Don't rule out Ollie Roberts having a say in the battle for Huddersfield Giants back-row supremacy.
That’s the view of fellow forward Brett Ferres ahead of tomorrow’s opening pre-season clash at Bradford Bulls (3.00).
The 20-year-old Roberts is poised to make his Huddersfield debut following his move from the Bulls at the end of last season.
Ferres will be watching the Odsal clash from the stands as he’s held back for the following week’s trip to Halifax as a result of his time with England in last autumn’s Four Nations series in Australia and New Zealand.
The battle for a second-row starting spot is expected to involve Ferres, Ukuma Ta’ai and new Wigan on-loan signing Jack Hughes.
But Ferres knows Roberts – who has slipped under the signing radar alongside experienced Super League trio Hughes, Craig Huby and Jamie Ellis – could emerge from nowhere to make a Giants top-flight challenge sooner rather than later.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Ollie play tomorrow,” said Huddersfield vice-captain Ferres.
“He’s still young and raw, but there’s no doubting his ability at all.
“Had he not been hampered by a couple of injuries over the past couple of years at Bradford I don’t think there’s any question he’d have played a lot more than the half-dozen-or-so Super League games he did.
“Ollie’s in great shape – we’ve got a top medical team and they’ve looked after him very well to make sure he’s been able to play a full part in pre-season – and if he continues to work as hard as he is doing at the moment, then he could shake a few things up in terms of selection.”
But Ferres accepts that in the short term, the focus will be on the way Ta’ai, Hughes and himself battle for the back-row berths.
“I think the balance will work very well between the three of us,” he added.
“I thought we looked a bit lost last year in the right back-row, because we didn’t really have a specialist in the position.
“But Jack’s come in and can offer us a lot of strike down that side, particularly as he’s such a big lad.
“And Ukuma looks ready to build on the way he finished last season, when he did such a great job in and around the edges.
“We’ve also got a lot of others in this squad who can make a positive impact in the back row, so none of us can take anything for granted.
“I know they’ve all got a chance to play well and take advantage of me not playing this week by catching the eye of the coaches in my absence, and that’s good.
“Although I’d have been happy to play tomorrow, I think it was the right call not to pick me. It wouldn’t have been right for me to come straight back in after just a few week’s training with the squad and take the place of a player who’s worked 100% throughout pre-season.
“Being left out isn’t a fitness issue with me.
“Even though I had a good break after I came back from Australia, I’ve still done a lot of training on my own and kept myself in decent nick.
“Before I officially returned for training I kept on coming into the club to do a bit of work in the gym and I’m now doing double training sessions to get myself even fitter for next week at Halifax, when I’m hoping to play.
“To be honest, I’m really looking forward to seeing how the boys are shaping up this weekend.”