LOCAL boy Ross Divorty returns to his old stomping ground tomorrow warning York City Knights that his Halifax side have yet to hit their straps this season – despite their 100 per cent winning record.
Fax sit behind leaders Featherstone only on points-difference, the pair being the only Kingstone Press Championship teams to have three wins from three games.
It’s a good start for a club who, with a Super League licence on their agenda, have title intentions having lifted the Northern Rail Cup last year, but former Knights second-row Divorty reckons more is to come as the season goes along.
“We’ve had good results but not really good performances,” said the 24-year-old, who hails from York, still lives in the city and is about to start a teacher training course at York St John University.
“We’re not firing on all cylinders but, as Karl Harrison (head coach) says, we’re not far off. Somewhere along the line we’ll need to kick on and get the little things right.”
Part of Fax’s training programme this week took in a session at The Shay with Melbourne Storm ahead of the NRL champions’ World Club Challenge against Leeds last night.
“The midweek run-out with Melbourne helped our confidence,” said Divorty. “They were probably only going at about 50 per cent and had an extra level or two, but we did okay in the session, and it was a great experience going up against players like Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater.”
It is not the first time the former Archbishop Holgate’s School pupil has gone up against Aussie aces, having played for Wales against the Kangaroos in the 2011 Four Nations.
He qualifies for Wales via his Welsh-born grandmother, but is otherwise a Yorkie through and through, and he is relishing running out back at Huntington Stadium, where he was a regular first-teamer as a teenager in 2008, before moving on to Doncaster, Featherstone, with whom he won the Championship title, and Halifax, who won the Northern Rail Cup last year.
“I’ve not seen York play this season but we know they’ve got good players,” he said.
“I missed out completely against them last year, missing the games home and away, as I had a season dogged by injury, but I’m looking forward to it and obviously hope I’m in the team.
“It’s good to play in front of those fans. I’ve had a lot of good experiences with the York crowd and I still speak to a few fans there. It will be good to play there again and see a few of them after the game as well.”
He added: “We need to finish the season off well. Half-way through last year we were going strong and probably playing our best, hence we won the cup. But we probably tailed off towards the end and got out of form, a bit like we’re playing at the moment.
“It’s a long season and we’ll learn from last year. But we’ve got three from three so results are there, it’s just performances we need.”
Halifax play again on Thursday, at Batley, so might chop and change line-ups to keep players fresh, but Harrison was not expected to make big alterations to the side that beat Keighley 30-20 last week.
Lee Paterson was fighting for a recall, possibly in place of winger Rob Worrincy. Sam Barlow might also return, while former Doncaster and Toulouse hooker Craig Cook has joined the club on trial.
Ex-Knights winger Wayne Reittie is ruled out due to severe facial injuries suffered in an off-field incident in December.
Halifax in focus
Last year: 3rd.
Current league position: 2nd.
Coach: Karl Harrison.
The departure of hooker Sean Penkywicz, one of the top players outside of Super League, was Fax’s biggest concern going into a season in which the title is clearly the aim.
But they had hopes stand-off Scott Murrell, recruited from Hull KR (and a one-time York target), would bring new inspiration – he has been playing at loose-forward effectively as a third half-back – and the fact Tony Tonks made his move from Huddersfield permanent was a boost for an already strong pack, of which Yorkie Ross Divorty hopes to be a regular part.
The addition of Rikki Sherriffe augments an already dangerous back line, and in Paul Handforth and Anthony Thackeray they have a fine half-back axis.
Squad for tomorrow: from Ryan Fieldhouse, Rob Worrincy, Steve Tyrer, Ben Heaton, Rikki Sheriffe, Paul Handforth, Anthony Thackeray, Luke Ambler, Craig Ashall, Andy Bracek, Adam Robinson, Ross Divorty, Scott Murrell, Tony Tonks, Dane Manning, Karl Ashall, Callum Casey, Lee Paterson, Sam Barlow.
One to watch: Rob Worrincy is one of the best wingers outside of Super League but Fax’s best outside back this term has been one-time Knight Rikki Sheriffe.
Partnership club: none.
Season prediction: won the Northern Rail Cup last year but missed out on the top two in the league – something they’ll want to put right.
Ground: The Shay.
Miles from York: 46.