Rovers coach Bastian relishing ‘competitive’ Halifax clash

Matt Nicholson (right) suffered mild concussion against Wakefield. Picture: Steve Riding.
Matt Nicholson (right) suffered mild concussion against Wakefield. Picture: Steve Riding.
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Featherstone coach John Bastian is relishing Sunday’s pre-season match against fellow Championship outfit Halifax at Big Fellas Stadium (3pm).

After winning their first two matches under new boss Bastian, Rovers face another stern test against Halifax, who drew 30-30 with Super Leaguers Castleford Tigers on Boxing Day and won 10-4 at Batley last weekend.

“We are looking forward to it and we know it will be a very competitive game,” said Bastian.

“I think it will be a physical match because they are a very physical side and they can also play a bit of football as well.

“Karl Harrison (Halifax coach) has brought in some experienced players alongside good young players.

“They are a club who have aspirations of pushing through to Super League and that’s understandable, so they are going to be a formidable side this year and we are looking forward to playing them.”

Bastian will look for another strong defensive show after his side conceded just two tries in the first two matches.

“We want to pride ourselves on that. Our first line of attack is how committed and smart we are in defence. We are really pleased with how that’s gone this year,” he said.

Rovers will check on Matt Nicholson and Gareth Moore who were injured against Wakefield.

“Matt Nicholson had a bit of mild concussion but I don’t think he will be far off this week and the same with Gaz Moore. He got a knock on his knee but we expect him to be fit this week,” said Bastian.

“There might be a couple of changes. We’ll have a look to see whether anyone needs to have a rest and I may bring one or two in to give them a run as well.

“These pre-season games are about getting momentum but they are also about watching players as well and seeing how they are running.”

Andy Bostock and Andy Kain have missed the first two pre-season games because of injuries but Bastian said: “They are not far off now. We’ll assess that this week and see whether they are ready for Sunday’s game. If we don’t think they are ready for this one they’ll have a real chance against Castleford but we’ll see on that one.”

Ben Hellewell, who impressed for Scotland in their World Cup campaign, could also make his first appearance of the season this weekend while Tommy Saxton could return after missing the Wakefield game .

“Ben is pretty close and he’ll be considered this week for a run out against Halifax. I will liaise with physio Matty Crowther on Ben and see where we are with him. Tommy will be considered as well,” said Bastian.

Admission on the gate on Sunday is £10 adults, £5 concessions and £1 juniors.

The Rovers boss is pleased with the way things have gone since he took over the coaching reins at Big Fellas Stadium.

“It’s all nice but I’ll always hand it back to the players. They are the ones that deserve the plaudits. They worked very hard on Sunday. They were really committed and individually I thought they put some real effort in and some really good skills. And collectively I thought they worked really well,” said Bastian who is pleased with the keen competition for places.

“It’s good to have selection headaches. I am comfortable with that,” he added.

“We have 29 in our squad and there’s four or five young kids in there. It’s going to be a hard campaign and all those players will play some football this year. Squad numbers don’t over interest me. My first 13 this week might be different to my first 13 the following week. That depends on performances and who is playing consistently. For me, every position every week is up for grabs, whether you are number 23 or number three.

“The majority of the players have done particularly well in the first two games and so have the boys that have come off the bench as well.

“I thought we maintained our consistency against Wakefield for the majority of the game and we made a lot of substitutions. We have some strength in depth and we are constantly trying to improve these players .

“I thought Jack Ormondroyd, for a young lad playing in that company, was very good. I was really pleased with him and I think he’s got some potential for the future.

“Josh Sunley is only 19 and come out of the Leeds Rhinos camp and has lots of potential. It’s a great competition between him and Ian Hardman,

“Ian Hardman has the experience and lots of class as well but it’s good when players are pushing each other in a healthy way.”

Tongan international centre Etuate Uaisele’s arrival at Featherstone is getting closer.

“The paper work has more or less been done now and we are just waiting for them at their end now. Hopefully, we can get him across in the next couple of weeks,” said Bastian.

Following Sunday’s victory against Wakefield, Rovers have reported a surge in membership sales.Memberships are priced from £159 (adults) and £100 (concessions) and allow entry to all Championship games and priority tickets for Challenge Cup fixtures.

To buy memberships, visit the Roverstore online, call 01977 702386 or visit the main club office at Big Fellas Stadium Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and Saturday morning 10am to noon.

Rovers have arranged two warm-up matches at Big Fellas Stadium for their under 20s. They will face Wakefield Wildcats on Monday, February 3 (7.45pm) and Sheffield Eagles on Saturday, February 15 (2.30pm). Admission is £3 adults and £1 concessions and juniors.

Latest Rovers £500 lottery winners are E Canning (H0678), P Vickers (B6763), T Wright (B0012), K Taylor (L0455), A Gowland (V2900). £5 consolation prizes: Mrs Charlton, V Farrar, C Hunt, R Derrick.