No let up for new-look Sheffield Eagles over Christmas as 2022 Betfred Championship season nears

If you thought Mark Aston and his coaching staff would go easy on their players over Christmas, then think again.

Monday, 3rd January 2022, 12:11 pm
Updated Monday, 3rd January 2022, 12:12 pm

While the rest of us were nursing festive hangovers and thanking our lucky stars for another bank holiday, the new-look Sheffield Eagles were being marshalled at the foot of ‘Cannonball Hill’ in Wakefield at 8:30am on Sunday ahead of a series of punishing shuttle runs.

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"Just what the doctor ordered,” joked Sheffield’s director of rugby Aston.

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Sheffield Eagles head coach Mark Aston.

He insisted the players had smiles on their faces, despite the physical punishment, and added: "We are always thinking about the start of the season, it was four weeks yesterday until Barrow.

"Over the festive period it was about just keeping them ticking over. I know half the clubs have given players a few weeks off but we believe it’s going to be a tough opening for us.

"We thought we needed a bit more. It’s in the back of our minds that we have got 12 sessions left so training is going to be upped over these next four weeks.”

As well as a new stadium, Eagles fans can look forward to seeing plenty of fresh faces this year, with no fewer than 18 new arrivals making up the 28-man squad.

Aston declared himself ‘delighted’ with their efforts throughout pre-season so far ahead of the season’s curtain-raiser in Cumbria on Sunday, 30 January.

The culture at the club is also where the boss wants it to be, having labelled it ‘toxic’ at the back end of last season.

Aston added: “You need to get the culture right, that’s everything within the club, it’s the main ingredient so you have got to find the right people.

"The players are all friends already, which usually takes time.

"We are already together and working as one. I think that’s a massive, massive plus of our recruitment this year.

"When you talk about being prepared to put your body on the line for your mate, I think we are there already.

"They are already closer than teams we have had over the last couple of years."

Not having to ‘babysit’ has meant the focus has been purely on coaching, Aston said.

"Credit to the players, they have just got on with their job and it’s been tough. They have not moaned.”