DEWSBURY RAMS head coach Lee Greenwood says that there are still shirts up for grabs as he prepares for the final game of pre-season.
The Rams narrowly lost out to Bradford Bulls last weekend in the Yorkshire Cup, meaning that they now face fellow semi-finalists York City Knights at Bootham Crescent tomorrow (Saturday, kick-off 6pm).
Greenwood intends to use their fourth and final friendly to try out more of the players in his new-look squad, which includes 18 close-season signings.
“These four games are about giving people a chance,” he said. “I’ve got lads who have been training four times a week since November, and they’ve been brought in to be given an opportunity. If I can’t give it to them now then where can I give it to them?
“There are certainly shirts up for grabs; that wasn’t the strongest team (against Bradford). It’s up to the lads to grab them. I am still actively looking to bring one or two in in certain positions where I think we need strengthening.”
Nine players have featured in all three pre-season fixtures so far, and Greenwood hinted that some of them will be rested ahead of the start of their Championship campaign on February 3.
“I know for a fact that some of our senior players have played three games already, I’m not fussed with them playing a fourth before the season starts.”
With a high turnover of players following his arrival in the job in October, Greenwood says that their pre-season schedule, which has featured four different second-tier sides, has proven a useful test of which players are ready to make the step up.
“At the time I got the job there weren’t many people available, so we’ve just gone out and got people that were available, which has given us good numbers for training,” he said.
“It’s allowed us to look at some people, and some have really stood and looked like quality Championship players. Some are not; whether they ever will be, time will tell, but at the moment some of them don’t quite look up to that level.
“What I am happy with is that we’ve played Championship opposition. With where we’re at this year it’ll help us quickly decide who’s up to it and who’s not because once the season starts you’re not giving game time out and being a charity case; it’s ruthless.
“You’ve got to get straight into your strongest team. You’ve got games to win.”
Greenwood has insisted from the start of his tenure that the top priority in the first year is making his team “tough to beat”, and believes that their pre-season results so far, which have seen a victory over Featherstone and narrow defeats to Batley and Bradford, represent progress in that regard.
“I dare say that over the three games that we’ve played so far we’ve done that,” he said. “There’s obviously plenty of work to do and that was nowhere near a full-strength Bradford side but we were difficult to beat.
“There are a few players to come back in, and there’s a lot of work to do behind the scenes. We’re nowhere near where we need to be but in this first year I want to make us difficult to beat and in the three games we’ve been that.”
One area of concern will be the two tries conceded straight after half-time against the Bulls, following a similar slump against Featherstone.
“Straight after half-time we went soft defensively around the middle, and that’s an area we need to work on. Some of the things I’m not too worried about because we’ve got a 20-man squad today and another 10 or 11 not involved.
“At any point I’m thinking ‘you might not be there and you might not be there’, so there’s different combinations that I need to look at to make sure we’re ready for when the league campaign starts.”
With decisions still to be made on the Rams’ strongest line-up, there will be more changes from the Bradford clash when they travel to York tomorrow.
“We’ve got quite a few lads with knocks and things and it just wasn’t worth risking them. There’s probably four or five (others) who might go into the 17.
“We are actively looking to bring players in still, which might sound daft because we have got a lot of numbers, but if you look at where we got the players, not all of them are proven Championship players, and the only way you’re going to find out if they are going to be that quality is by playing them.
“At the moment, some lads are not quite at the physical level that’s necessary for the Championship, so I will still be looking for guys to do that, to make us as competitive as we can be.”