Halifax’s peculiar season

It’s been a strange old season at Halifax RLFC.

A stunning end to 2015 saw Fax charge into the Qualifiers and ultimately finish sixth, leaving them just two points shy of a place in the Million Pound Game. Their end of season finish meant they were the beneficiaries of a huge payout at the end of the year, landing a mammoth £787,000 reward for their efforts in 2015.

The club was not willing to get carried away and instead of investing the money into a full-time playing squad, they opted to develop the infrastructure of the club, creating a reserve grade and purchasing the latest technology to help them cut the gap between themselves and their Super League counterparts.

Everything looked great for the club, and when they moved to the top of the Championship after trouncing Whitehaven on the opening day of the season, 2016 looked set to be the year Halifax really made strides towards a Super League return for the first time since 2003.

However, it hasn’t quite worked out like that. Five defeats in 12 Championship games and numerous indifferent performances have left Fax fans feeling deflated at the midway stage of the season.

Despite all that, the team is still in the top four of the Championship and one victory away from the quarter-final of the Challenge Cup ahead of their match with struggling Widnes on Sunday. Head coach Richard Marshall recently admitted it was a ‘surreal’ time for the club, with the Fax chief saying throughout the year that his side have rarely been at their best. In fact, they’ve probably only been at fulfilled their potential twice this season, against Whitehaven and then Bradford.

Last year’s success has perhaps lifted expectations too high at Halifax; the reality is that they are currently the best part-time team in Britain and recently recorded their third consecutive win over Bradford Bulls, the first time they have managed to put a string of results together over their fierce rivals in 30 years. Beyond that, players like Brandon Moore and Elliot Morris have already made first-grade debuts after joining the club’s reserve grade, while other youngsters such as Nick Rawsthorne and Chester Butler appear to have bright futures in the game after their time in development at Fax. In that sense, it makes you question exactly why supporters are so frustrated.

However, the reality is that Halifax are simply just not playing well. Though it might look rosy from the outside, the displays on the field aren’t living up to expectations. While players like Adam Tangata and Gareth Moore have been fantastic, there are others that have failed to impress. Will Sharp hasn’t hit the heights many expected while the majority of the squad has struggled with consistency. Their efforts haven’t been helped by the continued absence of Simon Grix, who is currently dealing with the awful news surrounding his young daughter, who we all wish a very speedy recovery.

Many have tipped them to defeat Widnes at the weekend, but you’d struggle to find a good percentage of Fax supporters that think they are capable of doing a job on their Super League opponents. While many will be hoping to see Halifax push on from their achievements last year, fans of the club would just be happy to see them in the top four given the nature of the performances so far.

What can be said, however, is that Fax continuously show up for the big games, and the opportunity to face Super League opposition might not only bring the best out of them, but rekindle the spark that has been missing so often this season. And if Marshall can continue to get the results required with the players struggling to find their best form, it does make you wonder just what they could achieve in the Qualifiers should they be saving their best performances.