JAMES HAYNES will miss the start of York City Knights’ campaign after a freak accident in training left him in hospital – handing new boy Luke Hardcastle an early chance to nail down the full-back berth for himself.
Haynes slipped awkwardly in a collision with a team-mate during contact work on Thursday night and, despite training on, was later taken to hospital by ambulance with his neck in a brace. X-rays showed no broken bones but, given his previous neck and back injuries, doctors kept him in overnight before discharging him yesterday afternoon.
He was immediately ruled out of tomorrow’s Championship One opener against Gloucestershire All Golds at Huntington Stadium (3pm), meaning 21-year-old former Gateshead starlet Hardcastle will make his debut alongside big brother Benn in the starting XIII.
Knights boss Gary Thornton – while gutted that Haynes has been hit by yet another blow, having lost almost two years of pro rugby to injury – said Hardcastle, a Championship One Young Player of the Year nominee last season, was an able replacement.
“Luke was already in the running and, while I was toying with the idea of bringing Ben Reynolds in on dual-registration from Castleford, I think Luke deserves it,” he explained.
“I made a promise that my players would get first crack before we dipped into dual-reg. We’ve had a fantastic team spirit over the off-season and I don’t want to ruin that. Luke has done marvellously well and is a good player.”
The Hardcastles will be one of two pairs of brothers in Thornton’s opening line-up of the season, with Dringhouses duo Pat and Ed Smith both starting.
The former – on his competitive debut against the side with whom he spent much of last season on loan from Sheffield – forms a half-back partnership with Benn Hardcastle as Jonny Presley is ruled out, while Ed gets the nod over Ryan Mallinder in the second-row, Mallinder named on the bench.
Another possible substitute will be Nathan Freer, who has been brought in from the cold having been back in training recently following injury and work commitments earlier in pre-season. The prop has not featured in any friendlies this year, though, so is likely to be 18th man.
Freer’s inclusion in the 18-man party is partly down to a groin injury to Jack Pickles, in addition to fellow prop Jack Aldous’s one-match ban.
The latest injuries mean Knights now have no fewer than 11 players sidelined for their opening match.
The full injury list comprises Haynes (neck), James Ford (hamstring), Presley (hamstring), Pickles (groin), Tom Rogers (ribs), Sam Orange (knee), Jack Iley (elbow), Josh Nathaniel (ankle) and Curtis Macdonald (leg), while Nathan Harper is coming back illness.
Half of these injuries occurred in training, and, when asked if the length of this list was a major concern, or if there was any particular reason behind it given the team are yet to play a competitive game, Thornton said: “We’ve got a few niggling injuries which isn’t great, especially at this time of the year.
“I think it’s just bad luck rather than anything else. We’ve had four first-team friendlies and two under-20s fixtures, which has stretched the squad a bit, and it might be that the players are just getting game-hardened.
“You have to do contact in training – it’s a contact sport and you have to do it as part of your training. James’, for example, was a freak accident.
“The injury list is building up and it’s a bit of a worry we’ve got a lot all at once, but I don’t think the majority of them are long-term and we’ve got the dual-reg to call on, with some Cas players becoming available.”
As reported by The Press, Ford’s absence hands an immediate opportunity to James Morland at centre.
He and fellow centre Greg Minikin are both only 18, making this the youngest centre pairing in the Knights’ history.
Thornton said: “It’s a lot of responsibility for them first game, but they will be more than fine.”
Knights (probable): L Hardcastle, B Dent, Minikin, Morland, Elliott, P Smith, B Hardcastle, Joynt, Lee, Bell, E Smith, Golden, Paterson. Subs: from Brining, Mallinder, Morrison, Crane, Freer.
All Golds (probable): Marcus Elliot, James Fisher, Aidan Jenkins, James Greene, Reece Rance, Mark Barlow, Danny Thomas, Harry Chapman-Walker, Craig Cook, Izaak Duffy, Jason Muranka, James Tutu’ila, Ash Haynes. Subs: Bobby Tyson-Wilson, Connor Nolan, Phil Cowburn, Joe McLean.
Referee: Mike Woodhead (St Helens).
Ash aiming to get one over on York mates
YORK City Knights product Ash Haynes will line up against old mates tomorrow.
Haynes played for James Ford’s Knights under-18s team in 2012, also breaking into the reserves, before moving to the South West to study at the University of Gloucester.
On his return to York last year, he re-signed for the Knights on trial and, in addition to playing a few times for the U20s, made his first-grade debut – his only first-team appearance – in the Challenge Cup tie at Catalan.
Now back at university, Haynes is signed to Gloucestershire All Golds and has been named at loose-forward for their first-ever trip to Huntington Stadium tomorrow.
Also in the All Golds line-up, and ones to watch, are former Hull and Sheffield hooker Craig Cook, and Tongan international James Tutu’ila, who forms a back-row partnership with Dewsbury Rams loanee Jason Muranka.
Two more Rams loanees, Marcus Elliot and Connor Nolan, start at full-back and on the bench respectively, while former Central Tigers Queensland player Aidan Jenkins is at centre.
The much-travelled Mark Barlow, once of the Knights, and Danny Thomas, another Dews-bury lad, pair up at half-back.
Haynes and Barlow are not the only York links in the Gloucestershire ranks.
Another is All Golds president Lionel Hurst, who launched the York 9s competition back in 2002, a tournament which helped to boost rugby league in the Minster city in between the demise of York Wasps and the formation of the Knights.
The All Golds club suffered a blow earlier this year when veteran Wales forward Jordan James opted to have a last hurrah in Super League with Wigan, having initially signed for the Gloucestershire outfit after the World Cup.