Marshall eyes up second underdog story as Halifax look to defy the odds in Toulouse

The Championship has provided some vintage underdog tales in recent years.

Halifax were the first to gain the affection of Rugby League supporters. In 2015 they surged to a top four spot and rallied incredibly to earn an eye-watering £787,000 of central distribution funding with a sixth-place finish.

Sadly, there was no fairytale ending to their initial feel-good story.

2016 didn’t go to plan. They missed out on the Qualifiers and subsequently had to overcome financial issues that threatened to hinder the club’s progress.

Budgets were cut, backroom staff were let go and the club was, in many ways, back to where it was before their first year defying the odds.

It meant that they would once again take up the underdog role in 2017, but this time under very different circumstances, something their head coach Richard Marshall has experienced first-hand.

“We’ve overcome mountains of adversity this year for a stack of reasons,” he said.

“There were jobs on the line earlier in the year and we’ve lost three key members of our squad along the way.

“We’ve been written off all year and not mentioned for the top four. Our chances have been rubbished.

“But I think being an underdog creates a buzz. At some stage, we want to be the top dogs, but we’ll be the underdogs for the year now.”

The reality for Halifax is they are increasingly up against it every year in an ever-growing Championship competition. They’re competing with bigger clubs, bigger budgets and against full-time squads.

Nevertheless, Fax have persevered and given themselves a fighting chance. Ahead of their pivotal fixture with Toulouse on Saturday, they can go into the top four with two games remaining should they find a way to win in France.

It’s a daunting task, but one Richard Marshall and his side are not scared of as they look to provide a second unlikely success story.

“The reality of the competition is that it’s a must-win game,” Marshall said.

“We have to win this game. There are other ways around it if we didn’t manage to win, but if we’re being honest it’s a grand final for both teams this week.

“But we’re in with a fighting chance. We know Toulouse are a very strong team that are even better at home.

“We’ve had two tough games against Toulouse. The first game at home I think we were dealt a rough deal with referee calls. At the Bash they were far better than us, their attack clicked.

This try was awarded in the first fixture between the two clubs this season. Toulouse would go on to win the game 12-10.

“We’ve got to hope we have more energy and passion than our opposition.”

While revenge will likely be one motivator, it would be understandable if money was another. Existing members of Halifax’s squad agreed to take a pay cut before the start of the season, however they will get that back should the club receive the additional funding for making the top four.

Marshall, however, insists that’s not in their mindset.

“The money is not our motivator,” he said.

“It would be nice for the players to get it at the end of the season, but it certainly doesn’t motivate me. I want to coach at the highest possible level and this year that is the Qualifiers for us against some wonderful team.

“The money is irrelevant. The motivator is working hard for the person next to you. It would be nice obviously, some are getting married and having babies, but it isn’t out key motivator.

“Making the top four would probably be a deserved end to our season if we could manage to do it. If we didn’t I would still see this year as a success, but the players want more and our supporters do too.”