Featherstone coach expects ‘massive test’ against Super League champions Leeds

John Duffy: "I've got an idea of the team I want to go with against Halifax but I'm not there with the 17 yet."
John Duffy: "I've got an idea of the team I want to go with against Halifax but I'm not there with the 17 yet."

COACH John Duffy is relishing a big test against Super League champions Leeds Rhinos in Featherstone’s final pre-season fixture at LD Nutrition Stadium tomorrow evening (Friday, 7.30pm kick-off).

Duffy says places are still up for grabs for the opening Championship game against Halifax on Sunday, February 4.

And he is looking for an improvement on last Sunday’s performance against League One York City Knights especially in Featherstone’s handling.

“Our last warm-up game on Friday is a going to be a massive test for us. It’s something I am excited about and can’t wait to get into. Hopefully, we will see a lot better than we saw against York,” said Duffy.

“I’ve got an idea of the team I want to go with against Halifax but I’m not there with the 17 yet.

“I was impressed with Brad Knowles last Sunday. He showed some real aggression and Luke Cooper has been fantastic in the pre-season games as well. They have really put themselves in the shop window for a starting spot.”

In cold, murky conditions, Featherstone’s partner club Leeds came out on top 24-0 in last year’s corresponding friendly fixture, inflicting Rovers’ solitary defeat in five pre-season games.

Duffy’s men go into tomorrow’s game on the back of three successive pre-season wins against Castleford, Halifax and York but the Rovers boss knows they still need to be much sharper.

“I thought the scoreline flattered us a little bit last Sunday,” added Duffy.

“We didn’t handle the ball as well as we’d like to. We spoke about that last week - we knew what the weather was going to be like.

“All credit to York. I thought they were absolutely superb.

“I thought their three middles - Robinson, Spears and Horne - were exceptional at the start of the game and they showed a lot more desire than we did.

“Then we decided to turn up and defend. I saw a lot more aggression in us last Sunday which was a good sign but I was really concerned about our ball control especially in those conditions.

“That’s the sort of weather it’s going to be like the first few games of the season so we’ve got to cope a lot better with that.

“I think it’s just personal skills, personal standards and attitude towards the game - certainly not across the board for us - but you’ve got to prepare well for these conditions and I just thought we were off there a little bit.

“We showed some good glimpses in defence. I thought we were really aggressive and got off our line and we minimised York’s carries really well once we’d got into the game so that was pleasing.

“But then on tackles four or five we were either offside or we were messy in the ruck.

“There some real schoolboy errors from players who have been in the game a long time.”

Duffy also felt Rovers lacked composure in attack.

He added: “We spoke about being composed on their line when we got the ball and just building pressure but we came up with some silly options and silly errors. It was just individual stuff . They’ve got to take that a lot more personally than they are doing at the minute but we’ll definitely get there.”

Matty Wildie and 22-year-old trialist Dan Maskill, who is aiming to earn a long-term contract with Rovers. shared the hooking role against York in Keal Carlile’s absence.

Added Duffy: “I thought Matty was superb. I thought his defence was really good.

“Dan was good in defence and a little bit off with his skill.

“He’s new to the club and he’s getting used to everything we do but he’s really bought into what we want from him.”