SHEFFIELD Eagles face a tricky start to the defence of their Championship title with games against two of their main rivals in the 2013 fixtures released today.
Eagles travel to Halifax in the opening round and play Batley Bulldogs in their first home game – clubs they beat in the play-offs on the way to last season’s Grand Final triumph.
“There’s a lot to play for in the first couple of games against teams that I’m sure don’t have fond memories of us,” said Aston.
“We’re going to France and have a good hit out against Limoux two weeks earlier so we will be in good shape for Fax.”
The trip to the Shay on Thursday January 31 brings the curtain up on the 2013 season live on satellite TV.
“Halifax A is a big game, they will be fired up and will want to make amends for what happened in last year’s play-off quarter-final. Batley’s a cracking first home game,” said Aston.
The enlarged Championship of 14 teams includes promoted Doncaster, with the first of the derby games on Good Friday.
The Northern Rail Cup has been revamped with Eagles and other Championship clubs not joining until the last-16 knockout stage.
Most home games are on Friday nights and will be played at Don Valley Stadium or Bramall Lane stadium with details to be announced.
Eagles Co-operative Championship fixtures 2013: Thurs Jan 31 Halifax (A, 7.30pm); Fri Feb 8 Batley (H, 7.30pm); Sun Feb 17 Swinton (A, 3pm); Su Feb 24 Workington (A, 3pm); Fri Mar 1 York (H, 7.30pm); Sun Mar 10 Leigh (A, 3pm); Thurs Mar 14 Featherstone (H, 7.30pm); Sun Mar 24 Hunslet (A, 3pm); Fri Mar 29 Doncaster (H, 7.30pm); Mon Apr 1 Whitehaven (A, 3pm); Sun April 14 Barrow (H, 3pm); Sun Apr 28 Keighley (A, 3pm); Fri May 3 Dewsbury (H, 7.30pm); Friday May 24 Halifax (H, 7.30pm); Sun Jun 2 Barrow (A, 3pm); Thurs June 6 Whitehaven (H, 7.30pm); Sun Jun 23 Batley (A, 2pm); Fri July 5 Swinton (H, 7.30pm); Sun Jul 14 Workington (H, 3pm); Sun Jul 21 Featherstone (A, 3pm); Fri Jul 26 Keighley (H, 7.30pm); Sun Aug 4 York (A, 3pm); Fri Aug 9 Leigh (H, 7.30pm); Sun Aug 18 Dewsbury (A, 3pm); Thur Aug 22 Hunslet (H, 7.30pm); Sun Sept 1 Doncaster (A, 3.00pm).
Northern Rail Cup: 18/19 May – Championship clubs join knockout competition; 15/16 June - quarter-finals; 29/30 June -semi-finals; 20/21 July – Northern Rail Cup final.