Hunslet will resume pre-season on March 3 following their decision not to compete in this year’s Challenge Cup and the later than expected start to Betfred League One.

The Parksiders are not among the three third tier clubs entered into the first round of the Challenge Cup, to be played on the weekend of March 20/21.

That means they won’t be back on the field until League One kicks off on May 8/9 – 14 months after they last played.

Hunslet began pre-season training before Christmas, in anticipation of a March start, but coach Gary Thornton confirmed preparations are back on hold.

The south Leeds side were originally set to enter the Cup, but withdrew after being told that could involve a preliminary round, played behind closed doors, without prize money.

Thornton said: “We wanted to get back playing as soon as possible so it is disappointing and a bit of a blow not to be in the Cup. It has scuppered our plans a bit and put things back. We were gearing up for a start in March, but now we’re not starting until May.

“The players aren’t in at the moment, the club are taking advantage of the furlough scheme and we don’t want to have an excessive pre-season.

“The current plans are we are back in on March 3, which gives us two months to get ready for the start of the season. We had four weeks [in pre-season] prior to Christmas so we’ve given the guys home programs to maintain where they got to at the end of December and we will pick up again in March.”

Thornton reckons that will give his men long enough to prepare for their promotion bid, without them over-training. He added: “It is what it is, we have got to work within the guidelines from the RFL.

“We are allowed to do stage one-plus training, which is social distancing, no contact and only once a week. From March we can go to twice a week and start doing some controlled contact stuff. Everyone’s in the same boat and I think the first few games will be interesting, it wouldn’t surprise me if they are 40 points to 50 scorelines because nobody will have done much contact and defensive work.”

Article by Peter Smith YEP