GARY THORNTON has admitted his selection headache in the pivots has intensified – and it might soon get worse.
Pat Smith, Benn Hardcastle and Jonny Presley have all laid strong claims to start York City Knights’ Championship One season on the field at half-back, and a fourth contender will soon come into the mix as dual-registered Castleford starlet Ben Reynolds is set to start Thursday night’s reserve team friendly against Sheffield (8pm).
Smith, according to Thornton, has been a revelation since joining his home-town club from Sheffield, with a “fantastic attitude as well as with his performances”.
Meanwhile, Hardcastle, back at Huntington Stadium from Gateshead, has shown sleight of hand and accuracy with the boot, and the experienced Presley, initially thought to be the frontrunner for a starting berth, has had to respond in kind.
The Press revealed last week that Reynolds, a full-back or stand-off, was to be thrown into the mix, and Thursday night will see him get a run in both of those preferred positions.
Thornton has already admitted he faces a tough dilemma and Sunday’s performance against the York Select XIII, not least that of Smith, has provided more food for thought.
“I’ve been impressed by all three of them,” he said.
“Pat and Benn looked good at half-back together against York Select but Jonny came on and staked his claim as well. We’ve got two more weeks of training and we’ll use that to finalise things.
“They will all be important to us this year, but to pick the first side will be difficult. They might all feature – I’ve probably got as big a decision about nine (the hooker position).”
Smith or Presley could indeed play at dummy-half, but the form of both Jack Lee and Kriss Brining in that role means they would be difficult to shift.
Captain Lee has been struggling with a thumb problem, but hospital tests revealed only ligament damage rather than a break and he should be okay for the big kick-off against Gloucestershire on March 2. Brining is also an option for the back row, but there is strong competition there too.
James Haynes and Luke Hardcastle, meanwhile, are already vying for the number one slot, and Thornton stressed Reynolds would have to out-perform those two, or all three half-backs, if he is to break into his side in either position.
“We will have a look at Ben on Thursday at both full-back and stand-off,” said the head coach. “Our full-back plays in our attacking sets as very much another pivot so we’ll see how he goes. It’s not a given that he will go straight into our (first) team.
“I’ve pretty much got in my mind what I think will be my line-up but there are a few 50-50 calls. One of them is at half-back and another is at full-back. It’s not cut and dried.
“It’s great to have these dilemmas. It shows everyone is pushing each other and I think whichever combination we go with will be a good one.”
• SELBY Warriors ARLC bowed out of the Pennine League’s Andrew Bennett Memorial Trophy after a 46-16 round one defeat by Brotherton Bulldogs.
Selby ‘A’ saw their trip to Cowling Harlequins in division seven postponed.
New Earswick All Blacks were without a fixture in the Championship, while Sherburn Bears were handed a 30-0 walkover win by visitors Wetherby Bulldogs in division five.