Bring on RFL Championship’s big spenders, says Sheffield Eagles head coach Mark Aston

Sheffield Eagles head coach Mark Aston is embracing their tough start to the season against some of the RFL Championship’s big spenders.

By Steve Jones
Thursday, 1st April 2021, 2:51 pm

The Eagles, who have been without a home ground for eight years, are one of the division’s have-nots and begin their 2021 campaign against three teams who have all added former Super League players to their ranks.

First up for the rank outsiders at their temporary Keepmoat Stadium home is Bradford Bulls on Easter Sunday before a trip to York City Knights, who knocked them out of the Challenge Cup and 1895 Cup two weeks ago.

Eagles will round off the first month of the season against new boys Newcastle Thunder, whose chairman has declared his ambition to take them the top flight by 2030.

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Sheffield Eagles head coach Mark Aston.

"The start of the season is tough for us but you wouldn't want it any other way,” said Aston, “Every week it's tough and you want that consistency for the players because it challenges them.”

Both Bradford and York unsuccessfully applied to replace Toronto Wolfpack in the Super League following their withdrawal at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

"Bradord have brought in people like Danny Brough, they are going to be a tough ask for us,” said Aston, who has added nine mainly young players to his team.

Bulls also lost their first competitive match of the season after they went down 41-16 to much-fancied Featherstone Rovers, another Championship promotion contender Aston described as “bloody good” along with the likes of London Broncos and Toulouse Olympique.

Bradford will be without hooker George Flanagan who has been given a 10-match ban after being found guilty of "attacking an opponent's testicles" in their last game.

The club also confirmed the retirement of 34-year-old prop forward Anthony England on Thursday due to injury.

Sheffield Eagles picked up no casualties against York a fortnight ago – their first match in 370 days - and despite the 6-30 scoreline, Aston was impressed with what he saw.

"If we are serving that up on Friday then I think it will be a good year,” he said. “York are a good team, no getting away from it.

“We have got a squad which is a nice blend of youth and experience and people in the middle of their journey. It bodes well.”