Respect was a word used many times last season by Sheffield Eagles director of rugby Mark Aston, and it was his side’s lack of it which, at times, angered the long-serving coach.
Aston was close to boiling point on a number of occasions during what turned into a rocky campaign for the Eagles, but the end goal of survival was eventually achieved.
Despite staying in the Betfred Championship for 2019, Aston often lamented his troops for a lack of respect to his game plan, and, on occasions, to their opponents.
Changing the dressing room culture became Aston’s number one priority during the close season, and he has wasted no time in taking an axe to his class of 2018.
With 14 new players through the door, the character of his new signings was fundamental to his recruitment.
In Pat Walker, Aston has brought back someone he knows won’t be lacking in the character or respect department, with the 32-year-old expected to lead the way for his new look side.
“We need a couple of these guys who have been with us before, they know what is required,” Aston told The Star.
“These are good people that can fetch that honesty and what I would say freshness to us as well. His attitude is of the highest order, so he is going to fetch something that not only includes the experience but he is going to bring some respect.”
The experienced operator knows the ground, and he knows Aston. He’s not the only one, with ex-Eagle James Davey also opting for a return from Batley Bulldogs alongside Walker.
Both have tasted Grand Final success in their previous spell with the Eagles, and Aston knows he immediately has two individuals inside his dressing room this season that won’t let him down.
Aston’s recruitment has generally seen players in their early to mid-20s arrive, as he continues a tried and trusted formula of bringing in projects that he can develop
Walker is the exception, with Aston looking to the versatile stand-off as an example for others to follow as he looks to turn around the Eagles’ fortunes in 2019.
Aston continued: “I would hope that the people who understand Patch Walker will have seen that he has played a really good number of games, and has been around the game for a good number of years. When we ask him to do something, he will do it for. That’s key.”