COMPETITIVE rugby league returns to Furness tomorrow as the Barton-Townley Cup kicks off with Walney Central hosting Roose Pioneers (2.30pm kick-off).

Cents star for the past 10 years, Brad Nicholls, hung up his boot at the end of last season. However, the will-o'-the-wisp half-back made his retirement short-lived and will be back on the field this weekend.

Nicholls will be without regular half-back partner Jamie Morrow for the clash with the Red River club, as he is suspensed following his sending off against Barrow Island at the end of last season.

Hard-working centre Jordan Staffieri also misses out through injury, but experienced players James and Liam Finch, along with the returning Adam Nicholson, will take to the field.

Also back at Central Drive is Mike Darby, who spent last season with Barrow Island, with Carl McBain going in the opposite direction.

Jan Elliott is back as head coach, and said regarding Darby: “Mike is with us again, but unluckily he damaged his ribs in a workout we had with Barrow (Raiders) last week. He should be back in a couple of weeks, and we will still have a strong team out (tomorrow).”

Pioneers boss Steve Neale is anticipating a hard game, and said: “We have players missing with the rugby union season still with us, but once that is over, we will have a decent squad.

“Corne Els is still at Furness, while two Hawcoat Park youngsters will soon be with us in Euan James and Harrison O'Brien.

“I'm quite optimistic looking ahead to the new season. We will try and get a higher place in the Cumbria League – last season we had some very close defeats, so we're looking to improve.”

Neale will probably play army recruit Craig Deakin and former Ulverston player Danny Tyson, along with Ade White, who should be ready following an injury sustained in the recent game with Furness Raiders.

Askam and Barrow Island have one last hit out before the National Conference League season gets under way, as the teams clash at Fallowfield Park tomorrow (2.30pm kick-off).