LLOYD BENTLEY is back in the Huddersfield YMCA fold as they brace themselves for the ultimate Yorkshire I test.
YMCA are at leaders Bridlington tomorrow (2.15) with a squad showing a number of changes from the one held 10-10 at home to second-placed Driffield a week ago.
Several are positive, including the return of highly-talented Bentley at full-back and the opportunity to pair new signing Ross Thornton and Mark Whitehead in the back row for the first time.
Bentley has been sidelined for two months with a shoulder injury, while Thornton returns after a two-week absence due to a hamstring strain.
But on the negative side, inspirational back Ed Barber has now returned to rugby league to join Dewsbury Rams and in-form prop Josh Wrafter is facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
The no-nonsense forward suffered a shoulder injury in last week’s Driffield clash and is waiting for the swelling around the joint to go down before having a scan, although it’s feared he’ll be out for six weeks at the very minimum.
Nick Clarke is also missing this week with a broken nose, but is expected to be back the following week.
Yet coach Jody Shaw remains confident his side still has the ability to spring a surprise.
“Losing players of this sort of quality would affect any side,” said Shaw, who has also made a number of positional switches to deal with the changes in player personnel.
“But no-one will be using that as an excuse this weekend.
“Despite the absences, we’re still going to Bridlington with a strong side, and one that’s capable of producing the right result if we get our performance spot-on.
“We’re a very confident group at the moment – as you’d expect from a side that’s recorded five positive results in the last seven games.
“We know that if we focus 100% on our game and not worry about our opponents’ threat we’ll give ourselves a very good chance.
“This is a test we can’t wait to take.”
And Shaw is confident Bentley and Thornton could prove the key.
“Lloyd was in outstanding form before picking up his shoulder injury and he’s been training exceptionally well in training,” added Shaw of the son of former dual rugby international and former Giants winger John Bentley.
“If he can carry on from where he left off, we know he’ll give Bridlington all sorts of problems from the back.
“And in the pack, we’ve been looking forward to seeing Ross and Mark in the back row together from day one. Those two working alongside each other is an incredibly exciting prospect.”
Huddersfield YMCA: Bentley; Beever, Cole, Shaw, Marshall; Swift, Wilson; Ste Dyke, Murphy, Stu Dyke, Hill, Housley, Thornton, Leone-Mazza, Whitehead. Subs: Wood, Smith, Hodge.