Pre-Season’s Greetings

Season’s greetings, shaggers.

We read in the Daily Mail that, thanks to Europe, we have to say that these days, because ‘Merry Christmas’ would offend Ellery Hanley or something.

It’s Political Correctness Gone Mad, Stew.

Anyway, it’s been a while, and the off-season has been a pretty busy one already.

The club have recruited pretty well this year actually, with Jack Hughes and Joe Westerman joining Kurt Gidley and Tom Lineham as new signings, giving the squad a hungry, balanced look.

The back row in particular looks dynamic and threatening – and versatile – with Westwood moving to loose forward to accommodate the exciting duo of Hughes and Currie in the second row. Westerman can slip into any of those positions and will likely make up for what we have lost in Simon Grix– and, to be honest, missed when he was injured, which was sadly always.

He was rated very highly when he first broke into the Cas first team, but he has probably stagnated a bit at Hull. His work rate is impressive in a poor team, though, and he has a decent pair of hands on him. If working under Tony Smith and alongside the like of Hill, Sims, Westwood, Gidley and Sandow can’t bring the best out him, then he has no chance, quite frankly.

The Yorkshire bus will be full this season, with everybody’s favourite hate figure becoming the club’s final signing of the off-season.

Of course, nobody wants to live in a world where Warrington sign Ryan Bailey and Leigh sign Willie Tonga, but the constraints of the salary cap – or, at least, how strictly your club adheres to the rules of the salary cap – determines how much quality you have to play with and how much dross you have to carry with you.

If anybody knows how to get anything out of Bailey, it is Tony Smith and, in fairness, he would bring some much needed cunt to the pack if he did actually get any game time. And, it has been well publicised that he isn’t taking up too much room on the salary cap and his contract has a ‘one strike and you’re out’ clause.

It’s doubtful he will actually spend much time on the pitch, though, and the fact that he wasn’t even named in the squad for the friendly against Widnes suggests he doesn’t feature highly at all in Tony Smith’s plans. He’s cover for injuries at best, and at least he is experience, at least.

That said, we wouldn’t be surprised to see him shipped out to Rochdale on dual-reg for most of the season.

The friendly itself gave an opportunity for a run out as a team, but little more. We ran in big scores and kept teams to 0 last pre-season, but it counted for nothing when we came up against them in the league – and cup, in the case of Hull KR.

It might have been more of a test if Widnes had bothered to put out anything like a first team squad for the occasion, but as it was, those who paid on the gate parted with 18 of the Queen’s English to watch a game of men against boys.

Of course, these festive friendlies are always a good opportunity to get out of the house, away from the drunk relatives you don’t really like and to see everyone decked out in their new clobber they got for Christmas and who’s been at the turkey a bit much. And in a way, it’s a shame we don’t still play through the winter, as ‘jingle bells, Widnes smells’ is probably the best song we have these days and the one opportunity a year to sing it is not enough.

On the pitch, Kurt Gidley impressed in his first appearance in the primrose and blue, showing his creativity and his organisational skills. He has been given the squad number 1 this year, but he bossed the game from stand off and could probably feature there for the early part of the season while Ratchford recovers from a shoulder injury.

Brad Dwyer ran in for two tries in an impressive display. He was one of the stand outs last year in what was a pretty dismal season and with more game time and at such a young age, he can only get even better.

You can’t really pick faults with a team that ran in 40 unanswered points, even if it was against the Widnes schoolboys, but it’s encouraging to patterns of play and combinations clicking with some quality still to come back into the team.

Anyway, we’re boring ourselves now and there’s a bottle of brandy calling us.

Have a good new year you lot. See you at the Leigh game.



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