Returning to Owlerton Stadium was for many Sheffield Eagles fans a nostalgic dream move back where the club was born in 1984.
Reality has been a nightmare of poor performances and defeats. In seven home league games the Eagles have won just twice. Away it’s as if a different team is wearing the shirts with five wins out of eight.
That kind of form at Owlerton would have put the Eagles into the top three places in the league. Instead they are hovering above the drop zone with only points difference keeping them above Keighley Cougars who became the latest to get an Owlerton bonus with a 29-16 win last weekend.
Results since the move from doomed Don Valley have prompted whispers of a hoodoo or a curse and need to exorcise demons in Owlerton pitch but that’s amusing but too easy.
The pitch is short and tight but the playing surface at Don Valley, lost amid a multi-lane running track, was no Wembley.
The Eagles have to play away on tight grounds and have come back with the points. Visiting teams come to Owlerton and like Keighley seem to have few problems adjusting.
It’s the Eagles players that have to exocise the demons. This is basically the same squad that won back-to-back Grand Finals. It’s built around fast attacking rugby, set up to entertain and score tries through Quentin Laulu-Togagae and Menzie Yere.
Last season, Yere broke all the scoring records with 46 tries and QLT (Laulu-Togagae) wasn’t far behind with 35. This season so far it’s less than 20 between them.
Coach Mark Aston admits to being embarrassed and he’s right to demand more from his players with third in the table Halifax at Owlerton next Sunday.
“Owlerton is a piece of grass and doesn’t make players drop the ball or make their attitude soft,” he said.
“We all have roles and responsibilities; we’ve all got them: I’m here to coach and at this moment of time I am not coaching I’m baby-sitting a group of schoolchildren.”
The lessons are there but it’s Eagles players who have to learn them quickly.