trip across the Atlantic after last year’s fixture was switched to London.
“As it stands now, it’s a chance to have a few days together as a team, circle the wagons a little bit, and come back firing for the Widnes game the following Sunday.
“We fly Thursday, train Friday, play Saturday, have a day off Sunday and then train Monday before coming home.
“We’re under no illusions about the game itself; they’ve only lost twice or whatever in two years over there.
“The big thing for us is to take a step forward in terms of performance, show the same desire and energy we had against Featherstone, and execute the plan we’ve come up with.
“If we can do that, and we don’t get the result, then it’s still a step forward.”
One player who won’t travel to Canada is young winger Conor McGrath, who is expected to join Dewsbury on a month-long loan deal.
McGrath, who had a similar spell with York earlier in the season, was one of several young players who signed new deals last week, including Chapman-Smith and the Davies twins, Curtis and Connor.
“Conor is very much in my plans, but at the moment I can’t guarantee him four games in a month and Dewsbury probably can,” said Grix.
“He’s been a little bit unlucky this year because he’s got three very good wingers competing with him for those spots.
“But if he continues to develop I can see him playing more regularly next season.”