Halifax were one of the true underdog stories of 2017, and Richard Marshall is ready for his side to do it all over again this year.
Despite pay cuts and inferior budgets, Fax managed to secure an unlikely top-four finish last year following a late rally at the end of the year.
But repeating that feat will only be harder this year. The big-spending of Leigh and Toronto along with further full-time opposition in London and Toulouse makes Fax rank outsiders to secure a second consecutive Qualifiers finish.
However, Marshall has seen it all before, and as he prepares for his fourth year in charge at The Shay, he’s confident his side can defy the odds again.
“We spoke last year about being the best part-time team in the competition. This season, that will not get us in the top four,” he said.
“We have to be even better. Is it a realistic aim? Yes. Will we have to be more consistent? Yes. We can’t afford to do what we did last year and leave it to the end to shoot up and creep in. I’d take it again, I’d bite your hand off, but it will be more difficult.”
Marshall has overseen a low-key recruitment drive with the club keen to stand on its own two feet going forward.
That said, Fax are still relying on the additional funding a top-four finish brings, and Marshall will have to rely on the club’s thriving reserve grade talent along the way.
“I’m pushing these young players and asking them if they’re good enough to play in the Championship, the answers I’m getting back are yes.
“We haven’t got as much Championship experience. We’ve lost some seasoned pros and replaced them with young players that can play at this level. We don’t want to throw them all in together. My ethos is about development.
“The funding is massive. We’ve been there and we know that. You’ve got to live within your means and we haven’t overspent this year. It will be difficult, but to sustain the model I want to use we’d have to make the top four.”