YORK City Knights are to head into the new Championship season tomorrow boosted by the imminent return to the ranks of pack leader Paul King – assuming a new deal can be agreed.
The former Super League star had looked set to hang up his boots as new work commitments outside of the game prevented him from training.
However, those commitments have recently changed and the one-time Great Britain international has been back at Huntington Stadium – even offering to play in tomorrow’s opener at Whitehaven (3pm).
The 33-year-old prop’s contract had been annulled but the Knights still have his registration and the two parties now just need to agree new terms for his return to be official.
Head coach Gary Thornton – already bolstered by the fact front-row stalwart Adam Sullivan is in contention for a place tomorrow – said: “I was always hopeful Paul’s situation might change and there have been positive developments. He could be back in full training as early as Tuesday. We just need to make sure it’s right for both parties.
“I’ve been a little bit worried how light we were up front, and I’ve always said I would want him in the ranks if it was possible. I’m delighted things have changed for the good. I hope we can resolve it now.”
King was not being considered for tomorrow – unless Thornton had a big change of heart – but he could come in for the Knights’ first home game, against Swinton a week tomorrow.
Thornton said: “He’s put his hand up to play tomorrow but that might be a bit too early. If not this week, then possibly next week. If not then, then definitely the week after.”
Thornton will name his line-up for tomorrow’s league opener after training today, when he knows for certain which dual-reg players from partnership club Hull will be available.
Winger Tom Lineham, prop Josh Bowden, second-row Dean Hadley, half-back Danny Nicklas and full-back Jamie Shaul – a late replacement for Jack Briscoe, who was injured in training – are the ones poised to join the York ranks this weekend, but that contingent will only be confirmed after Hull chiefs know how their first team fare following last night’s Super League opener against Leeds. Some of those names could be pulled, although others, such as Ben Crooks, could be added.
Definitely in contention is Jack Latus, a centre or second-row who turned out on the wing for Hull in last week’s friendly win at York and who has signed trialist forms with the Knights after his trial at the KC Stadium ended.
The 24-year-old came through the Hull KR ranks, spent some time in London, and has also had stints at Hunslet and Sheffield, but has seen his career stall due to a knee reconstruction.Moving to York gives him an opportunity in the Championship while allowing Hull to monitor him.
Thornton said: “He’s a big athletic lad and offers us something a bit different.”
As for team selection, the head coach admitted it was a tricky balancing act. “We’ve got to be fair to everybody. I will only pick people I think will strengthen the side. I was disappointed with some performances last week. I’ll make a final call after training (today).
“The guys that have come across from Hull have been good. There were a couple of really good sessions in training. They’ve fitted in well and they’ll fit into the system if we need them.”
Among Thornton’s decisions will be whether to give Sullivan, pictured right, on the left, game-time. The 30-year-old has yet to play in pre-season but has been in full contact training after an injection on his troublesome knee.
Back-row Ed Smith (dead leg) and centre Aaron Lyons (arm) are also rated 50-50.
Thornton, who has named a 22-man provisional squad to be whittled down to 20 travelling to Cumbria, added: “We can’t wait for the game. Pre-season is a tough time and this is what we’ve been working towards.”
Knights: from Carr, Dent, Lyons, Ford, Elliott, Brown, Presley, Nicholson, Lee, Aldous, Scott, Smith, Golden, Brining, Sullivan, Bell, Latus, Lineham, Bowden, Hadley, Shaul.
Referee: Warren Turley (Leigh).