Key players could be back for semi-final

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FEATHERSTONE Rovers hope to have key men Tony Tonks (pictured) and Tommy Saxton back for their Northern Rail Cup semi-final against Halifax at Bigfellas Stadium next Thursday.

Prop Tonks has missed the last three games because of a minor knee operation and three-quarter Saxton has been sidelined for a month with a broken thumb.

Back-rower Matty Dale, who sustained a broken hand in the recent win at Dewsbury Rams, is unlikely to play against Halifax.

Rovers coach Daryl Powell (pictured) said: “Potentially, Tony Tonks and Tommy Saxton could be back. We need to check on them as we go through this week and into next week

“Tony had an operation a couple of weeks ago and he is on the road to recovery. He’s feeling a lot better and he’s been training pretty hard so I’m hoping he is going to be okay.

“We need to get Tommy checked by a hand specialist. I think it could be a slight risk for him to play but I think he should be all right.

“We will also have Matty Dale checked by a specialist but I’d say he would be unlikely to be available for the Halifax game.”

Prop Iain Morrison made a successful comeback in last Sunday’s 44-24 victory against York City Knights after being out with a troublesome calf injury.

Powell said “I thought Iain had a really strong game. He ran pretty hard and he got belted a few times but he’s a tough kid. He worked very hard and I was really pleased with him both with and without the ball. It’s pleasing to get some of your senior players back when you’ve had a few injuries.”

Sam Smeaton, who was injured in the warm up to the Dewsbury match, is back to full fitness and played against York last weekend.

Recent signing Nathan Chappell, who is due to have surgery on a knee cartilage complaint, also played against the Knights.

Said Powell said: “Nathan is waiting for an operation but he felt like he could play.

“I’ve been impressed with him in the games he’s played for us previously but obviously I don’t think he was quite right at the weekend so we’ll have to have a look at it and see where we go from here. We have a few options. I think the knee needs tidying up.”

Powell is pleased Rovers are without a fixture this weekend. He is expecting a tough battle against Halifax who will have a week to prepare for the semi-final. They play Hunslet Hawks in a televised league match at The Shay this evening.

Halifax’s return to form continued when they inflicted Co-operative Championship leaders Leigh’s first league defeat this season by trouncing them 36-16 at Leigh Sports Village last Thursday.

Said Powell: “I think it’s good to have a break. I wouldn’t have liked to back up from Sunday to the Thursday for a game as big as this..

“I don’t think it is a problem not playing. I think it will be good for us and will freshen people up. The players are getting a breather in the early part of this week and then they are training on Thursday.

“It’s a semi-final and you’d expect it to be tough and that’s just the way it is. You’ve got to be right on your game to win semi-finals regardless of whether the opposition are in form or not because you know they are going to raise their game.

“We’ve just got to get on with it and prepare as well as we can and go into the game feeling confident. It’s about playing as well as you possibly can and being tough.

“Semi-finals and other big games are about tough players. Hopefully, we’ve got enough tough players to make sure we come up with the right result.”

Featherstone boosted their chances of finishing top of the Championship with Sunday’s win against York. They are now only three points behind Leigh with a game in hand and a slightly superior points difference.

Powell said: “We were always in with a good chance to be honest because it’s unlikely a team is going to go through the season unbeaten.

“We’ve just got to keep winning games. There are times when you won’t play perfectly and and you won’t do everything right but you’ve still got to win matches.

“We’ve won games consistently. Up to now, we’ve lost three league games in a season and a half. While we haven’t been quite as fluent at times this season the mentality is to win games and that’s the way it should be.”

Meanwhile, Rovers have strengthened their board of directors by co-opting Steve Godber and Dave Downs as associate directors. Both have strong Rovers and rugby league connections.

Rovers chairman Mark Campbell said: “There isn’t a part of the stadium that Steve hasn’t been involved in repairing, installing, sourcing or building over recent years. He knows every brick and girder.

“He also has the people skills and has the respect to make his new role in managing the stadium infrastructure a productive one. Steve will also be responsible for developing our club lottery which is a very important income source for Rovers.

“Dave Downs has developed community initiatives, which have gained widespread respect and have been accredited by the West Yorkshire Police. His ‘Tackling Temper’ scheme is highly acclaimed and used in schools and young offenders facility inside and outside West Yorkshire.

“Dave developed his work while he was conditioning coach at Rovers and a version of his work - ‘Pathways’ - is used by us.

“He is the man to take our community projects and our profile in this area to a higher level and make our already highly regarded community work the standard by which others are judged.”