JONNY Boatman is set to make his final West Hartlepool appearance – but coach Iain Dixon has not given up hope of trying to “squeeze” one more season from him.
Boatman will be in the West back row for the last time when the team he has graced for the last decade bring the curtain down on thelr North One East programme against Northern at Brinkburn (kick-off 3pm).
The 33-year-old has been a collossus for West throughout his time at Catcote Road.
He has played every role in the back row and skippered West to the North One East title in 2010.
The former Durham player, whose brother Dan has captained West for the last three years, is stepping down to concentrate on his business and will be a “massive” loss to the club.
“I played alongside Jonny at Mowden Park and then here,” said West coach Dixon.
“He’s a fantastic player and he’s been a fabulous servant for West for the last 10 years.
“Jonny says his body is telling him to stop and that he has work commitments with his new business.
“But no-one wants him to go and I certainly don’t want him to leave.
“Jonny is someone who always leads from the front, a no frills player who is still doing the business.
“He’s someone who it has been a privilege to play in the same team with and since I’ve been coach he’s been brilliant and a major help.
“I will keep trying to see if we can squeeze one more season from him.
“But if he decides that’s it then he’ll be a massive loss.”
Brother Dan will be alongside in the pack, but former Horden skipper Owen Bennett will again lead the side.
One of Jonny’s old team-mate throughout his peak time at Brinkburn. Darren Thomas, is named at full-back.
It may be a brave man to risk saying this but Thomas could well make way some point for teenage wing/ full-back prospect CJ Beales.
The teenage speed merchant, just 17, has been brought into the league squad for his debut.
He has been named on the bench alongside Michael Hogan with West choosing between Jack Angus and Andrew Dixon for the final spot.
Iain Dixon said: “I’m looking forward to seeing CJ play – he’s an absolute flier.
“We must look to give him the ball in a bit of space.”
West make two changes in the backs, Thomas and Scott Butcher coming in for Peter Hodgson and Luke Mallinson.
Up front, Andrew Rollins resumes at hooker while front row colleague Adam Coates faces a fitness test after damaging his ankle at training on Tuesday night.
West, who sealed third place in the league thanks to last Saturday’s 13-13 draw at Old Crossleyans, will start as favourites tomorrow against a Northern side who look like finishing ninth in the table.
West: D Thomas, S Butcher, C Cheslin, P Youll, K Jameson, S Waites, R Painter, I Pinchen, A Rollins, A Coates, D Boatman, O Bennett (capt), A Barker, J Boatman, S Miller. Subs (from): J Angus, A Dixon, M Hogan, CJ Beales