James Collins column: Don’t write off Sheffield Eagles’ final four fixtures

Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston.
Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston.
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If ever a team had nothing to lose and all to gain it’s Sheffield Eagles as they limber up for the final rounds of the Middle Eight Qualifiers.

A bookie would be happy to take your money if you fancied them to make the top five. True, there are no Jeremys in the squad - but, as the Labour Party is learning, beware rank outsiders!

Whatever the results the final four games - three against Super League teams, including beaten Challenge Cup finalist Hull KR - are significant.

Mark Aston’s squad come back from a week’s break focused by a battling first win over Halifax in the last round.

With a switch to full-time next season it’s a chance for some players to justify that new contract.

For some of the players, it’s a farewell tour with the club. Some are at a point in their career when a switch to full-time isn’t an option - others aren’t getting that option.

Expect a few high-profile departures with half-back an area where chance is likely. Those going have a point to prove, to the Eagles management and to prospective employers. That should help Aston keep the squad together during what could be a difficult time.

“We’re going full-time and we have got to get the squad closer together and I’m excited about the people who will be coming in,” said Aston.

“The boys who are leaving know it’s a new chapter for the club and for certain reasons they can be part of it. I’m sure some clubs will benefit from the lads who are leaving.”

Expect announcements on players moving in as the signing deadline passes this week.

Aston said: “I’ve got plenty of experience in the squad, we’re scanning the world and I’m certainly going to be looking at young players who are coming out of Super League. We’ve got to get that blend right.”

The final games start at Leigh Centurions on Saturday (kick-off 3pm) then to Salford, finishing with Hull KR and Wakefield at Bramall Lane.

Big-spending Leigh’s hopes of gatecrashing the Super League have been hit by three defeats and need to boost their fans.

“The pressure is on them because we’re above them in the table,” said Aston. “A lot of people had written us off but we’ve still got a lot to play for.

“Leigh will be smarting a bit and it’ll be tough. We need to start well, be intense and put them on the back foot and the doubts might climb in there. It’s all about us as a group for the last four games.”