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York City Knights chief ‘happy’ with options as Ben Johnston joins Dewsbury
GARY THORNTON is pretty satisfied with the options he has in the pivotal positions at York City Knights – despite declaring disappointment over Ben Johnston’s switch to Championship rivals Dewsbury.
York-born Johnston had a brief stint at Huntington Stadium this year while on dual- registration from Castleford, and the Knights had been in talks with the Super League club about taking the 20-year-old on a temporary basis again in 2013 to add to their half-backs options.
However, Dewsbury have signed the former York Acorn ARLC junior on a season-long loan.
Thornton still has new recruits Simon Brown, the returning Jonny Presley and Hull loanee Danny Nicklas to fight for half-back berths, though, while Presley and Nicklas can also play at hooker, offering cover for regular number nine Jack Lee, along with young guns Kriss Brining and Harry Carter.
And he says missing out on Johnston – whom he coached in Cas’ under-20s before taking the reins at York this off-season – is therefore understandable and “not a major issue”. He said: “We had an informal agreement for Ben Johnston to join us but they’ve pursued another avenue and he’s gone to Dewsbury.
“I’m not sure of the reasons behind that and I’m a little bit disappointed because I thought I’d be consulted before the deal was done.“That said, we were not fully aware at that time that we’d have Danny Nicklas on a long loan but that’s been agreed now so it’s not a major issue.
“I think that’s one of the reasons why they’ve let him go to Dewsbury. The Rams are desperate for pivots and Cas probably thought he would get regular first-team football there.
“From the Super League club’s perspective, they’re trying to get their fringe players playing in the Championship. With Danny Nicklas coming and with our links with Hull, we possibly weren’t able to guarantee that for Ben and, to be fair to Cas, I had to explain that to them, and that’s probably why they’ve gone down that path with Dewsbury, and I understand that.
“It would have been nice to have the option (of fielding Johnston) but we’ve got Danny now, along with Simon Brown, Jack Lee and Jonny Presley to fill the positions at six, seven and nine. We can move them about a little bit as well.
“Simon will play at six and be the main kicker. Jack is an experienced hooker, while Danny and Jonny can both play half-back or hooker.”
He said of his squad as a whole: “It’s looking pretty healthy. It’s got cover across the board and hopefully there’ll be some more to come out of the partnership with Hull. I’m not going to say too much about that as it’s up to Hull to decide which of their players become available.
“I’m really happy with where we’re at. We’ve got strength in depth and a mix of youth and experience.”