Sheffield Eagles director of rugby Mark Aston says the partnership with St Helens saved his side from Championship relegation, as he seeks to renew the dual-registration agreement with the Super League heavyweights.
The Eagles struggled during their Championship Shield campaign when Aston was without the majority of stars who had become familiar faces for the Eagles throughout the regular season.
The likes of Jack Ashworth and Matty Costello have been pressed into first-team action by Saints, who suffered semi-final heartache again in Thursday’s defeat to Warrington Wolves.
With the sporadic use of just Jake Spedding and James Bentley throughout the Super 8s, the Eagles stumbled to just one win from their last seven fixtures, with Aston stating the evidence of reliability on dual-registration to keep the Eagles afloat was there to see.
“I think if you look at it, we are indebted to Saints for the people that we have had in and around the place,” he told The Star.
“It has been great for them because you have seen that they have now been playing first-team. The likes of Matty Lees, Jack Ashworth and Matty Costello have really made an impact. It's great to see but at the back of my mind I was fearful because if we were in a position when we needed the points, we didn't have enough in the changing room to get them. That's fact.”
Whilst survival was top priority for Aston, the season still left a huge tinge of disappointment on the long-serving coach after several dips during the course of the campaign.
The St Helens connection was huge at various stages in 2018, and Aston is keen to sign up again next season, where he says the Eagles will be much stronger unit.
“Saints have been a big part of it for us,” he added.
“Survival was the goal but I’d like to have had a bit more substance about us. I wanted the lads to demonstrate what it means to them as individuals.
“We knew at the beginning of the season that Saints would be an integral part of what we needed to do.
“We are waiting for the meeting with them but I don't see a problem. I think they have enjoyed it, we have helped them and they have helped us. We will be in a better place next season, 100%, because the people that I have signed and the ones I have earmarked for 2019 - well it's exciting.”