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Liam Ellis in line for new record for heavily depleted Knights
YOUNG-GUN Tim Stubbs became York City Knights ’ youngest ever player last week but that mantle is set to last barely a week, with an even younger gun in line for a debut in the deep end tomorrow.
Liam Ellis, a Wakefield College product who has shone in the Knights Under-18s’ decent mini-season, is to replace York Acorn ARLC product Stubbs both in the provisional first-team party and the club’s record books, being 70 days younger at the age of 17 years and 19 days.
The call-up, along with that of English Lions U18s loose- forward Tyler Craig, comes more through necessity than design, with the already heavily depleted Knights – 2012 must rank as the worst season for injuries in the club’s ten-year history – shorn yet further of players, including Stubbs himself, who is on holiday.
But player-boss Chris Thorman is hopeful it can prove beneficial in the long run, even if tomorrow’s game at Halifax (3pm), the Northern Rail Cup winners and Championship title-seekers, represents another baptism of fire.
Thorman said of prop/loose-forward Ellis: “He’s done really well for the U18s. I’m sure he’ll do a job for us.
“Everyone’s aware of how tough we’re doing it, but it means opportunities for some U18s who will hopefully be better for it.”
Ellis signed trialist forms upon his 17th birthday and featured in the reserves’ last game of the season, at Featherstone, nine days later, his first outing at open-age level.
Thorman added: “James Ford (U18s and former Wakefield College coach) speaks highly of him. It was a tough call between Tim and Liam last week but we went with Tim as he’s a bit bigger. But Liam’s now got an opportunity.”
Meanwhile, Heworth ARLC youngster Craig, who signed a two-year deal with the Knights 48 hours ago on his return to England from the Lions’ two-match tour of Lebanon, is seen as a future loose-forward but is set to make his first start for the club at stand-off.
A season-ending injury to makeshift playmaker Rhys Clarke last week means Craig will become Thorman’s ninth half-back partner this season.
Perhaps typical of the Knights’ luck this year, he has been ill this week, too.
“Tyler’s played there (stand-off) a bit for the reserves,” said Thorman. “He’s been a bit sick since coming back but he trained on Thursday and went all right.”
The Knights’ latest injury woes might not end with Clarke.
Prop Adam Sullivan, rarely affected by injury, has been struggling with knee trouble, while another of the few experienced players left, Waine Pryce, likewise faces a late check on a hip problem.
If the former is ruled out, Jack Stearman could get a rare call-up, although as bad luck would have it he too is now struggling with a calf problem. If Pryce is out, Gareth Poutney, who made his debut as a substitute last week, will get his first start.
Thorman said of threequarter Poutney: “He went all right. He talks really well and he’s very enthusiastic. He didn’t get much opportunity with the ball but what he did do, he did okay.”
As it stands, Ellis and winger-turned-second-row Dave Sutton are the only front-row options on the bench – which could signal trouble once props start being rotated.
Tomorrow’s game follows similarly tough tasks against Leigh and champions Featherstone. Thorman said: “We can’t do anything about the fixtures. The three of them are close. I like how Fax play. I like Sean Penkywicz (hooker) and Anthony Thackeray (half-back) a lot, and they’ve got a very good back three.”
Former York winger Wayne Reittie (shoulder), who sat out Fax’s last-minute win over Sheffield last week, influential forward Adam Robinson (thumb) and Penkywicz (groin) are all doubtful but James Haley and Ben Heaton are available again.
Thorman added: “They’re certainly a threat attacking-wise. Let’s hope we can score a few points and keep it entertaining.”
Meanwhile, York-born scrum-half Ben Johnston, whose dual-reg stay at the Knights was curtailed by injury, is set to make his Super League debut for Castleford against London Broncos tomorrow.
Asked if Johnston could have made a difference to York’s season, Thorman said: “I can’t speculate on that. We’ve had about 27 other half-backs in between him getting injured and now. He’s talented and I wish him all the best.”
Halifax: from Fieldhouse, Worrincy, Tyrer, Paterson, White, Handforth, Thackeray, Tonks, Penkywicz, Ambler, Manning, Robinson, Gannon, Bowman, Ashall, Barlow, Aizue, Reittie, Haley, Heaton.
Knights (provisional): Bush, B Dent, Elliott, Garside, Pryce, Craig, Thorman, Sullivan, Lee, Aldous, Esposito, Davies, Freer. Subs: Brining, Sutton, Poutney, Ellis.
Referee: Clint Sharrad.
• Rochdale boss John Stankevitch has been banned from all rugby league until he pays fines imposed by two Rugby Football League tribunals.