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YORK City Knights will be without Brendan O’Hagan for their Betfred Championship season opener against Featherstone Rovers.
O’Hagan missed York’s two pre-season friendly matches as he continues to push to be match-fit following an off-season hip operation.
The news means that the Knights will enter the 2022 round one clash with just one available out-and-out half-back, Jamie Ellis, after Liam Harris was banned for three matches for punching.
“It would be ideal to bring Brendan in for Liam,” admitted York head coach James Ford.
"Brendan isn’t injured, he’s training with the team. But what we need to do now is give Brendan a little bit more time to get that rugby league fitness into him so that when he does play, he can endure what is a very difficult and physical contest.
“Brendan’s one of many key players that we’ve got. We want to do right by him. He’s recovered from his surgery and he’s training well but we just want to give him another week.
“We’ve haven’t ruled him out for round two but we’ll see how he pulls up in training (next week).”
After footage of the ruckus emerged on social media, the suspensions of Harris and Castleford Tigers’ James Clare surprised many in rugby league.
Ford signalled that the RFL were hardening their attitude towards such incidents and insisted that his side were willing to learn from the experience.
“The (RFL) stance on certain things has changed and we’ve learnt from it,” he said.
“We’ve certainly learnt from the Liam Harris incident. We challenged it (because) we want to support our players, but we want to learn from it too and we’ll amend our behaviour.
“We challenged the Pauli (Pauli) thing [an overturned two-match suspension for dangerous contact] because that wasn’t even a penalty and the panel agreed.
“Obviously we’ll learn from the Jacob Ogden issue [a one-match ban for dangerous contact]. I don’t think Jacob is a dirty or malicious player, but things have changed and we need to change and we will do.
“We will take the RFL up on their offer (of a club visit) and we will learn further from it.
“We’ll aim at being the most disciplined side in the competition because that’ll be of an absolutely massive benefit.”
Elsewhere on the selection front, Ford confirmed that prop Ronan Dixon will be in the 21-man squad to face Featherstone while fellow pack member Chris Clarkson is “recovery really well” from a calf issue.
“Chris is an incredibly key player to us and we’re very hopeful that he will be available,” Ford added.
York will however be without winger Olly Butterworth while hooker Sam Davis continues to wait to make his Knights debut.
“Olly is seeing a specialist today (Thursday) but we’re pretty confident that he’s had a partial dislocation of his shoulder,” Ford explained
“The thick end of it is that his return will be in six weeks. But he’s a very fit, strong boy is Olly and he looks after himself tremendously well.
“Sam Davis is probably around the same timeline as Brendan O’Hagan, which is really positive.
“We’ve had three blokes coming off the back of surgery and we’ve got them ready for round two which is a real pat on the back for the medical and S&C (strength and conditioning) team.”