Hunslet Hawks will get an early opportunity to measure pre-season progress when they visit Featherstone Rovers for tomorrow’s Gareth Swift Memorial Trophy match.
It is both sides’ first trial game and a repeat of the final match-up of last year’s Championship campaign, which saw Rovers romp to a 46-8 success at South Leeds Stadium.
Two much-changed line-ups will be on show tomorrow and Hawks boss Barry Eaton said: “We will be trying to integrate as many of the new signings as possible.
“Training has been good and we have really stepped it up since the start of December.
“We were in for five or six weeks before that, but the last few weeks we’ve been doing more training sessions as a group and starting to put a bit of structure in place.
“I’ve been really pleased with the intensity in training and how everybody is working towards the changes we made structurally with the ball and defensively as well.”
Hawks will be without play-maker James Coyle, who faces 10 weeks on the sidelines due to a fractured foot.
Also missing will be veteran hooker/loose-forward David March and Eaton revealed: “Dave’s going to have an MRI scan on the broken thumb he suffered at the end of last season.
“He is training and doing most things, but were not sure if it needs treatment or a bit of rehabilitation.
“Something – a bit of gristle or floating bone – might need to be taken out and he’s only 80 per cent at the moment.”
Tomorrow’s game will give new Rovers coach John Bastian a first opportunity to see his side in action.
He said: “The lads and the coaching staff are looking forward to a run out.
“It has been an intense pre-season programme since the players joined together as a group at the beginning of November.
“I am really pleased about how they have responded and where we are at present as a group. I have been really impressed with how the squad has integrated during pre-season training.
“They have gelled well off the field and now it’s time to gel on the field.”
Rovers will play five games before beginning their Kingstone Press Championship campaign away to Dewsbury Rams on Sunday, February 16.
And Bastian is looking for his team to make a good first impression.
“The fixture represents a good opportunity for some of the players to put down an early marker down,” he said.
“I feel the squad has a good blend to it and I’m sure the supporters are eager to watch the lads in action. There are young guys in the squad like Josh Sunley, Gavin Bennion and Jack Ormondroyd who will be keen to impress and gain experience.
“It is also a great moment for Tim Spears who will be looking forward to captaining the side for the first time.”
Drighlington product Ormondroyd signed a new one-year contract ahead of tomorrow’s annual pre-season game which is played in memory of 19-year-old Featherstone Rovers player Gareth Swift who died following a traffic crash in 2010.
Featherstone Rovers from: Bussey, Chisholm, Saxton, Cording, Worthington, Sharp, Sunley, Hardman, Moore, Ormondroyd, Bennion, Walmsley, Crossley, Flanagan, Ellis, Hirst, Lockwood, Spears, James, Dale, Nicholson, Roche.
Hunslet Hawks from: Kain, Mapals, Watson, Maun, Akaidere, Grimshaw, Ansell, Reed, Canterbury, Stenchion, Broughton, Lyons, Mackay, T Coyle, Tebb, Wilson, Brickwood, Clarke, Davies, Haley, Houston, Clough.
Referee: Adam Gill.
Kick-off: New Year’s Day, 1.30pm.