HEAD coach James Ford reckons York City Knights will have some quality competition for places in the back row next year after adding Mike Kelly to the mix.

The 28-year-old arrives from Kingstone Press League One rivals Doncaster after agreeing terms for the 2018 season.

And, in music to Ford's ears, he comes ready for the challenge, despite going up against the new Press Player of the Year Joe Batchelor and former Player of the Year Sam Scott for a place in the second row.

Said the head coach: "Mike has got a fantastic attitude towards learning and hard work and he’s excited by the challenge in front of him.

"He is a very solid defender and selects his lines intelligently in attack. He's a good communicator as well, and what's drawn me most is what he will bring to our culture at the club, which is massively important for me as a coach.

“I’m confident we’ve brought in a player who will add to the environment and the team.”

Kelly becomes the fourth out-and-out back-rower on the 2018 books after Batchelor, Scott, who has returned to the club from Sheffield Eagles, and Rory Dixon, who has arrived from Castleford's academy.

Additionally, Brad Hey, Joe Porter and Adam Robinson offer further second-row options, while a return next mid-season of 2017 captain Ed Smith - after he recovers from major knee surgery - has far from been ruled out.

There could well be dual-reg recruits from Hull KR too.

Asked if Kelly could nail down a starting berth, Ford said: "We're trying to create competition for places. We want to improve the standards at the club - we've got aspirations to kick on - and part of that is added competition.

"He's got as much chance as anyone of getting a spot. He knows there's a challenge in front of him. If he applies himself as we know he can, there's no reason why he won't get a shirt.

"He's played and won games in the Championship. I feel we've done another good piece of business."

Castleford Tigers product Kelly had spells at Hunslet and Newcastle before joining Doncaster in 2012, helping the club to promotion from League One.

He was then a regular in the Dons team that took the Championship by storm in 2013 and 2014, finishing sixth and fourth respectively, although they got relegated a year later. Kelly has endured two injury-hit seasons since, a knee reconstruction restricting him to just two appearances last term.

He is well known to Ford's number two, Chris Spurr, who previously played and was assistant-coach at the Keepmoat.

Said Ford: "He's really keen to get involved in our environment, and I’m looking forward to facilitating some developments in his game as he competes for a position in our back row.

"He wanted a fresh challenge, a fresh start, and to improve himself as a player.

"As we've seen with others, if a person has a good attitude they can improve. For Mike right now, it's more a case of getting back to the top of his game.

"He was part of the team that finished high up the Championship under Paul Cooke.

“He has endured some bad luck with injuries that have hindered his progress over the last few years. But we’re confident our outstanding conditioning and medical team can help him get back to the top of his game.

"If we can get him fit and firing he will add to what is already a good quality set of back-rowers at this club. There will be some keen competition for a starting position."

Kelly himself said: “I'm looking forward to a fresh start and joining a club that's on the up. Hopefully I can help the team go one better than last year and secure promotion to the Championship.

“Fordy is creating a really good environment at the club for players to progress, and I'm looking forward to being a part of that.”