JACK PICKLES will make his long-awaited return to the York City Knights line-up as Hemel Stags become the latest expansion club to visit Huntington Stadium.
Pickles began being troubled by a groin complaint on the eve of the Championship One season but the club are optimistic the problem has now abated, and the forward will make his 2014 bow tomorrow (3pm) after being given the nod ahead of Nathan Harper, who instead got a run in the reserves on Thursday night.
Player/assistant-coach James Ford is also back, while, as expected, dual-reg Castleford youngster Ben Reynolds comes in at full-back for James Haynes, who is getting rehab on an adductor injury.
Knights boss Gary Thornton said of Pickles: "He's played a few games for the reserves and he's trained hard. He's had no reaction so he's fit to play. The lad is chomping at the bit. He's had a frustrating time with this injury."
Pickles, 21, made seven appearances in the Championship last season after rising out of the amateur arena. He has since been shifted forward from second-row to prop, but this will be his first outing in that role at first-grade level.
Thornton added: "He's been working hard and he's earned (his call-up). I also wanted Nathan Harper to play big minutes in the reserves as he's been blowing up a bit quick - he's still catching up with his fitness after injury. We had the chance to do that on Thursday, and Jack gets a chance in the first team.
"I've otherwise been happy with what Nathan has done and he will come back into contention next week.
"He's found that coming into the first team is a step up in intensity. It might be the same for Jack this weekend, but the good thing is we have the likes of Lee Paterson, Jack Aldous and Nathan Freer in there, who can all do big minutes."
Ford will start on the bench and is likely to be used at second-row, replacing Jason Golden, who is to see another specialist after again dislocating his right shoulder against London Skolars.
He has also been warned he would not be able to walk straight back in at centre due to the form of Greg Minikin and James Saltonstall.
"He'll be asked to do some of the tough stuff but he's played there before and he know what's expected," said Thornton of his lieutenant.
"He's tough enough as well. He won't play the whole game as we have to manage his comeback from injury."
As for the outside-backs, Thornton has left well alone, including keeping young Adam Dent in the side after his try-scoring debut in last week's win over London Skolars. Reynolds' inclusion drops the average age of the back five to below 20.
So far against expansion clubs at home this term, York have beaten Gloucestershire All Golds and South Wales Scorpions but have lost to Oxford - their only defeat in the league.
Thornton wants not only another victory tomorrow but also improvement on the display against Skolars to set the Knights up nicely for consecutive games against title rivals Oldham and Hunslet.
"We bombed a lot of chances again last week and our timing was out a bit," he said of his side's attacking plays. "We have to make sure we look after the Hemel threats but also look at our own performance and execute better."
Knights (probable): Reynolds, B Dent, Minikin, Saltonstall, A Dent, B Hardcastle, Presley, Aldous, Lee, Pickles, Mallinder, E Smith, Paterson. Subs: P Smith, Freer, Joynt, Ford.
Hemel (probable): Cameron, Hill, Small, Brown, Morgan, Coleman, Young, Howitt, Simmons, M'Baraga, Swindells, Ingarfield, Lijzouli. Subs: Cavanagh, Lloyd-Jones, Clough, Bailey.