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Teenager Tim Stubbs gets Knights outing
Player-boss Chris Thorman admits the Huntington Stadium clash with champions Featherstone (8pm) would represent the hottest baptism of fire possible in the Co-operative Championship, but says he has little option but to name the teenager in his squad given the club’s huge injury list.
Stubbs, one of the stars of the Knights Under-18s’ excellent mini-campaign, is joined in the provisional party by another reserve-team player, Gareth Poutney – although either’s debut depends on them penning new professional terms. Both had been on junior and reserve forms up to yesterday.
If such terms are not signed, Thorman will have to find two players from somewhere after his ranks, already down to the bare bones for the Leigh game last time out, were depleted further by the injuries to Ollie Olds (knee) and Ed Smith (elbow).
Thankfully, Dave Sutton has recovered from his concussion to take his place in the 17.
Thorman said: “Tim Stubbs comes in from the U18s – which will cap a miraculous season for him. He’s recently turned 17. We don’t have any alternative really, but I’m willing to give youth a chance, largely because I have to, and he’s one of our best.
“It will be a baptism of fire – he’s been used to playing against Wakefield College this year – but he says he’s up for it.”
As for threequarter Poutney, a former Castleford and Featherstone youngster, Thorman added: “Graham Davey (reserves coach) knows him well. He’s a talented player and has been very consistent in our reserves.”
Stubbs is aged 17 years and 89 days. Scholarship graduate Kris Brining was 17 years and 148 days old when he replaced Ed Smith as the Knights’ youngest-ever player, in the match at Widnes in April 2011.
Brining also plays tonight, the young hooker being one of the candidates to fill the scrum-half void created by Olds’ ligament damage – with Thorman now set to have his eighth half-back partner of the season.
The player-boss added: “With the (injury) problems, we’ve got props playing all over the place, and, because of the injury to Ollie, we’re going to have to play someone out of position in the halves.”
The woes that have bedevilled the Knights at half-back all season – Olds’ injury while playing for Leeds U20s was described tongue-in-cheek as “the icing on the cake” by Thorman – have now affected all sections of the squad.
Smith, who has endured an injury-plagued campaign, goes back onto a treatment table already weighed down by marquee signing Paul King, captain James Ford, James Houston, Joe Hemmings and long-term crocks James Haynes and Davey Burns.
The club have also seen club captain Alex Benson, Tommy Haughey, John Gay and, latterly, Jordan Tansey depart this season, while recent debutant Tyler Craig, away with the English Under-18s Lions, and big Adam Howard are unavailable, the latter due to work commitments.
This lengthy absentee list, comprising an entire team, does not include Olds and five other dual-reg players who have been and gone, while Brett Turner remains out in the cold having apparently missed a reserves match.
Stubbs and Poutney are joined by another reserve man, Ben Dent, in tonight’s provisional squad. Prop Jack Stearman, ironically Stubbs’ U18s team manager, is left out, making way for the young pretender.
Featherstone boss Daryl Powell, the one-time Knights coaching consultant, brings back fit-again Tangi Ropati in place of Michael Haley, who broke a foot in last week’s bruising Northern Rail Cup final loss to Halifax.
Knights (possible): Bush, Dent, Elliott, Garside, Pryce, Thorman, Lee, Brining, Sullivan, Aldous, Clarke, Esposito, Davies. Subs: Freer, Poutney, Sutton, Stubbs.
Featherstone: from Hardman, Briscoe, Smeaton, Worthington, Saxton, Kain, Finn, England, Kaye, Dickens, Grayshon, Spears, Dale, Lockwood, Maloney, Bostock, Ropati, Briggs.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven).
* A YOUNG, depleted Knights second string crashed 84-18 at Reserve Under-23 Championship champions elect Featherstone last night.
The Knights travelled with only 15 players after Adam Howard and Callum Hannigan pulled out late on due to work commitments, and nine of those 15 were under-18s.
York’s three tries came from the U18s ranks, scored by Adam Dent and reserves debutants Liam Ellis and Matt Brewer, who added three goals.
This was the last game of a problematic and win-less reserves campaign for York.