YORK City Knights have drafted Hull FC teenager Connor Bower in on loan to bolster their options at centre ahead of the new season.
The departure from the club of Brad England last month after a poor display in the friendly against Castleford left the Knights with only three recognised centres in Tyler Craig, James Morland and Brad Hey - and with Craig and Hey recently sidelined by injury.
The end of the dual-registration arrangement with Castleford also left them without that potential resource - all but ending hopes that 2015 Player of the Year Greg Minikin would return to York on a temporary basis.
But head coach James Ford has acted swiftly to bring in extra cover, and says the new arrival, who turned 19 last month, could yet go straight into the squad that kicks off the season with the iPro Sport Cup clash at Hunslet on Sunday, even if Craig or Hey pass fit.
Ford said: "Connor played against Doncaster in pre-season and looked strong at the end of the game.
"Everyone who's fit is in contention. It will be a tough ask for him to come in and learn our systems in time for what will be a very tough game, but we'll see.
"We'll be checking on one or two of the other blokes who are possibly coming back in training this week."
Bower has not played first-grade for Hull but is included in their big 35-man first-team squad.
He was always more likely to feature in the Black and Whites' under-23s this year, and remains eligible for the City of Hull U19s Academy, a joint venture with Hull KR.
His arrival at York does not increase the experience in the centres - Craig, Morland and Hey do not have a great deal between them - but when asked if that was a worry, Ford said: "Age does not concern me.
"It didn't concern me last year when we had a remarkably young team and we have more experience on the edges now with Austin Buchanan and people like that.
"Their influence will make for a great combination with youthful enthusiasm."
Ford sought the opinions on Bower of Airlie Birds boss Lee Radford and James Webster, the coach of the City of Hull U19s Academy, as well as ex-Knights Nathan Freer and Danny Wilson, who work in Hull's youth set-up.
He added: "I've had conversations with Danny, Nathan, Lee Radford and James Webster about his attitude and application, and any weaknesses, and I feel he's the right kind of player to bring in and challenge those other blokes for a centre spot."
On the injury front, Craig has been struggling with a glute problem, while Hey broke a hand in the January friendly against Cas.
Buchanan is also still working his way back from a hernia op and fellow winger Ben Dent is just stepping up his training after his head/nausea issue.
Said Ford of their chances of being ready for Sunday, Ford said: "Tyler should be training after two or three weeks out and Brad can take part in some form this week. His attitude has been outstanding, working really hard with the conditioning and medical staff, and it will be pleasing to bring him back into the group.
"Hopefully Austin will take part in some part of team training - he's not far away.
"We've been phasing Ben back - we just need to get him through more vigorous work and see where he is."