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Five Drives... and a Kick work ethic. I think he now deserves a chance to really push on. I would love to see him shine this time.”

Dean and his colleagues will have their first chance to mark their progress on an away trip to London Broncos and Betts, who cites Malcolm Reilly as his biggest influence as a coach, remains optimistic that his team can improve.

“We will look to add four or five more wins to our total from last season. Apart from that, though, we need to be tough to beat. We need to be more competitive in every game. If we can come back off losses where we have not been beaten up and conceded lots of points then I think we can still see those as positives as well.”

Jonathan Doidge


Through my company Reactiv Media, I recently undertook a major investment in the future of Halifax, buying a £60,000 shareholding which makes us the largest single stakeholder in the club.

I am determined to see Fax back where we know they belong, in Super League. The club has a long and proud history and this last four years, while I have been involved, have been especially successful. We have appeared in two Grand Finals, winning one and have the same record in the Northern Rail Cup.

The last three seasons have seen us break even or make a profit because we take proper business decisions about the monies we spend. As to our viability in the top flight, there were around 8,000 fans present every round at Thrum Hall last time, so what we have to do is offer them an experience that's worth turning up for.

Victory by the seaside: Halifax won last year’s Northern Rail Cup in Blackpool

There is a large rugby league community on our doorstep and we need to get out there and sell what Halifax has to offer. That process is well under way. We are about to launch our ‘kids club’ which will promote the game in schools and local amateur outfits.

There is an element of fans who only want to watch Super League and they will come back and a new generation to aim at attracting.

Of course, we are aware of the major financial issues currently affecting clubs of a similar size to ours in Super League, but we have said all along that a club should be run like a business and not by a sugar daddy who can bail them out. Sound commercial decisions and principles are what’s needed and nothing more than that. It hurts me to see clubs in the difficulties they are, but I know that uneconomic decisions have been made at some point which has left them vulnerable.

We were told by the RFL that we were wrong in our approach but no one, be it player, coach, commercial partner or even fan, is bigger than the club. The players also need to come and play for the right reasons.

I’m convinced that there is sufficient commercial income within the town accessible to us to sustain a full-time operation here. It is a question we asked ourselves three years ago at the last licensing round. There are some massive companies that, if the exposure is right, I am sure will be a part of what we are planning. We have spoken to a number of people and could raise £500,000 immediately if we have the opportunity to get into Super League. The RFL know that we are ready financially, we just need the chance.

People will rightly point to the fact that last time the Blue Sox were in Super League [2001], the club was ultimately ill-equipped and ended up in administration. But that was well before my day and, as far as I know, the club is in a very different place now with a great board that will only make the best decisions for the future of the organisation.

So we enter 2013 with hope, expectation and the town playing a part in the World Cup, although its projected impact and awareness has provoked a split of opinion within the board. I am 100 per cent sure it will make a difference and I am working very closely with Calderdale council to ensure that the game at The Shay between Tonga and Italy is the best group match of the competition. We have an opportunity to get 10,000 fans in and that’s the goal.

Pushing on: New Widnes signing Phil Joseph takes it to the Warrington defence

However, the other side of the coin is that the RFL has to promote the tournament and ensure that they get the right commercial partners in to make it a success. If they don’t and start to devalue the competition then it will be a flop. I hope I am right.

One thing that we have at Halifax is an understanding of where we are and where we want to go. The rest is a process; we just need the people who make the decisions to understand that.

There is a tightly-knit local community here. You only have to look at the terrible flooding we had at the back end of summer to realise that. Entire businesses were ruined and people’s livelihoods at risk, but we all pulled together to get Halifax and the surrounding areas back up and running.

Tony Abbott

January 2013 Forty-20 11

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