YORK City Knights are poised to sign prop Craig Potter from Batley Bulldogs and, given the dearth of fit front-rowers, he could go straight into the side that takes on champions Sheffield at Bramall Lane tomorrow night.
The Kingstone Press Championship clash (7.30pm) is also set to see Jack Iley make his Knights debut and George Elliott his first appearance of the season.
Fellow youngsters Kriss Brining and Ben Dent, who featured in the narrow loss to Halifax on Sunday as replacement hooker and on the wing respectively, have been named in the under-20s side for their league opener against Salford tonight (8pm), meaning they will sit out the first-grade clash, whereas Iley and Elliott were omitted from tonight’s 20-man provisional squad, with boss Gary Thornton confirming they are in his thinking for tomorrow.
Potter, 32, is expected at Huntington Stadium tonight to sign forms and train with Thornton’s side. He asked to be released by Batley, for whom he has made only one substitute appearance this season in the defeat at Sheffield, despite having been given the number ten shirt this year, and that request was granted yesterday.
The Knights have needed cover up front as Matt Nicholson is out with a shoulder problem, Luke Stenchion has suffered repeated setbacks in his return from injury and Paul King has departed. Adam Sullivan also needs an injection to cure a knee problem and Austin Bell also played through pain against Halifax on Sunday.
Also in the pack, Sam Scott is ruled out of tomorrow’s match after coming off against Fax, and Ed Smith is now a doubt with a dead leg.
Thornton said of Potter: “We’re looking at bringing him in. He’s found himself not getting enough game-time for someone his age and he asked if we would be interested. He’s been a fringe player in Batley’s side but he’s exerienced at this level and this is an opportunity to bring another prop in.”
The player began his career at Castleford, making one appearance in 2007, before playing seven times that same year for Doncaster.
In 2008, Thornton signed Potter for Batley, where he has since made 94 appearances, and he is set to sign him for a second time, offering pay-as-you-play terms.
Said the head coach: “If he signs (tonight) he could come into contention for the Sheffield game. He gives us another body.
“We were pretty thin on the ground at prop, especially with Adam Sullivan waiting for this procedure which would rule him out for a couple of weeks too.
“Luke Stenchion has taken a backward step and is not making progress, while Austin Bell played in bits on Sunday. Matt Nicholson is improving but the physio still wants it checking out.
“We’re pretty young up front and we can’t expect Jack Aldous to keep playing 70 or 80 minutes. Craig is a good player who will benefit us. He’s a big kid as well.”
As for Elliott and Iley making first-team appearances tomorrow, Thornton said: “I said to the whole squad before the Batley game that everyone would get an opportunity over the next three games (versus Batley, Halifax and Sheffield). Jack Iley and George are yet to feature and this is their chance.
“I told Ben Dent he’s done all right and has done nothing wrong in either game he’s played.
“Kriss is struggling a bit with an injury so was pencilled in for tonight as he’s probably not quite fit enough to do himself justice in the Championship game. Jack can play hooker or back row. We ran him at nine (hooker) at Oldham and he went pretty well.
“Kriss is still early in his development cycle. I don’t want to over-expose him. Defensively he gave us a lift (when he came on against Halifax), though he needs some work on his decision-making and distribution.
“They’re not ‘dropped’ but just left out to give other people a chance. We’re in a position this week where we can rotate one or two rather than rely on the only 17 fit players.”
Three overage players were in York’s provisional line-up tonight: trialist Jack Pickles, overage only by a month; Dent, 21, the full-back/winger who is down to play stand-off; and Aaron Lyons, 23, who faced a late test on his back injury and may yet be withdrawn for first-team action tomorrow. The limit is two overage players in an U20s league game unless clubs agree to more.
The game might also see a Knights debut for Hull-based amateur second-row Jonny Long, who has agreed U20s terms.
Stephen Batty, 16, could also keep his place after a decent show in last week’s friendly at Oldham.
Entry is free for vice-presidents and season-ticket holders, otherwise £4 for adults and £1 for under-16s. Entry is via Bar 13.
Knights reserves: from A Dent, Tomlinson, Minikin, Roe, Gallacher, B Dent, Morland, Stubbs, Brining, Joynt, Craig, Pickles, Parker, Batty, Fitzsimmons, Lyons, Long, Hall, Green.
• Knights forward Sam Scott has been named in the Rugby League World Team of the Month for February.
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