Batley Bulldogs prop Keegan Hirst is fully fit and ready to be unleashed in Sunday’s West Yorkshire derby against Halifax (kick off 3pm).
Hirst missed pre-season and the opening two Kingstone Press Championship matches with a foot injury but is back earlier than expected and raring to make an impact.
Batley are aiming for a third straight win against a side coach John Kear expects to be challenging for a top four place come July.
Kear said: “You could argue that we were slight favourites in our opening two games but the players stood up to the challenge well.
We are probably slight underdogs this week and face a different challenge but I am sure the players are ready to embrace that.
“Keegan Hirst is fully fit and available for selection and it is credit to our medical staff and Keegan himself that he has been able to put his hand up earlier than we thought.”
Three former Bulldogs players are set to return with last season’s leading try scorer Miles Greenwood, winger Alex Brown and powerful second row Dane Manning now plying their trade at Fax.
Kear added: “They were instrumental in Batley’s recent history but it is our job to make it as tough and uncomfortable as possible on Sunday.”
Batley replaced Greenwood with James Craven and the new full-back has made an immediate impact, which has not gone unnoticed by Kear.
The coach added: “James set up Alex Bretherton’s try (against Workington) with a line break and scored one himself last week (against Hunslet) and if he can do that every game I’ll be more than happy.”
Halifax beat Whitehaven in their opening game but were edged out 18-6 at home to Leigh last week, while Batley seek a third straight win having beaten Workington and Hunslet.