Rugby League: Sheffield Eagles coach Aston praises his 'special group' of Wembley winners
Sheffield Eagles director of rugby Mark Aston believes his current Wembley winning side will enjoy the same special feeling in years to come to the one he still relives from his success in ’98.
Aston made it a Wembley double last weekend, 21 years apart, after guiding his side to an 1895 Cup victory over Widnes, to add to the Challenge Cup he collected as a player for the Eagles back in 1998.
The Eagles recovered from a poor start to overcome the Vikings comfortably after the interval which sparked scenes of jubilation from fans and players alike.
Despite a couple of sticky moments in the baking sunshine during the first half, the Eagles came through a stern test to clinch silverware once again, and Aston is in no doubt his ‘special group’ will still be talking about the day for many years.
Aston said: “It is something to tell your kids, grandkids and people in the street. Last year we came back for a ’98 reunion, you don't see your old teammates as much, but when we walk in a room there is a twinkle in the eyes of those who were there. We still feel it now, we know we did something special. These players are now the same, they will be able to do that for years to come as well. They are a special group; they never give in.”
Aston has now experienced a Wembley double, and when asked he couldn’t choose between the two wins. He did admit watching certainly threw up more emotions than playing, explaining he was finding it difficult to stay still.
He added: “I was up and down the steps a lot, and there are a fair few steps out there to be honest. Everything about Wembley is fantastic. It is first class. It is different obviously. Was I nervous? I was a bit apprehensive after the first 20 minutes because we weren't great. But this squad of players I have got are never done. They just find a way. They will work hard for each other. When you work hard you get the positive outcomes which we have got. It is different as a coach but still massively enjoyable.”
Aaron Brown was the Eagles hero after he bagged a hat-trick, whilst Anthony Thackeray took the man-of-the-match award for another stellar display.
Two more members of the winning side were quickly rewarded for their efforts this season, as back-rower Joel Farrell and winger Ryan Millar were handed new two-year contracts.
With just two games remaining of the regular season, more announcements are in the offing as Aston looks to build on what has been very successful campaign for the club.
The Eagles are just two points behind fifth placed Featherstone, and travel to Bradford this Sunday knowing there is still an outside chance of a play-off place.
There was a lot of emotion around at Wembley, and with Bradford bidding goodbye to Odsal after striking a deal to play at Dewsbury next season, there is likely to be some more tears this time from the hosts as they get set to leave their hometown.