HEAD coach Gary Thornton says it’s little more than an aside at York City Knights right now – but what an additional incentive they’ve been given to win promotion.
Rugby league giants Bradford Bulls – well, former giants perhaps, but you get the drift – are now favourites for relegation from Super League along with London Broncos after their appeal against a six-point deduction was rejected.
The former four-time champions therefore remain six points from safety with 12 regular season games to go and, if they cannot claw back that gap, they will be playing Championship level rugby in 2015. If the Knights can get the sole promotion place in Championship One, then they home and away clashes with the Bulls would be afoot.
Such a league encounter seemed impossible or at best improbable not too long ago but the restructuring of domestic rugby league’s professional tiers, which brings with it the reintroduction of relegation from Super League, has breathed new life into the divisions below the elite.
Of course, Thornton pointed out there was already enough incentive for his side to achieve their promotion goal regardless of Odsal outfit’s plight, and he warned all this would be immaterial to York if they did not go up.
But he admitted welcoming a club like Bradford to the Minster city – it would be at Bootham Crescent next year as Huntington Stadium is redeveloped – would be a boon for the club.
“We’ve got to get promotion first,” he stated when asked about the possibility of taking on the Bulls in 2015. “I don’t think things like that come into our thinking.
“If we do go up, and if they do go down, it would be fantastic to host Bradford at York. What a great game that would be for the fans of York.
“However, right now we’re just concentrating on getting back on track after the disappointing result (at Gloucestershire All Golds) last week. That’s our focus.
“Promotion is a big incentive anyway, regardless of what happens with Bradford. There is more money in that division and there are going to be some very exciting fixtures.
“We already knew two teams would be coming down from Super League and that would hopefully add to the crowds and bring good away followings. If Bradford are one of them, it’d be something to look forward to.
“But the first job is getting out of this division. That’s the focus, and we can think about who we’ll be playing next year after that.”
BRADFORD, meanwhile, are considering their next step in the appeals process in a bid to get the deduction cut.
They were initially handed the six- points deduction by the Rugby Football League in February after going into administration for the second time in two years.
Some pundits expected a reduction to two, three or four points on appeal but an independent sporting sanctions panel decided the full penalty should stand.
In a statement, the Bulls said: "We are naturally disappointed with the panel's decision in finding we did not meet the necessary threshold."
It added: "Prior to the appeal hearing, we had already taken initial legal advice on our options should the appeal fail. We will now pursue those options with a view to making a decision on how to take matters further forward in the belief that the decision made was wrong.
"Inevitably, there will be upset among our players, supporters and sponsors who have throughout been supportive.
"As a club, we are doing all we can to repay the faith shown by our supporters. We are hopeful that ultimately our efforts will bring success."
TALKING of appeals, the Knights are not going to appeal against Austin Bell’s red card against Gloucestershire All Golds last week – but they have appealed for an explanation into apparent inconsistencies in officiating.
Bell was given a straight red card after lamping All Golds forward Jack Francis in retaliation after Francis had swung a forearm/elbow at him when getting up to play the ball.
But Francis, who instigated the set-to, was not carded and nor was York second-row Colton Roche, who swung and missed at the All Golds forward in response.
It gave the home team a man advantage for the last half-hour, which paid dividends as they went on to win 24-22.
Francis will not be hauled before a disciplinary panel either, unlike Bell, who is to enter an early guilty plea ahead of his hearing on Tuesday, which is likely to bring with it a one-match ban.
The incident at the Prince of Wales Stadium happened on the same weekend that Leeds captain Jamie Peacock was only sin-binned for throwing retaliatory punches during the Rhinos’ Challenge Cup win over Leigh. Furthermore, the Centurions player involved, Matt Sarsfield, was also yellow-carded for allegedly instigating the incident.
To add to the confusion over the disciplinary process in rugby league, Peacock was called before a panel last night fearing the first ban of his professional career, but Sarsfield escaped further censure.
Knights boss Gary Thornton has called for clarity on actually what merits a red or yellow card and what merits a disciplinary hearing, given the officials do not seem to be applying the same criteria. But he has so far got none.
He said: “I’ve tried to get hold of the referees to have a chat about it but nobody has rung me back, which I’m disappointed about.
“I’m still puzzled by the inconsistencies.
“Jamie Peacock did what he did in front of the TV cameras and 7,000 people and get sin-binned. Austin throws one punch in retaliation and gets a red card.
“It is not consistent but nobody is explaining it to me.”
AUSTIN BELL will miss the Knights’ trip to South Wales Scorpions a week today assuming he receives a one-match at his disciplinary hearing on Tuesday.
He has been charged with a grade ‘B’ punching against Gloucestershire which brings with it a one or two-match suspension if found guilty.
As it is a first charge this term, Bell can enter an early guilty plea which usually reduces the punishment.
South Wales aren’t the toughest opponents so in that sense the ban has not come at a bad time.
However, in addition to absences due to injuries, the Knights will already be without Jack Aldous and Benn Hardcastle due to weddings and Ryan Mallinder due to work commitments.
The Knights understandably aren’t going to demand the trio make themselves available. It’s just part-time rugby for you, and these things can happen, especially when a Sunday game is switched to a Saturday.
AUSTIN BELL was playing pretty well last Sunday before his red card and was in line for some The Press Player of the Year points to add to his tally.
As it was, his early departure meant he missed out, with Jack Aldous (2pts) and Ed Smith (1pt) the recipients instead, along with man-of-the-match Ben Reynolds (3pts).
Reynolds’ good recent form – including two consecutive The Press man of the match awards – has a down side where the Knights are concerned.
It’s obviously good that the dual-reg full-back has been performing well for the team but it has not gone unnoticed by parent club Castleford, who duly called him up to their first team game in Super League this weekend, making him unavailable for York’s match with Gateshead tomorrow when really they could have done with him.
Knights boss Gary Thornton said: “I’m made up for the lad as he deserves it. He’s a good kid and he’s been playing well for us.
“But it doesn’t do us any favours. Daryl Powell (Cas boss) is resting a few players so we’ve got no-one available on dual-reg at all. This is where dual-reg can work against you, and we could have done with it working for us this weekend as we’ve got a few injuries.”
The Press Player of the Year leaderboard: Lee 13pts, P Smith 10, Aldous 10, Haynes 9, Reynolds 8, Saltonstall 7, Paterson 5, Presley 4, Bell 3, Brennan 3, E Smith 3, B Hardcastle 2, Minikin 1, Morrison 1, Mallinder 1, B Dent 1.