With a week until the new season, Sheffield Eagles director of rugby Mark Aston is happy to see his side’s chances go under the rugby league radar.
Last season’s Championship winners Leigh Centurions have once again grabbed the headlines with a plethora of high profile names arriving over the close season. Paul Rowley’s side remain favourites with the bookies, whilst Bradford Bulls and London Broncos are also fancied.
Eagles will provide a largely unknown quantity with 10 new signings, but this season they have the advantage of being a full-time operation. Aston is convinced they have once again been overlooked by the game’s experts.
“Nobody ever fancies us which is great” Aston said. “Keep writing us off, we love it. It inspires us, we just go about our business, we have a really strong close knit group here. We never get the sort of accolades that we should do. We are a good team, we have gone full-time and if we have got our recruitment right, then we will be a better team.”
Aston has largely recruited players under the age of 25. Whilst some will see this as a gamble there are a number of experienced heads remaining from last season, and Aston believes he has got the balance right. People are saying there have been too many changes, too much youth; well let’s just see if these lads can stand up because I believe they can,” he said. “We are spending 20-30 hours a week together, it doesn’t take that long to get a group together and get them believing and we have already generated a real buzz.”
Aston added: “There are people like Matty James - when I first met him he was down in the dumps. Ben Blackmore has had a bit of a torrid time recently, but they now have smiles on their faces and make no mistake, they can play.”
The early signs are positive after a fluid Eagles’ side comfortably put a strong Dewsbury outfit to the sword in a pre-season outing.
Eagles kick off the season on Sunday February 7 with a trip to Workington Town.