HUNSLET go into Sunday’s massive Betfred League 1 second qualifying semi-final against North Wales Crusaders acutely aware that they will need to be at their best if a Promotion Final berth against Doncaster seven days later is to be secured.
The Crusaders, who finished the regular season strongly to snatch a play-off spot, have backed up that form with elimination semi-final victories at Workington Town and, by golden point, at Oldham. There is no danger of their threat being taken lightly by the Parksiders, who were edged 26-14 in last Sunday’s home qualifying semi-final against Doncaster.
Hunslet will be without prop Harvey Hallas (ankle) for the game, while forward Lewis Wray’s season is over because of a hip injury sustained against the Dons. In addition, mercurial halfback Myles Lawford, who is on loan from Bradford Bulls, is ruled out through concussion – incurred while training with his parent club – and hooker Oli Burton, who is on loan from Batley, has been recalled by the Bulldogs.
Head coach Alan Kilshaw has drafted halfback Fraser Stroud, winger Dan McGrath and utility men Brad Wheeler and Liam Carr into his squad. Kilshaw, (whose partner Hannah gave birth to Beau Isaac on Tuesday) is in understandably buoyant mood on the home front, and he is also excited by the prospect of one of the Parksiders’ most important matches of the season.
He said: “We have had some adversity with injuries but this group is at its best when we are forced into a corner. We are going to need everyone to contribute on Sunday, and that includes the fantastic support that we have had all season also playing its part.
“It’s our last home game of the campaign and we are focussed on making it a good one.”
He continued: “The players who will come into the side are part of a very good squad and we are more than confident that they will perform. Some of our group were below standards last week and they have put their hands up. We know we are playing a good side that has had nothing to lose the last few weeks. The Crusaders will continue with that theme so it’s important we get our game where it needs to be, which is at Rugby League play-off intensity and play-off efforts. You can expect exactly that from Hunslet on Sunday.”
Kilshaw’s 21-man squad for North Wales (at the South Leeds Stadium, Sunday 17 September, 3.00pm) is: Jimmy Watson, Jack Render, Adam Ryder, Joe Burton, Nathan Conroy, Sam Hallas, Steve Crossley, Josh Jordan-Roberts, Aaron York, Michael Knowles, Jordan Syme, Jordan Bull, Spencer Darley, Fraser Stroud, Dan McGrath, Brad Wheeler, Alfie Goddard, Matty Beharrell, Johnny Campbell, Marcus Green, Liam Carr.