PARTNER club Castleford have hit York City Knights with a double-whammy ahead of their "biggest game of the year" - recalling in-form dual-registration duo Ben Reynolds and Brad Day.
Both are in the Tigers' party for their Super League match at Warrington tomorrow night as head coach Daryl Powell rests front-line players for next weekend's Challenge Cup final against Leeds.
Assuming Day plays, he will not be allowed to turn out for Championship One leaders York at arch-rivals Hunslet on Sunday as teenagers cannot feature in two games in any one weekend.
As such, he will be ineligible for the promotion play-offs, as dual-reg players must first feature in six regular-season games. He has so far played four times - scoring five tries - and York have only one other game left.
Reynolds, 20, a regular for the Knights this term having formed a key half-back partnership with Pat Smith, would feasibly be allowed to play on Sunday but Cas would be unlikely to release him. He will be eligible for the play-offs.
Conversely, rumours are rife that Hunslet, needing to bolster their pack after injury to James Houston, might include Super League star Ryan Bailey on dual-reg from Leeds, or even upgrade Rhinos second-row Chris Clarkson's dual-reg status to loan ahead of tomorrow's transfer registration deadline.
They have already recruited former Leeds winger James Duckworth from London Broncos this week, to follow the loan signings of Rhinos threequarter Luke Briscoe and Keighley forward Ross Peltier, as they bolster their play-off hopes.
Knights boss Gary Thornton, already with big doubts over in-form full-back James Haynes after his concussion in last Sunday's win over Gateshead, admits the loss of Reynolds and Day adds to his headache.
Jonny Presley is a straight swap for Reynolds but he has not played for ten weeks, since the team's last defeat, at Gloucestershire All Golds on June 8.
Player/assistant-coach James Ford or young protege Greg Minikin should be fit to replace Day at centre, and provide cover for Haynes if he fails his head test. But both have been injury prone this year.
Additionally, without Reynolds and Haynes, and with Benn Hardcastle still on loan at Gateshead, the Knights will not have a natural goalkicker for Sunday's big one.
Thornton said: "It's not doom and gloom as we have good players who can't wait to come back in, but losing Ben and Brad for our biggest game of the season is a blow.
"It's where dual-registration falls on its backside, in my opinion.
"Benny's played every game but one of our last 12 matches and now he misses the biggest game of the lot. Assuming Brad gets on the field (tomorrow night), he won't be able to play in the play-offs.
"But they are Castleford's players and Cas can make these calls. I'm sure Brad and Ben will relish playing at Warrington. If Cas had lost their semi-final, I don't think it would've come to this as Daryl has chosen to rest a few players for Wembley."
He added: "It's the biggest game of our season - if we win, we win the league - and we want our best players out there.
"Ben Reynolds has been in sensational form and a big part of our eight-game winning run. To have one of your best players taken off you is a blow.
"Jonny Presley has been chomping at the bit to get back in, though. He might be a bit rusty but with all his experience and ability he can come in and take it on.
"We'll hopefully have Greg Minikin and James Ford back, too, but losing these two to Cas this weekend, and losing Brad for the play-offs, means I've lost a bit of flexibility and the ability to cover each scenario."
Half-back Hardcastle will be back at Huntington Stadium for the play-offs but has one more match to go of his loan spell back on Tyneside after sitting out last week's game against his parent club.
As for speculation that Bailey would be asked to step down from Super League into Hunslet's side after helping the Rhinos reach next week's Challenge Cup final at Wembley, Thornton said: "It would be extraordinary if that's the case, but, as I've said before, I would take it as a compliment if teams are having to do that to beat York City Knights."
YORK City Knights enquired about the availability of Richard Moore for the all-important run-in - but have been told he won't be looking for a new short-term contract for this year.
Moore, 32, was released by Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on Tuesday, and, with the registration deadline for both Super League and the Championship already passed, he could only join a Championship One club for the remainder of this year. The deadline in this tier is 5pm tomorrow.
The Knights were one of several Championship One clubs to contact him - arch-rivals Hunslet and a resurgent Gateshead likely to be among the others - but he has said he is to instead put his feet up this year and focus on next season, having reportedly agreed a two-year deal for 2015-16.
Bradford, who will look to bounce straight back up to Super League following their relegation this year, and Championship big-guns Halifax, are strongly linked.
Moore, who has previously played for Leeds, Leigh, Crusaders and London Broncos, made 15 Super League appearances this year, taking his total in Wakefield colours to 107 following his first spell between 2007 and 2010.