Dowes Looks Forward to Halifax
Thursday 7th February 2013
Forward relishing Halifax clash
Despite bookies offering Town with a 14-point start, the Cumbrians defeated the Lions 14-10 courtesy of Declan Hulme and Peter Lupton tries and goals from Carl Forber (two) and Brett Carter. Premier Sports, who televise Championship games, awarded the club its Performance of the Week award, while Callum Phillips and Jarrad Stack were named in their team of the week. But, having won last season's Northern Rail Cup, Halifax will provide a much tougher test.
The 2005 Challenge Cup winner enjoyed an 11-season Super League career with Leeds Rhinos and Hull FC before playing in Australia in 2012 for Illawarra Cutters, who play in the New South Wales Cup. His signing was a massive pre-season coup for Town.
"I'm very excited about Sunday," he said. "I've never played at Derwent Park before and don't know exactly what to expect. We took a decent crowd down to Swinton at the weekend and they were fantastic. I hope we get a good crowd, and it'll be a tough home debut for me because Halifax are one of the best teams in this division. They train full time, so it will be a good test for us and it'll show us if we can compete at that sort of level. They're in the top few teams and we're up for it.
"I'm loving it here at Town. We have a top set of lads and I'm loving training. We want to enjoy playing, and if you can do that in rugby league, form ends up taking care of itself."
The bulk of last Sunday's team were players who helped Town to promotion last season, the club's first tangible on-field success since 1994, but a couple of newcomers also caught the eye. Hooker Callum Phillips made his professional debut having signed from Seaton Rangers during the off-season, joining his brother, Scotland international Brett, who enjoyed a superb debut season last year, in the Town ranks; and winger Declan Hulme played on a dual-registration basis on loan from Widnes.
"Callum Phillips was outstanding and got through a fair bit of work," said Dowes. "He got us around the park and did a great job in his first game at this level. Youngsters like Callum coming through is what the game needs. Declan Hulme only trained with us on Saturday and fitted in really well. He got a try and got us out of back field well with some really good carries.
The forwards did a great job - you've got to set a platform in this game. We've got five quality front rowers here - if I can include in myself in that! - with Jamie Acton still to come in. It gives the coaches the chance to rotate over the season and keep everybody fresh. It will be a big strength for us."
The competition hit the news on Thursday for two reasons with Kingstone Press Cider sponsoring the Championship this year and with the dual-registration issue surfacing again, with Leeds Rhinos announcing that two of their experienced forwards, Kylie Leuluai and Richard Moore are available for Hunslet Hawks this weekend, but having played against Swinton, who fielded Warrington's Paul Wood and Tyrone McCarthy, Dowes can only see the positives in such arrangements.
"Swinton used some high-profile players against us on Sunday but we didn't want to concentrate too much on who was playing for them," said Dowes. "We knew we would have the talent to run them close. We wanted to take care of our performance and that's what we did.
"I've spoken to a lot of people about it and there are some mixed opinions out there but it will strengthen the league as long as clubs don't abuse it. You don't want a situation where a full team trains together for months then six or seven lads come in from another team. You've got to have a happy medium and if you do, I can't see the problem.
"Kylie Leuluai and Richard Moore are quality players and it's also good for the profile of the competition because it's getting people talking about it. I played in the NSW Cup last year which is there for players not playing in the NRL.
The game is at a stage where it needs a boost and with a new sponsor, games on TV and well-known players, I think this league is doing well."
Workington and Halifax haven't met at Derwent Park in a league fixture since 1996. On that occasion, in round six of the game's inaugural Super League campaign, the two sides each picked up their first point of the season after an entertaining 18-all draw which saw current Warrington coach, Tony Smith, make his debut for Town.
Interview by Richard de la Riviere