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Monday, 22 December 2014

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Howard Hill set to feature for Whitehaven against Rochdale

Veteran Howard Hill will make his first appearance of the campaign tomorrow when Whitehaven entertain Rochdale Hornets in their opening home game of the league season (3pm).

Howard Hill photo
Howard Hill

Coach Don Gailer has not yet named his team but will opt for a squad packed with experience, as Haven look for their first Championship One win of the season.

And none will have more miles on the clock than the 37-year-old prop, one of the club’s most popular players.

Hill is the only squad member yet to feature, after a recent break from the club, but Gailer has been delighted with him on the training field.

“He had some personal commitments for a while, but I’m really happy to have him back.” Gailer said. “He has been training the house down and it will be good to see him back in a Whitehaven jersey.

“We are in a real tough spot and we will ask players to show their experience. We haven’t won a game in the middle yet, and we are looking for those guys to stand up.

“Paul Cullnean is absolutely pushing himself to the limit, and Carl Rudd is playing some good footy.

“Players are really putting it in at training and trying so hard. I can see they are frustrated as well. But we are not far away.”

Scott McAvoy and Craig Calvert return from injury, while a decision will be made today on prop Richard Varkulis, who damaged his knee in the 48-16 loss at Doncaster last week.

“If he’s not 100 per cent he won’t play,” Gailer said. “In the middle of the field you’ve got to be full-on, or you are not on. He’s probably a 50-50 chance at this stage.”

Meanwhile, Rochdale coach John Stankevitch admitted he expected a stronger start to the season from Haven.

“I’m really surprised, to be honest, looking at the team they have recruited,” he said. “They’ve had heavy defeats to Workington and Doncaster, and I’m not really sure what to make of it.

“They have some good individuals, but you’ve certainly got to question last week’s performance.

“We have a team that can score points and they have a challenge on their hands. We are not going there to go through the motions.

“If they start with two losses the pressure will be on big-style. I’m sure things are not going to plan, but we are aware they are likely to have a different attitude this weekend.”

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