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Lucky 13 lift for Knights ace Tyler Craig
IT might be unlucky for some but boss Gary Thornton hopes the number 13 will prove a spur and confidence-booster for York City Knights young gun Tyler Craig.
A product of Heworth ARLC, Craig, pictured, has been on a steep learning curve in professional rugby league ever since injuries in the ranks saw him promoted to first-team action just as he turned 19 towards the end of last season.
But while Thornton does not expect the teenager to be a first-team regular this term as he continues his development, he has given him a notable plaudit by naming him in the loose-forward shirt when submitting his 2013 squad numbers to the Rugby Football League.
“He’s had some strong performances last year and he’s impressed in pre-season,” said Thornton.
“I don’t anticipate him playing 26 league games. He’s probably not ready for the rigours of week-in-week-out Championship level rugby, but he will play quite a few games. We will look to get him ready.
“Looking at him and his attitude – he deserved the number 13 shirt. He’s earned it. His attitude is great and he’s done really well.”
Luke Hardbottle is to return to the Knights from a two-year stint in Australia at the end of February and is being pencilled in for the loose-forward berth, traditionally the number 13 jersey. He has been given the number 25 shirt.
But Thornton, lauding England Under-18s Lions international Craig’s freakish fitness levels, said: “With no other natural loose-forward on the books at the time we sent off the numbers, it was only right to name Tyler at 13.
“He’s at the front of everything in training. He’s a fit lad. He’s surprisingly quick as well. He’s got a great attitude and applies himself really well. He’s a quiet lad but he lets his performances and his work do the talking. He’s a valuable member of our first-team squad.
“I’m pleased with the enthusiasm in the squad and he epitomises that.”
Neither Paul King nor Clark Thompson were allocated a squad number. Jon Goddard was given the number four shirt, but his future is also in doubt, the trio having struggled to attend pre-season training due to work commitments.
James Haynes, whose preferred position is full-back, has been given the number five wing jersey but he looks likely in the short-term at least to play at centre in Goddard’s stead – starting by having a run-out in that position when he makes his long-awaited return from injury in Sunday’s final friendly against Hull FC.
None of the dual-reg lads from Hull, nor recent signings Russ Dale and Jack Iley, nor Under-20s players James Morland, Tim Stubbs, Greg Minikin and Luke Tomlinson have yet been handed squad numbers having missed out on the top 25, which were requested by the RFL last month.
Thornton admitted the allocation of numbers offered clues to his possible pecking order, but said: “They were allocated before we saw the guys play. For instance Luke Stenchion came in late and got 22, but who’s to say he won’t be in the 17?
“I’m not a fan of squad numbers if I’m honest – it’s just a number. It was a case of allocating numbers based on their position and what we thought might be a pecking order at that time.”
Knights squad numbers: 1 Tom Carr, 2 George Elliott, 3 James Ford, 4 Jon Goddard, 5 James Haynes, 6 Simon Brown, 7 Jon Presley, 8 Adam Sullivan, 9 Jack Lee, 10 Jack Aldous, 11 Sam Scott, 12 Jason Golden, 13 Tyler Craig, 14 Aaron Lyons, 15 Ed Smith, 16 Austin Bell, 17 Matt Nicholson, 18 Sam Orange, 19 Kriss Brining, 20 Ben Dent, 21 Joe Hemmings, 22 Luke Stenchion, 23 Gareth Poutney, 24 Harry Carter, 25 Luke Hardbottle.
Not numbered: Paul King, Clark Thompson, Jack Iley, Russ Dale, James Morland, Greg Minikin, Luke Tomlinson, Tim Stubbs, Jake Joynt (trialist), Lee Nobbs (trialist), Danny Nicklas (on loan), dual-registered players from Hull.
• Fans can get discounted tickets for the Knights’ final pre-season friendly against Hull on Sunday for £10 if bought before 5pm on Thursday from the club’s Roland Court office off Huntington Road, phone 01904 767404. Tickets are also available from Hull’s KC Stadium.
Admission on the day at Huntington Stadium will be the usual £14 for adults, £10 for concessions or £3 for under-16s.