MYSTERY surrounds the team Sheffield Eagles will face when they travel to Swinton Lions.
The Lions have a partnership agreement with Warrington Wolves giving them access to the Super League club’s players on dual registrations loans.
The deals are intended to give young players competitive experience but critics including Eagles’ coach Mark Aston say it’s damaging the integrity of the Championship competition.
They fear the dual reg loans will be used by some Super League clubs to boost established players’ fitness after injury.
Swinton have made extensive use of the dual reg deals and uncertainly about their line-up is making planning for the game at Leigh Sports Village on Sunday a headache for Aston.
He said: “Depends which team Swinton put out – no games are easy at this time for us. Are we going into the game playing Swinton ‘Wolves’?”
In the opening Championship game Swinton included England international prop forward Paul Wood.
Before the last Sunday’s game the Lions named nine players in their squad who were registered with Warrington although five later signed permanent deals.
The Eagles are one of only five Championship clubs who have not signed partnership deals – the other four are Featherstone, Leigh, Halifax and Barrow. Clubs who have linked up with Super League clubs can field up to five dual reg loan players.
Aston, with Featherstone coach Daryl Powell had a meeting with the Rugby Football League to voice their concerns about the way loan deals would be used.
“We wasted two hours at that meeting as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “We spoke about the integrity of the Championship – which was a fantastic last year. Now the integrity of the league is being shot to bits.
“Is that what dual reg is about, developing players, when Swinton play an international?”
Aston added: “I feel for the players who have been training since November and are not being played. Some of these lads will get fed up and walk away and be lost to the game. Is that what it’s about or is it about Super League? It disappoints me.”