Sheffield Eagles’ plans for the 2017 season continue at pace with the signing of Ireland international James Kelly, coupled with two more existing squad members penning new deals.
Kelly’s arrival is straight off the back of Matty Fozard and Ben Blackmore both agreeing new one-year deals, as director of rugby Mark Aston strengthens his hand ahead of Sunday’s first pre-season friendly with Doncaster at The Keepmoat Stadium.
Half-back Kelly, a virtual unknown outside of Ireland, arrives for his first crack at the Championship, after impressing Aston during his time working with the Irish national team.
“I’ve come across James for the first time this year with Ireland,” Aston told The Star.
“He has come out of the domestic league over there, and he has got some ability.
“He is a tough kid, he just needs the grounding now and we will provide that.”
After starting his career in rugby union, Kelly has represented Dublin City Exiles in the rugby league.
hilst Aston has been impressed with what he has seen, the long time coach admits there is plenty of work ahead to have Kelly ready for the upcoming Championship challenge.
“You don’t achieve what has achieved in rugby union, he went right to the top level in the Academy, if you haven’t got ability,” Aston added.
“He has a lot to learn, he is a project for us. Will he be ready for the beginning of the season? Who knows. How long will it take for us to get what we want from him? It doesn’t matter, what matters is that he is here, he is a fighter, he is fit and he is as tough as they come.
“I am sure as time progresses through this season, we will see what I have seen when I was with Ireland. He wants to learn, he really wants to be successful. He was on my radar for a while, and hopefully Sheffield Eagles will get a very good player that nobody knows anything about.”
Meanwhile, the official confirmation that Fozard and Blackmore will be staying will give the club a shot in the arm.
Both came in for praise from Aston during the last campaign, and are likely to play a major part for the club in 2017.
More signings are still expected, with Aston acknowledging that he will be working with a squad of around 19 next season, which will be supplemented by the dual-registration agreement with Leigh Centurions.