GARY THORNTON was today trying to seal a deal to keep Brad Brennan at York City Knights - admitting the bulldozing prop would be a massive loss if he was to leave.
Brennan, giving another top-notch performance to cap his one-month loan stint, was part of a formidable pack effort - also including fit-again Iain Morrison - as the Knights beat dark horses Gateshead Thunder 42-16.
However, the 20-year-old is now due to return to parent club Batley unless an agreement can be reached to keep him at Huntington Stadium.
As previously reported, this could depend on Batley keeping Keegan Hirst on loan from Championship rivals Featherstone. Finances also play a part, with the Knights paying the player's match terms and contributing to his contract money at Mount Pleasant. And to add to the mix, The Press understands another Championship outfit, Whitehaven, have expressed an interest in taking him to West Cumbria.
Thornton was due to speak to the Bulldogs. "There is a bit of negotiating to be done, " he said.
"After this performance it showed how valuable he is to our team and why we'd like to keep him as long as we can."
Players need to make six appearances in the regular season to be eligible to play in the promotion play-offs. Brennan has so far played four times for York. If he plays twice more, he could go back to Batley but still be able to return to the Knights and play during the play-offs back on loan.
Added Thornton: "Hopefully we can keep him until the end of the season."
Thornton was delighted not only with his pack today but also the players recalled to the line-up.
Morrison was back after a ten-week illness/injury absence to play only his fourth game for the club, while James Haynes, out for two games, impressed again at full-back in place of the unavailable Ben Reynolds and Benn Hardcastle, omitted for the last three matches, kicked seven goals from seven and gave a polished display in place of the crocked Jonny Presley at half-back.
Of Morrison, he said: "You could see the fear in their eyes when he went on. We need to keep him fit and well.
"The front row with Brad and Jack Aldous also in there was outstanding. Austin Bell does a lot of hard work as well which shouldn't go unnoticed. Iain Morrison gave us a lift when we needed it. We got back on top and never looked back.
"Jack (at loose-forward) was outstanding for the full 80 minutes. He's just a great player for York City Knights and has been for a number of years."
Of Haynes and Hardcastle, he said: "James has has to bide his time due to Ben Reynolds' form, but he came back in and was very good, handling everything at the back.
"This was Benn's first game for a number of weeks but he was absolutely superb. His kicking game was really good and that (half-back) combination with Pat Smith looked very dangerous."
As for the match overall, Thornton said: " In the first 20 minutes we looked a bit shaky but once we got a grip and got on top of them, we played really well. In the second half we were excellent. I was delighted.
“A few (refereeing) calls went against us and we were under the pump a little bit so to come back from that we really showed spirit."
Perhaps alluding to last week's loss at Gloucestershire when York threw away a 16-0 lead, he added: "We went ahead but did not disrespect them - we carried on playing proper controlled rugby league and defensively we were very tough in that second half, as tough as we have been all season.
"It was important to get back on track, especially against a team on the rise like Gateshead."
Thunder boss Stanley Gene said: “It’s a simple game. You run hard and tackle hard and I think that’s what York did in the second half.
“We had some Super League-class players but it’s a team game and not about individuals.
“We came here thinking we could get something positive but York are a good side and in the second half they were stronger and tougher.
“We need to get back to the drawing board and start telling our boys to run harder and tackle harder.”