Places are up for grabs says Featherstone boss

John Bastian: 'Training is going extremely well.'
John Bastian: 'Training is going extremely well.'

New head coach John Bastian says Featherstone’s testing pre-season matches will be a chance for players to put down a marker for first-team places.

Rovers host Hunslet Hawks, Wakefield Wildcats, Halifax, Castleford Tigers and Hull FC in warm-up games before their opening Championship fixture at Dewsbury Rams on February 16.

With the nucleus of last season’s squad retained and 12 new signings, there will be keen competition for places.

“The pre-season matches will give us a chance to have a look at more or less the full squad,” said Bastian.

“It will be a chance for everyone to put a marker down. It’s a new season and places are up grabs.

“It’s easy to name squad numbers but do they count for a great deal if a player is not performing?

“ It can change very quickly. Who you think might start at number nine or number eight within a couple of weeks it might be someone different if they are not performing.

“There’s no guarantee if you get a squad number that you are going to be playing week in, week out. You’ve got to earn the right.

“We’ve got a really tough, intense pre-season. From New Year’s Day, we are more or less playing straight through to the back end of the season. There will be some really good tests for us in there.

“It will be a chance to have a look at some of the things we have been working on in defence and some of the little things in offence as well.

“We’ll try them out and see how they work. Hopefully, they will give us some advantages going into next season.

“Training is going extremely well.

“The boys are putting in some real effort and we are very happy with where they are at.”

Bastian will field a squad of around 22 players in the opening friendly against Hunslet on New Year’s Day but he will be without Kyle Briggs and Tongan international winger or centre Etuate Uaisele.

Briggs is close to making his comeback after major knee injury and new signing Uaisele is set to arrive next month.

“Kyle Briggs is still working on getting his knee strong. I should imagine he’ll be ready to play by the middle of January,” said Bastian.

“The club are sorting the paperwork for Etuate Uaisele and hopefully he will be here some time in January.

“Against Hunslet, we will try out some of the new players and mix them in with some of existing players. We’ll look at playing a squad of around 21 or 22 players.

“There are one or two niggles but apart from that we are pretty strong.”