Newcastle Thunder must stop Sheffield Eagles’ X-Factor star in Betfred Championship clash

Sheffield Eagles are paying no attention to the early Betfred Championship standings - even if their rivals are beginning to sit up and take notice.
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Mark Aston’s team are second only to Toulouse Olympique in the table after victories in their first two league matches of the season.

The French side were, however, gifted a 24-0 win last weekend following London Broncos’ decision not to travel to fulfil their fixture due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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“It's too early in the season to read too much into it but we want to start off and make a statement,” said Aston.

Anthony Thackeray has the X Factor, says Sheffield Eagles boss Mark Aston.Anthony Thackeray has the X Factor, says Sheffield Eagles boss Mark Aston.
Anthony Thackeray has the X Factor, says Sheffield Eagles boss Mark Aston.

"We have raised the standard. We have hit the level that we want to hit, the challenge for us is to keep that up.”

He added: “People are saying: 'You are top of the table'. We’re not even looking, we’re taking it week by week and keeping our feet down there.

"What it has done is highlight to some of the people who didn't recognise us is that Sheffield aren't bad.”

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The Eagles take on division new boys Newcastle Thunder on Sunday, who were chosen to replace Super League-bound Leigh Centurions in the Championship for the 2021 season.

"If we don't turn up with the right attitude then we will come unstuck,” Aston warned.

"That's the challenge for us. We have got to make sure that mentally and physically we are on our guard.

"The best accolade you can have as a sportsperson is being consistent. We have played two games now and been consistent and we want to keep that going.”

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Winless Newcastle must do what York and Bradford failed to and stop Eagles’ influential playmaker Anthony Thackeray if they are to be successful.

The evergreen vice captain, 35, has been instrumental with his kicking in the opening two matches and has four tries already.

"He's class,” said Aston, ‘”he's 30-odd now but he's still like a young buck.

"He's really good for us, he's a leader. He does lots of little things that people don't know. He certainly helps Matty James (captain) who has been out with a long-term injury.

“He's quality, that's why he's played at the level he has for the number of years he has. He's certainly got that bit of X Factor that most people want in a half back.”