ONE of York City Knights' big new signings, Jake Butler-Fleming, arrives back in the country on Thursday - but is unlikely to make his 2018 bow for the club until the end of pre-season.

The Australian centre, who played five times for York on loan from Hull KR in the Super 8s last season only to see his campaign cut short by knee trouble, has been back down under since undergoing minor surgery.

He agreed to rejoin the ambitious League One club permanently on a one-year deal three weeks ago - choosing the Knights above a number of higher-tier clubs - but has spent Christmas at home in Sydney.

He lands back in time for Sunday's friendly at Hull KR - Ben Cockayne's testimonial match - but, while head coach James Ford is set to give fellow new recruits Graeme Horne and Cockayne himself their bows against their former club, he has told fans they won't see the 25-year-old Aussie in action until the last fixture of pre-season, against Hunslet on Sunday, January 28.

The Knights also meet Championship big guns Featherstone Rovers away on Sunday, January 21.

Ford explained: "They (Horne and Cockayne) will play some part in the game. The only two not in contention are Adam Swift (knee) and Jake Butler-Fleming, who's still in Australia.

"He arrives in the country on January 4 and it will take him a while to acclimatise so we won't want to risk him playing in this game."

Butler-Fleming, a former Penrith Panthers junior, was instrumental in York's historic victory over Toronto Wolfpack at Bootham Crescent in July and also scored in the draw with Doncaster that sealed the team’s play-off place, but he missed out on the semi-final loss at Whitehaven after being told he needed an operation.

Ford added: "He had some minor surgery on a knee at the end of last season but the reports we've had are that the knee is holding up and he's been doing some stuff over in Australia and he's feeling pretty sharp.

"We're planning to bring him in for the last friendly against Hunslet, after giving him a few weeks to get to grips with the stuff we're doing differently to last season and to make sure he's fully up to speed and fully fit."

Ford, meanwhile, revealed he permitted his players to "enjoy themselves" at New Year, ahead of their return to training tomorrow night. The squad have been off since their win over the York & District XIII in their opening friendly last Wednesday.

Said the head coach: "We ask a lot of the players and the staff so to give them a little bit of time off over the festive period is the right thing to do.

"I'm sure the younger ones will have a good time and will come to training on Tuesday refreshed and ready to go again for the second leg of pre-season.

"They've been allowed to have a few drinks - within reason - and it's good to enjoy themselves, as long as they make sure they're ready to work hard on Tuesday."