JUST what have Sheffield Eagles players and their coach done wrong this season? The team boasts a player whose broken try-scoring records, reached the Northern Rail Cup semi-final and are now upsetting the odds and only 80 minutes away from a second successive Grand Final.
But it seems that I’ve been watching a different league for the last nine months. The shortlist for the Co-operative Championship has been announced and a nomination for the Eagles is as hard to find as a sunny day was in August.
Now this isn’t quite the Oscars – more the Bruisers – but the awards are supposed to recognise individuals who have had a starring role during the season. On offer are gongs for Player of the Year; Young Player of the Year; and Coach of the Year.
There are players nominated from each of the clubs that finished in the top five – except the Eagles. The Eagles have already dumped two of those clubs – Batley Bulldogs and Halifax – out of the play-offs and all being well will do the same to Leigh Centurions in the semi-final tomorrow night.
Doncaster, who finished top of their league, rightly have runners for two Championship One awards – Tony Miller for coach’s prize and Paul Cooke for the top player.
But in the Championship section there’s no room for even one Eagles player. Mark Aston and his crew down in the bunker under Don Valley Stadium that doubles as the Eagles command centre must be spitting feathers (okay, I know it’s a hackneyed phase but it’s the Eagles, it’s been a long season and we can all swoop low sometimes).
It’s a slap in the face for the supporters of Sheffield Eagles. There may not be a lot of them but they deserve a nomination for the way they got behind the team at Halifax on Sunday. Tomorrow night they will hit the road to Leigh – that’s the kind of sporting loyalty that deserves an award.
I don’t know where the faceless people at RFL who drew up the shortlist have been all season. Maybe they don’t like the half-time coffee at Don Valley. In my book the Eagles have earned nominations in two of the three sections:
Player of the Year: Quentin Laulu-Togagae with his flair and attacking play from fullback has scored 34 tries this season and Michael Knowles is surely one of the most creative of back row forwards.
Coach of the Year: Mark Aston. He’s put together an experienced team that plays attractive attacking rugby – just ask fans at Batley, Featherstone and Halifax. Backing Aston’s case club chairman Ian Swire has been counting the beans and turned up stats that this season the team have passed 1,000 points for only the second time since the club was reformed 1999.
There has to be a positive. Coaches love a motivational trick before games. At Leigh, Aston doesn’t have to do much more than pin up the shortlist. Come on you bunch of no-hopers, get the nomination that matters – a place in the Grand Final.