Rugby League: Mark Aston to tap into spirit of 1998 ahead of Sheffield Eagles' Wembley visit
Sheffield Eagles director of rugby Mark Aston will be seeking to tap into the spirit of 1998 as he prepares for a return to Wembley for Saturday’s 1895 Cup showdown against Widnes Vikings.
The Eagles are preparing to grace the hallowed turf for the first time in 21 years, when current coach Aston played an instrumental role in what is still revered as the greatest shock in Challenge Cup final history as the Eagles defeated Wigan.
Fast forward to 2019 and Aston is looking to use the basis for his success first time around, as the Eagles prepare for a Wembley return against a side they recently beat in the league.
It might not be the glamour of the Challenge Cup, but after some traumatic years off the field, reaching any kind of final is a huge achievement for the Eagles who have enjoyed a resurgence in 2019.
Whilst knowing the odds aren’t quite as stacked against them this time around, Aston still believes the core elements behind the success of 1998 are applicable if he is to see his side lift silverware in 2019.
He told The Telegraph: “We are confident if we can defend and have the right attitude then we can achieve anything. When you look back on that Wigan side in 1998 compared with our side, nobody gave us a chance. I remember we just did what we had to do to win. It'll be a similar message to the players this time.
“We'll prepare to win the game obviously, and we'll be mindful that we have to repeat the defensive show we did in the semi-final against Batley which showed an abundance of energy and a real attitude to do whatever it takes to get through. The performance in the semi reminded me of how we performed against Wigan back in 1998, because if you remember they only scored one try on that particular day as well. That’s the kind of resolve we’ll need again.”
The Eagles go into the final still sweating on the fitness of hooker James Davey, who has been missing with an ankle issue which has ruled him out of the last five games.
After losing skipper Matty James and James Glover for the season in the victory over Barrow at the Summer Bash, Aston is grateful his injury list hasn’t been extended after being upset with the conduct from the same opposition during last weekend’s victory in the league.
The Eagles extended their winning run to four matches, but Aston was just relieved to go into Wembley week with no more serious injuries.
He added: “It was one of those games, the last home game and the week before the final, so I was just relieved to come through it and get the result.
“I was a little concerned in the first half with the nature of the intent of some of the Barrow players, to maim my players. There were two or three incidents that were ugly again. It cringes me. The RFL banned the players responsible at the Summer Bash, but they still do it. There will be incidents in that game which no doubt I'll be citing.”
Kick-off on Saturday at Wembley is 5.30pm.