HALIFAX head coach Richard Marshall feels his former team-mate Paul Rowley could very well end up in Super League – but he isn’t going to make it easy for the Toronto Wolfpack chief.
The pair were Halifax playing colleagues for four years, including the glorious season of 1998 when the West Yorkshire club finished third in the top-flight under John Pendlebury.
Granted, things have changed somewhat now; part-timers Halifax – where Marshall has worked wonders over the last four years – have been in the second tier since relegation in 2003.
But Rowley is in charge of Toronto, the big-spending expansion club who surged to the Championship League Leaders’ Shield and intend ruffling feathers in the Qualifiers to gain back-to-back promotions into the elite.
Rowley, 43, initially made Leigh Centurions the dominant Championship side – even if Super League eluded him – before his shock decision to quit on the eve of the 2016 campaign.
Ahead of tomorrow’s opening Qualifiers game at The Shay, Marshall admitted: “There’s a few Halifax connections with Toronto. Nick Rawsthorne came through our system and went to Toronto via Hull FC and Bob Beswick is another former ‘Fax player. But, of course, there’s Paul Rowley, too, who’s doing a good job with them.
“I played with him and know him really well. I know for a fact he wants to coach in Super League and he’ll be thinking he’s probably got the team now that can get him there.
“I do wish them all the best but this week it’s all about Halifax and us rewarding our fans for being so fantastic.
“If we can get a win it will really upset the apple cart, us the part-time team up against the Toronto superstars.
“We’ll give it our best shot. We’ve worked really hard to get this opportunity and we’re not going to blow it now. We’re looking forward to it. We’ll be preparing to put on a real show.”
Halifax have, indeed, worked remarkably hard to gain a third Qualifiers shot in just four years.
The only part-time side in the series, they beat off competition from full-time Leigh – relegated from Super League last term – and a Featherstone Rovers side that also splashed cash, to claim that fourth and final place.
Marshall, 42, admitted: “We know Toronto are a quality side and have improved quite a lot since we played them down here in February and also since we faced them in London.
“They’ll be aiming to get in that Million Pound Match at least. They’re without doubt the best side we’ve faced this year, with a very good defence who work really hard and are very aggressive.
“We have got to overcome all those challenges but we’re happy with that; we’ve got the second best defence in the league and we work hard as well. We’ve a really good record at home, losing just once and we’ll have a better chance of causing an upset here than in Canada.”
Halifax loan signings Jordan Baldwinson (Leeds Rhinos) and Sam Wood (Huddersfield) are set to debut, Shane Grady is included but Simon Grix is injured.