FOUR close-season signings are set to make their Featherstone Rovers debuts in the opening pre-season game against Hunslet Hawks at Bigfellas Stadium on Sunday, January 1 (3pm kick-off).
Ex-Hunslet half-back Danny Grimshaw (pictured), former Dewsbury forwards Anthony England andd James Lockwood and ex-York prop Nathan Freer are all ready to make their first appearances for the club in the annual Gareth Swift Memorial match against the Hawks.
“They are all training exceptionally well and all the signs are they will be ready to go,” said Rovers coach Daryl Powell.
Samoan international Tangi Ropati could also make his debut, depending on his fitness after his expected arrival at Featherstone later this month.
Rovers are waiting for a visa for the 27-year-old former Widnes Vikings and Sheffield Eagles centre.
Powell said: “We are hoping to get the visa sorted in December.
“I don’t think there’s any problems with the visa. It’s just a case of going through the process and these sort of things take a bit of time.
“Potentially, Tangi could miss the pre-season match against Hunslet. We’ll wait to see how he is when he gets over here.”
Ex-Halifax prop Dominic Maloney, the club’s other new signing, will join Rovers the second week in January on his return from Australia.
Powell said: “Dom is currently working on a plan our conditioner gave him so hopefully he will be in reasonable shape but he will have to get in tune with how we play the game and that will take a week or two. We’ll gauge that when he gets here.”
Liam Finn and Jonny Hepworth will both miss the Hunslet pre-season game.
Finn had surgery last Wednesday on a troublesome groin injury and Hepworth is recovering from a major knee operation.
Powell believes both players will benefit from a rest.
Ireland international Finn was an ever-present for Rovers last season while Hepworth played a season with Rotherham Titans RUFC immediately before he joined Featherstone last March.
“A bit of rest is not going to do them any harm at all,” said Powell.
“Liam has played a significant amount of rugby over the last few years and so has Jonny Hepworth who played a rugby union season and a rugby league season back to back.
“Liam has a six-week recovery period after the operation.
“He’ll miss the opening pre-season game against Hunslet and then we’ll weigh up where he is at and when we bring him back to play.
“Jonny Hepworth is just starting to come off crutches and he’s now recovering pretty well. He’s starting to move around a bit now.
“He has had a pretty significant operation where he has had his leg micro-fractured. He’s pretty fortunate we caught it when we did.
“He had a serious problem with his cartilage. He had to have the bone micro-fractured which then creates a kind of buffer that takes the place of the cartilage that has worn away. It could have been serious for him if we hadn’t caught it when we did. He played in a bit of pain at times last year.
“Hopefully, Jonny should be available for the start of the season but obviously we need to keep checking on him.”
Rovers centre or second-rower Nathan Chappell has undergone a knee reconstruction.
Powell said: “Nathan has had the operation and he’s now on the recovery path. Obviously, it’s a long recovery period for him and he won’t be available until June.”