Ahead of their friendly against Bradford Bulls, Featherstone Rovers have confirmed two new signings.
Alongside four trialists for the game against the Bulls, the Rovers confirmed that two players who are set to debut in the game are at the club for 2024.
These include Ollie Farrar, a young outside back making the step up from Wakefield’s academy, boasts nimble footwork and a natural flair for the game. The pre-season clash against Bradford is an opportunity for Farrar to prove he’s ready for the senior ranks, adding a fresh dimension to Featherstone’s backline.
The other is Jamaican Keenen Tomlinson, with a history in the youth system at Bradford Bulls, debuted in the 2017 season before embarking on loan stints at the London Skolars in League 1. Tomlinson’s journey continued as he made a move to the Batley Bulldogs in 2018 for the RFL Championship, followed by a stint with the Dewsbury Rams in the 2021 RFL Championship.
Head coach James Ford admits that recruitment has been a challenge; “We came to the transfer market for the Championship quite late. We’ve assembled a playing squad of real quality but we recognise that we lack depth. We’re still looking to add to our squad but will make signings that work for the cub both in terms of ability and affordability.”
This will be reflected in Ford’s squad for Sunday’s first pre-season fixture against the Bradford Bulls. “Sunday’s squad is a mix of undeniable talent, some very exciting pairings and combinations. I’m also going to give some of our trialists an opportunity. Caleb Aekins has had to return to Australia over the festive period and whilst he’ll be back in the country for Sunday’s game, he won’t feature.
“That gives me the opportunity to play young Charlie Harris, a Fev lad through and through who’s been very impressive in pre-season training. We’ve also had Keenan Tomlinson in our training squad amongst others who are hungry and deserve an opportunity to show us what they’ve got. They’ll get an opportunity on Sunday. We’ll also be able to see Caleb back in the fullback position when we take on Dewsbury.
“We’re still waiting on some players to become available. McKenzie Yei hasn’t quite fulfilled his return to play conditioning and it wouldn’t be right to field him just yet. Wellington Albert is due in the country very soon, we’re looking forward to seeing Wellington’s impact in a Rovers shirt. It’s also very encouraging to see Nathan Massey and Josh Hardcastle back in full training, I can’t wait to see those two take to the field for us.”
Rovers had an opportunity to test some of their combinations in an opposed session with Hunslet between Christmas and New Year, Ford commented; “The Hunslet hit-out was really useful. It gave us the opportunity to see how our spine combined and how some of those newer faces faired. Sunday will be a significant step up from that.”
The 2024 squad has a more local feel than that of previous seasons, this is something Ford is particularly passionate about; “At York, I was able to give opportunities to some local York lads, there is an extra level in those lads who are playing for their local side, in Charlie Harris’s case, he will be playing in front of the crowd that he has until very recently been a part of, waving his top around his head so I’m told. Add to that the senior figures of Ben Reynolds and Danny Addy who are local lads, they understand how passionate our support is and what it means to our local community.”
Speaking on Bradford as opposition, Ford commented; “In pre-season games, you want to be really tested and I’m sure we’ll get that on Sunday. Bradford finished the 2023 year strong. They’ve recruited well, they have a deep squad and a new coach, and will no doubt be vying to go one better in 2024.”
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