Sheffield Eagles 'ready to roll' in 2021 Challenge Cup after more than a year without matches
Sheffield Eagles are “ready to roll” after more than a year without playing as the start of the delayed 2021 season nears.
Pre-season has been ‘gruelling’ with four sessions a week and twice-weekly coronavirus tests since players returned at the start of December – six months after their last match before the 2020 season was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Eagles begin the new season on Friday, March 12 when they host Championship rivals York City Knights in the first round of the 2021 Challenge Cup.
Captain Matt James said: “It’s been tough. We have still got a couple of weeks to go but I feel like most players are ready to roll.
"I would imagine there’s quite a few players, mainly the younger players, who will have a lot of nerves and it’s going to be a challenging time when we start.”
Vice captain Anthony Thackeray admitted the team has yet to set their targets for the new season, which will see the top six qualify for promotion play-offs to the Super League.
Head coach Mark Aston said: "Are we capable? One-hundred per cent. Money doesn’t buy success for me. Good people develop success and that’s what we have got in abundance.
"We are capable of beating anybody on our day. We have got the personnel in our squad.”
Sheffield Eagles finished seventh in the last full season of the Championship in 2019.
Aston added: “There’s some big teams in there and lots of teams have invested a lot of money in their squads this year with the dream to get up.”
Thackeray, who starred in the 2019 Eagles team that won the inaugural 1895 Cup at Wembley Stadium, said: “We are going to be competitive and we are going out there to win.”
While it is hoped fans will be able to return from May 17, the season, which was due to start last month, will begin behind closed doors with fans able to live stream games.
On the prospect of playing in empty stadiums, Thackeray said: "It’s going to be real tough, those first few weeks.
“We all know that we have got a job to do and it’s our job. We’re professionals and that’s what we have got to get on with."