After several years serving his apprenticeship, Sheffield Eagles director Mark Aston says 2019 is the year where Greg Burns must raise the bar.
The youngster has been amongst Aston’s senior ranks for the past four seasons, but injury has at times disrupted his progress in attempting to secure the number nine jersey.
With James Davey returning, alongside the signing of Ben Pointer, Burns was heading into the new campaign as potentially third choice, but Pointer’s unexpected departure has again opened the door for the Eagles’ academy graduate.
Aston says that after an indifferent 2018, Burns now has the opportunity to stake a serious claim for a place, whilst also learning from Championship veteran Davey.
“Two years ago Greg had a fantastic season, I think he played something like 23 games and he was off and running,” Aston told The Star.
“Last season he was a little up and down for me, but now he has some real competition around him. We have brought Jimmy Davey in who for me is one of the best hookers in this competition. There is no doubt Jimmy can play, so there will be a real fight for the jersey which is what we want.”
During his early appearances for the Eagles, Aston had earmarked Burns for a big future with the club. The 23-year-old has often had to play second fiddle to the likes of Davey and Keal Carlile over the years, but has been a consistent figure amongst Aston’s flock despite several squad overhauls in recent seasons.
Now no longer seen as a rough diamond, Aston says the challenge for Burns is to perform consistently to warrant a regular starting berth, stressing he must match the high standards expected from the returning Davey.
“They are going to get challenged because we are looking to raise the bar,” he added.
“It is now up to Burnsy, he is 23. He isn't old but he has been in and around this place for a number of years now. He needs to take the next step and cement his place. It won't be easy, which is again exactly what we want. We want people to be fighting and competing. There will be people in the group looking over their shoulders which is what we wanted.”
The new campaign starts this Sunday, kick off 3pm at the OLP.