Sheffield Eagles are set to make their first changes of the campaign this Friday, with director of rugby Mark Aston forced into utilising this season’s enhanced squad.
Aston has overseen two wins from two following the narrow success at Barrow, but the victory came at a cost with the long-serving coach losing two key players to injury.
Pat Walker’s penalty sealed a late victory at Craven Park, but Aston confirmed James Davey (hamstring) and Brad Knowles (rib) are extremely doubtful for the visit of Bradford Bulls this Friday.
With the Eagles increasing their numbers after often being left short with last season’s threadbare unit, Aston knows he has options at his disposal as he prepares for the showdown with former Eagles coach John Kear.
“You cannot change things when they are doing what you are asking them to do. But when you get injuries, then that changes things,” Aston told The Star. “Brad Knowles is as tough as nails, but he'll struggle for Friday. Matty James will be all right. He took a bang to the face but he got up and carried on, so he'll be available on Friday. Jimmy Davey and Brad Knowles will be pretty doubtful.
“Jason Crookes also took a knock, but I think he’ll be okay.
“We'll see what the lads are like over the next couple of days. It has been physical and it has been bruising, so we'll have a look over them. We'll have to make sure we manage them, and then we'll go again on Friday.”
Aston has been hugely impressed with his side’s application in pre-season, admitting a host of players who survived the pre-season cull have stepped up following the introduction of 14 new faces.
The 51-year-old has often praised the likes of Greg Burns and Blake Broadbent in recent weeks, but neither have made his final 17 for the opening two rounds.
The door now looks open for someone to throw their hat into the ring, as Aston looks for a hat-trick of wins to the start the new campaign.
“We have players like Greg Burns, Blake Broadbent and Rory Dixon - plus one or two others - who haven't had a game yet. There will be an opportunity potentially on Friday for some of them.
“There is a nice balance here now. There are some good options.”