YORK City Knights supporters will get to see a number of potential new faces on Sunday after head coach James Ford named four dual-registration players in his squad for the final fixture of pre-season.
The Knights host old rivals Hunslet – the only fellow League One team they meet prior to the big kick off at home to Bradford Bulls on February 18 – in a friendly at Bootham Crescent (3pm).
Unlike Hunslet counterpart Gary Thornton, Ford has named a strong squad as he looks to firm up plans for the league opener.
And included are a quartet of dual-reg starlets from partner club Hull KR in teenage full-back Will Dagger and forwards Jordan Walne, Joe Cator and Brad Clavering.
Dagger, 18, and Walne, 24, already have Super League experience, with the former having played four times last year for Warrington and Walne 44 times for Salford over the past five seasons – the last two being injury-hit – before signing for Rovers.
Ford said: “Will Dagger is a classy half-back/full-back. Tim Sheens (Hull KR boss) thinks really highly of him.
“He had some nice touches against Hull FC (in pre-season) and he’s played a handful of games for Warrington, which bodes well.
“Jordan Walne is good in contact and has got some late footwork. He’s played nearly 50 Super League games, which shows his quality.”
Teenagers Cator, who was touted as a dual-reg arrival earlier this month, and Clavering, who played twice for York on DR last year and also turned out in last week’s friendly at Featherstone, both rose through the youth ranks in Hull.
On the former, Ford said: “Joe is a young, hard-working middle who’s similar to Tim Spears and Joe Porter in many ways. He’s full of energy and enthusiasm and he’s got an opportunity to impress on us he’s good enough to be in our team.”
It is unclear if the four will become York regulars but the fact they are featuring in a warm-up game suggests they are being lined up for lengthy stints in the Minster city.
But Ford said: “I can’t say whether they will feature heavily or not during the season.
“It depends on how they play, on our best combinations and on what Tim feels his best are.
“I will pick what I think is the best team to win as many games as we can.”
After Sunday, the Knights will have two blank weekends prior to the Bradford game, although they may have a behind-closed-doors run-out.
Having had their defensive mettle tested in the last two outings, against Featherstone and Hull KR, they are looking to fine tune their attack this weekend, against an underdog line-up.
“It’s important in terms of our preparation for Bradford,” Ford said of the game.
“We’re going to try a few things in good ball, and try to hammer home a couple of different systems we’ve been working on.
“It gives the players another game to build combinations and ultimately force their way into the 17 for the Bradford game.”
He added: “Results in pre-season aren’t as important as performances but then it’s York-Hunslet. There’s a lot of rivalry and it’s a good rivalry and both sets of supporters will be desperate to get bragging rights and both coaches want to see their teams perform.”
Full-back Ash Robson was given time off following the birth of his first child, with Dagger set to play in his stead, but he has said he wants to play so is included in the squad. It is unclear which of the two will now start.
Ronan Dixon (hamstring), Harry Carter (concussion) and Andy Ellis (concussion) are out, and Joe Batchelor (concussion) faces a late fitness test.
Trialist Dan Douglas has been released but veteran winger Tommy Saxton, who has also been on trial forms, is on the subs’ bench, suggesting he is likely to be offered a deal for 2018.
Knights (possible); Dagger, Cockayne, Butler-Fleming, Hey, Mazive, C Robinson, Delaney, A Robinson, Jubb, Horne, Scott, Batchelor, Spears. Subs: Robson, Siddons, Walne, Porter, Saxton, Normington, Hawksworth, Clavering, Jackson, Cator, Rory Dixon.
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