YORK City Knights have experienced mixed emotions in the last 24 hours – recruiting a young Castleford starlet for next season but then seeing the talismanic David March banned for the play-offs.
The Knights have snapped up playmaker Luke Helliwell from The Jungle after the 21-year-old became another victim of the reserve-grade restructuring in Super League.
However, in more pressing matters, the promotion-chasers have seen club captain March hit with a two-match ban after he was found guilty of making a dangerous throw during the last game of the regular season against Swinton 11 days ago.
Knights general manager Ian Wilson slated the decision, claiming two matches was unwarranted and inconsistent with other findings, and The Press understands the club were seriously considering an appeal.
However, unless such an appeal is successful – any hearing would likely be held tonight – March will now miss Sunday’s showdown away to Keighley and, if the Knights win that tie, he will also miss the grand final, his season therefore ended.
If the Knights lose on Sunday, he will also miss the elimination semi-final that would follow, and only get to play again this year if his team win through to the grand final via that route.
Wilson said: “I don’t think the incident is at all worthy of finishing someone’s season.”
The tackle by March and team-mate Loz Wildbore was put on report by referee Greg Dolan, but, while the Knights had hoped the matter had been dropped as they heard nothing from the Rugby Football League disciplinary panel last week, loose-forward March was belatedly hauled before the RFL beaks last night.
The 30-year-old former Super League star – who also sat out last season’s play-offs due to suspension – pleaded not guilty but was deemed to have lifted an opponent “above the horizontal” and to have dropped him dangerously.
Wilson said: “The fact there was another player heavily involved – Loz Wildbore – had a major contribution to the incident, but the panel did not agree. Loz also finished underneath, and David had let go before the player hit the floor.
“There is an incident in the same game where John Oakes has been picked up with his legs in the air and he’s been dropped down – this was given as a penalty but not put on report. The RFL did not let us show that footage, saying it had no relevance.
“We are very disappointed with the finding.”
In better news, Wilson reckoned the Knights could have found a potential gem for next season in Helliwell.
A product of Bradford’s youth system, winning their senior academy’s most improved player award in 2006, he can play hooker, half-back and loose-forward.
He joined Cas in March 2008 where he has been a regular in the reserves albeit without breaking into the Super League team.
However, he was deemed surplus to requirements after the rule change which means top-tier reserve-grade rugby next year will be at Under-20s level, not U21s, with each team able to field only three over-age players.
Hull pair Danny Bell and Nathan Freer and Wakefield’s Adie Hampshire have already joined York in such circumstances.
“He comes highly recommended from the people at Cas,” said Wilson. “He’s another victim of those changes, but he is looking to get first-team experience.”