FORMER York City Knights favourites Craig Farrell and Jon Liddell are set for shock returns to Huntington Stadium – as guest members of the York Select XIII in the charity pre-season friendly.
Farrell, 31, who played for Hull KR, Doncaster and Batley aside two spells with the Knights, currently plays amateur rugby in Scarborough where he lives and teaches, having hung up his professional boots a few years ago due to injury.
Liddell, the 30-year-old former Leeds, Knights, Hunslet and York Acorn ARLC hooker, who now lives in Lancashire, is also returning to his home town for this fixture, with the pair being part of a 21-man amateur squad put together by Acorn prop Nic Caldwell, which will take on the Knights on Sunday, January 6.
The game is not only the Knights’ first hit-out of the year but also a fundraiser for Boxing Bowel Cancer – a fund set up in aid of Caldwell’s partner, schoolteacher Christine Sterry, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer aged 29.
Caldwell said: “It’s great that Craig and Jonny are coming over. It’ll be good for York fans to see them again and they’ll obviously add know-how to our line-up.”
Other players with past Knights first-team experience in the Select squad include Andy Gargan, Adam Endersby and Mike Embleton, all from an Acorn club who unsurprisingly make up half of the squad. All of York’s clubs are represented, though, as are Hull Dockers ARLC, for whom Caldwell used to play. Among them is BARLA Great Britain international Danny Ullyat.
Caldwell added: “I think we’ll be very competitive. I sent the list to (Knights general manager) Ian Wilson and he seems to think it’s a pretty good squad. I think we’ll give them a good game.
“I think there’s a lot of excitement around York for this fixture. Excitement is building towards the Knights’ season – they’ve assembled a good squad – and the rugby league fraternity in York enjoys these games against the amateur lads. I think it will attract a good crowd. I hope so, especially with it being a charity day.”
He added of the response from the amateur clubs: “I probably could’ve had another ten players if allowed. It’s been brilliant.”
In three previous fixtures, honours between the sides have been even, with one win each and a draw.
“Fitness-wise we might come unstuck,” said Caldwell. “Last time the Select side played the Knights, we were in mid-season but, now most of the amateur game has switched to summer, none of the lads are in season apart from a couple from New Earswick.
“Acorn, for example, don’t get into pre-season training until January and, while the Select squad will have a few sessions in December, we’ll be quite a bit behind the Knights and won’t have the advantage of match sharpness like in previous years.”
A couple of players have had to withdraw from the Select squad, the latest being New Earswick’s Jack Sinclair, albeit with a more-than-able replacement in Acorn’s Antony Chilton.
“We’re arranging a few get-togethers to get a bit of understanding,” added Caldwell.
“With half the lads coming from Acorn, we will play a similar pattern to them. That said, we don’t want to give too much away to the lads from Hull Dockers as we’ll be playing them next season (in the National Conference League premier division) and I don’t want them learning Acorn’s plays.”
The Boxing Bowel Cancer fund will also benefit from a big prizefighter boxing night featuring players from each of York’s amateur clubs, to take place early next year.
Caldwell added of the Knights: “It’s a really nice gesture from John Guildford (chairman) and Ian Wilson to give us this game and make a donation. The amateur clubs have come in for the boxing event, and this is something the Knights are doing. It really is appreciated.”
Wilson said: “It will be good to see former Knights players like Craig and Jonny back. Nic’s assembling a strong squad and they’ll be giving their all. Hopefully it will be a good game for the public, in addition to raising money for a great cause.”
York Select squad: Tim Elliott, Andy Gargan, Adam Endersby, Jordan Hyde, Leigh Rientoul, Danny Caldwell, Matthew Woods, Joe Porter, Martin McTigue, Mike Embleton, Antony Chilton (all York Acorn), Liam Gargan (New Earswick All Blacks), Chris Varley, Mike Welsh (both Heworth), Tom Dunmore (York Lokos), Jon Eccles, Danny Ullyat, Chris Stephenson, Darren Bumby (all Hull Dockers), Jon Liddell (unattached), Craig Farrell (Scarborough Pirates).