The closing stages of the 2018 campaign are producing a stand-out positive, according to Sheffield Eagles director of rugby Mark Aston.
Whilst not yet officially safe, Aston has known for some time that the Eagles will be operating in the Betfred Championship next season which has allowed the 50-year-old to take a closer look at a number of youngsters - who he has earmarked to play a part in the club’s recovery after struggles behind the scenes in recent years.
Aston’s long-standing policy of producing home grown talent has severely been put to the test in recent years following the extinction of the club’s academy and reserve teams.
But it has not stopped Aston adding young professionals to his ranks, with the remaining three rounds of the 2018 season allowing him to have an extended look at the likes of Blake Broadbent, Paddy Burns and Max Garcia to name a few.
“We want to give some of these kids some more game time,” Aston explained.
“They need it, and it will give them some confidence going into pre-season. Certainly we are looking at the younger kids and using this chance to develop them.”
Broadbent, who started the process of fine tuning his game at Hemel, bagged a brace of tries in last week’s defeat to Featherstone, whilst Garcia and Burns have gained vital experience after penning deals at the start of the campaign.
There has also been plenty of opportunities for ex-St Helens youngster Mike Weldon, with Aston hinting that despite the short-term nature of their deals, they could be in line for an extended stay.
“The likes of Blake and Max Garcia who came here as a boy out of Catalans under 19s and he has turned himself into a man. I am delighted for these guys,” he added.
“The likes of Mike Weldon who hasn't had a pre-season. Paddy Burns is another who has done well. These kids give me some positivity. We’ve certainly got something out of this defeat, some weeks you don't, but this time we did with the young players.
“They are doing well but then it might get more difficult for the likes of Blake because if he keeps going well, there is then an expectation. We have to manage these guys. Blake will have his feet kept on the ground by his father. I am not worried about that.”