Sheffield Eagles can rescue a disappointing season with a strong finish in their final four league games.
They need to secure a top-eight place and book their ticket to the play-offs to defend the Grand Final crown they have held for the last two seasons.
A bonus would be a boost to the club’s coffers with prize money based on position at the end of the normal league season. Edging Doncaster out of fourth place would earn £200,000 with fifth or sixth taking £25,000 less.
Eagles are in sixth but by only one point ahead of Keighley and Workington. On paper Mark Aston’s team have a relatively easy run in starting with Whitehaven at Owlerton on Sunday.
There’s home and away games against Rochdale whose relegation will be confirmed over the next week or so. The date of the final home game against the Hornets - postponed on the opening day of the season - has still to be agreed.
The biggest test is likely to come at Featherstone Rovers (August 31). Leigh Centurions clinch the League Leader’s Shield and a £500,000 prize with their win over Fev last weekend but Andy Hay’s team are battling Halifax for second spot.
“It’s a frustrated squad, which is understandable because we know we have let ourselves down a bit this year,” said coach Mark Aston. “The expectations were high but be honest has any team been at the top every year? It’s been up and down but we’re here and fighting.”
Whitehaven could be boosted by being moved out of the relegation places if Batley Bulldogs are deducted points for fielding an ineligible player. The Bulldogs, coached by former Eagles boss John Kear, face an independent tribunal tomorrow.
They are charged with breaking dual registration rules by playing Huddersfield’s Jacob Fairbank after the transfer deadline in a win at Sheffield.
Doncaster face a similar charge and penalty for fielding Hull FC’s Ben Crooks at Keighley in the same round of games last month.