DOMINIC Maloney will make his debut and Jonny Hepworth will make his comeback in Featherstone’s Northern Rail Cup match against Batley Bulldogs at Bigfellas Stadium this afternoon (3pm).
Hepworth (pictured), Maloney, Nathan Freer, Tom Carr and Mufaro Mvududu will all be on duty as Rovers coach Daryl Powell makes changes to the side that won 34-32 at Halifax last weekend.
Greg Worthington, skipper Stuart Dickens, Ian Hardman, Mick Haley and Andy Bostock are set to be given a breather.
Former Halifax, Hull, Dewsbury and Castleford prop Maloney was a close-season signing. He joined Featherstone in January when he returned from a spell in Australia.
Hepworth missed the start of the season after undergoing major knee surgery.
Powell said: “Dom Maloney will definitely play against Batley. I think he’s been getting better in the reserves.
“Jonny Hepworth has played a couple of games in the reserves. I don’t think he’s been fantastic in those matches but I think he’s ready to come back and play with the first-team and we’ll assess him from there.
“This is the perfect game to give him an opportunity in and obviously he’s a high quality player who has been excellent for us.
“There will certainly be a few changes in the team this week and people are playing for starting places at the moment.
“Not everyone has nailed one down at the minute and it will be good to see some new faces out there at the weekend.
“We’ve had a couple of guys who’ve had niggly injuries who I can now give a rest and we’ve got a deep squad.
“Worthington has been fantastic and he’s done a great job so I’m going to give him a breather.
“We’ve people like Maloney, Freer, Hepworth, Carr and Mvududu who didn’t play at Halifax and they will be playing this week. I’d expect them to be going pretty much flat out to show us what they’ve got.”
Bostock suffered a recurrence of an old shoulder injury as he scored a late try in Sunday’s thrilling win at Halifax.
“We are getting a scan on Andy Bostock to see where he’s at. I was going to give him a breather anyway this weekend,” said Powell.
“He’s had a problem with the shoulder in the past and it has caused him some trouble. He did the injury when he scored the try that made it 28-28 and he had to come straight off.
“We are not certain how bad it is and hopefully it’s not going to be a problem but you don’t know until you get the scan.”
Rovers had not received any information from the RFL earlier this week concerning Haley who was sent off at the Shay for allegedly fighting.
Said Powell: “I don’t think Mick Haley did anything wrong to be honest. He got a good hiding but he shouldn’t have been sent off.”
The Featherstone boss is expecting a tough game against Batley who, like Rovers, have won their first three Northern Rail Cup matches. Both teams are virtually certain of qualifying for the knock-out stages.
“Batley have been reasonably consistent for the last two years,” he said.
“They’ve been growing and developing and they’ve obviously now got a different coach and new personnel as well including people like Ben Black who can make things happen so I’d imagine it’s going to be a really tough challenge for us. We won’t be going in with anything other than 100 per cent commitment.
“Batley have started the season pretty well. They have plenty of good players and are obviously performing pretty well.
“They are losing their second halves so it is an interesting match up in terms of what we’ve been doing. We haven’t been going quite as well in the first-half and it’s something we need to rectify but in the second-half we’ve been outstanding.”
Powell was delighted with Featherstone’s amazing comeback win at Halifax when they recovered from 22-6 down.
“Our ability to get ourselves out of that situation will really helps us in terms of confidence moving forward particularly when you get situations like that which, of course, you do from time to time,” he said.
“It gives you the confidence that you can get yourself out of it and win a game from a position that looks pretty difficult to do.
“We scored right at the death and it was a great effort. We were pretty resourceful and determined.
“If you look at us from a fitness point of view we are looking great. We are finishing games exceptionally strong but to be fair we are having to because the way we are going about things at times is not ideal. There is such a determination to win games on a consistent basis at the club that it is fantastic to see.”
Sunday’s victory stretched Featherstone’s club record winning run to 15 matches in a sequence that started last June but that isn’t something Powell will dwell on.
He said: “We don’t talk about that. We work on a different principle and we break the games down in a season. I’m not too worried about what happened last year - it’s about now and making sure we win consistently. We’ve started off the right way in that perspective. The important thing now is how we go on with it and there’s a real determination to do that but we don’t talk about stretching unbeaten records - I think that’s a recipe to being beaten.”
Meanwhile, Sharlston winger or centre Gareth Davies, who recently had a trial at Featherstone, has joined Hunslet Hawks.
Said Powell: “I wish him all the best.You never know he might be back here one day and hopefully it will go well for him at Hunslet.”