HEAD coach Gary Thornton insists York City Knights’ Championship One promotion challenge will be a full squad effort – not one restricted to those taking to the field each week.
The Knights have built a 39-strong playing roster, a figure which includes a dozen or so earmarked for further development in the under-20s reserves, and Thornton says every one of them will play an important part throughout the year, be it on the pitch or, for youngsters on the fringes, in pushing team-mates on, keeping all on their toes.
He also says that, given the options he has at his disposal, even before dual-reg Castleford players come into the equation, he might tinker with the team during the course of the campaign to make sure they peak for the all-important play-offs. Only the grand final winners go up to the Championship.
“It’s not about the 17 who play. It’ll be a 26-man, 27-man or even more squad effort,” said Thornton.
“They’re all fighting for a place and obviously they all want to play but there will be times when people have to rest or sit one out and times when other people come in and try to take their chance.
“It won’t be 17 men who get us to a grand final. It will be 25, 26, 27 – it will be all of them.
“I’m very optimistic from what I’ve seen. It’s been a tremendous pre-season and we’ve looked strong in every game we’ve played, even the Castleford game first up when we conceded points but for a long period looked good.
“I’m very pleased with the strength and conditioning coaches. Those guys have done what we wanted, to make the players bigger and stronger. A lot of credit has to go to the players obviously for the work and the effort they’ve put in.”
Thornton has already discussed the selection headaches he faces in the run-up to Sunday’s season opener against Gloucestershire All Golds. He has also said every player on the books has a chance to shine.
“It’s great to have these dilemmas. We’ve got a lot of talent in there and it’s great they’re all pushing each other,” he said.
“We have lots of options – we’ve now got to get it right.
“It won’t be the same team every week and players will have to be prepared for that. We’ve spoken about this. It’s a pretty tough schedule and we want to keep people fresh throughout what is going to be a long season.
“We’ll have to gauge things and judge it week by week. It’s important to get off to a good start against Gloucestershire. We’ve got Hunslet in the second game, which will be huge.
“We want to finish high up the table and also make sure they are fresh and ready for when the play-offs come about.”
• Knights prop Jack Aldous has been handed a one-match ban for punching in the friendly against Sheffield.
He sits out the Championship One opener against Gloucestershire All-Golds, but is available for the trip to arch-rivals Hunslet having escaped a potential two-match suspension.