YORK City Knights kick off their home campaign in the Kingstone Press Championship tomorrow with their need to beat Swinton three-fold.
Boss Gary Thornton is eager to turn Huntington Stadium into a fortress – aided by noisy support – and he wants to take points off a team he sees as one of York’s rivals in the battle for a lower play-off berth.
The new-look Knights also want to get into the winning groove quickly, having begun the season with defeat at Whitehaven. The club’s only win last season came against Swinton.
Said Thornton: “We want to make our home a fortress and this is our first attempt at that.
“There are tough places to go to in this league, as was proved at Whitehaven, so it makes it more important to get something out of your home games.
“There are five clubs you expect to be in the play-offs and everyone else is scrapping for the other three places. Swinton are one of them – they’re among our big competitors for the top eight.”
Thornton has added fit-again Ed Smith, Aaron Lyons and, should he pass a late test, Matt Nicholson to a 19-man squad, augmented by the dual-reg arrivals of Jack Briscoe and Joe Arundel. Dual-reg duo Josh Bowden and Jamie Shaul, plus James Haynes, are not involved.
Knights (possible): Carr, Briscoe, Ford, Arundel, Lineham, Brown, Nicklas, Nicholson, Lee, Aldous, Scott, Hadley, Golden. Subs: from Brining, Bell, Smith, Sullivan, Latus, Lyons.
• THE clubcall system will not be introduced into the Championships play-offs after clubs voted overwhelmingly to reject it.
The system is used in Super League whereby the team placed highest in the table gets to choose qualifying semi-final opponents.
The 14-team Championship is to switch from a six to an eight-team play-off system, to mirror Super League, but minus clubcall.
In the nine-team Championship One, the table-toppers go up automatically, with teams placed second to sixth playing off for the second promotion place.
Lions in focus
Last year: eighth.
Current league position: n/a.
Coach: Steve McCormack.
The only team the Knights beat last year lost key men in Ian Mort, Mike Morrison, Dale Cuniffe (all to Australia), Alex Hurst (London Broncos), Karl Ashall (Halifax), Adam Higson (Leigh) and Tom Armstrong (Sheffield) in the off-season.
They brought in some cover, possibly the most notable being Andy Ballard and Josh Barlow, but coach McCormack still headed into the season with a threadbare roster – that was until he signed Warrington’s entire open-age squad on either dual-reg or permanent (how permanent remains to be seen) contracts.
Squad for tomorrow: from Richie Hawkyard, Andy Ballard, Martin Ainscough, Ian Watson, Josh Barlow, Darren Hawkyard, Mark Smith, Ryan Shaw, Jack Morrison, James Mendeika, Gene Ormsby, James Laithwaite, Tyrone McCarthy, Glenn Riley, Liam Hulme, Danny Bridge, David Mills.
One to watch: plenty of eyes will be on dual-reg star Tyrone McCarthy.
Partnership club: Warrington Wolves.
Season prediction: Much will depend on success of the link with Warrington – without it the Lions might be more like pussycats.
Ground: Leigh Sports Village.
Miles from York: 82.