Clubs battling to save their Boxing Day fixtures

CLUBS are facing a financial hit if money-spinning Boxing Day matches fail to beat the deep freeze.

Leeds Rhinos are confident the annual Headingley Carnegie clash with Wakefield Trinity Wildcats will go ahead and Featherstone Rovers are "optimistic" of staging their game against Hunslet Hawks.

But Castleford Tigers' home meeting with Bradford Bulls and Batley Bulldogs' derby against Dewsbury Rams are in major doubt, due to frozen pitches.

Boxing Day games traditionally attract bumper crowds, with gate receipts shared between the home and away clubs.

With the new season still two months away, losing that income would be a huge blow to clubs who haven't had a home fixture since September.

The extended Bank Holiday means matches could be re-arranged for next week – but attendances would be down on those expected for Boxing Day.

Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington said: "We are pretty optimistic we will be okay. The pitch is covered and protected pretty well and we don't have a snow problem, like we did last year."

He added: "I think the last time the Boxing Day game at Headingley was called off was 1962.

"The Leeds club then put in undersoil heating and that has preserved it ever since. When the BBC wanted to show a game on Boxing Day, Leeds were the only club that could guarantee a match, so they had a home game every year.

"It is a tradition that goes back 48 years and we are keen to maintain that. A lot of people have made plans and it would be quite disruptive if the game wasn't to go ahead."

An inspection was due to take place today at Tigers' newly-renamed Probiz Coliseum.

The pitch is uncovered and club officials are prepared to make an early decision if there is no chance of the surface thawing out before Sunday.

Featherstone Rovers chief executive Stuart Sheard is "as optimistic as we can be" that Sunday's Gareth Swift Memorial Trophy visit of Hunslet will go ahead.

He said: "The pitch has been covered since last Thursday, when it started to freeze hard.

"The covers go down to minus seven, but it has been slightly colder than that. We will do everything in our power to get the game on, but we can't do anything if it drops to minus eight/nine/10 at the end of the week."

Sheard added: "If it is 50-50, we'll inspect at 8.30 on Sunday. If it is off, we've provisionally re-arranged for January 2. Both clubs want to play."

Batley Bulldogs' Mount Pleasant ground is frozen and the game against Dewsbury is likely to be called off.

Bulldogs general manager Paul Harrison said: "At the moment, I would say there is very little chance.

"We are in the lap of the gods with the weather. It is absolutely frozen solid at the moment. It has got to warm up, there is nothing else we can do."

Harrison said the pitch is currently unprotected, due to a "problem" getting covers from the RFL. Covers are now at the stadium and will be used if the temperature rises.

"It will cripple us financially if it's not on. We bank on it, but it is out of our hands," added Harrison, who said no decision has yet been made about whether to reschedule the game.

Amateur rugby league's Yorkshire Cup final, due to be played at Featherstone on Monday, has been called off.

The semi-final between Queens and Criggleston All Blacks has still not been staged, due to the frozen ground.

Drighlington are already through to the final, which will be rescheduled for February.

Meanwhile, Wildcats' squad for the Boxing Day game at Leeds includes seven new signings, with Kevin Penny on the wing, Chris Dean at centre, Tommy Lee and Paul Johnson in the front-row, Stuart Howarth in the back-row and Josh Veivers and Motu Tony on the bench.

Senior players Matt Blaymire, Darryl Millard, Aaron Murphy, Ben Jeffries, Michael Korkidas, Kevin Henderson and Dale Ferguson are also due to take part.

Wildcats' squad is: Blaymire, Penny, Dean, Millard, Murphy, Jeffries, Wildie, Korkidas, Lee, Johnson, Henderson, Ferguson, Howarth. Subs Veivers, Hyde, Davey, Tony.

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