Sheffield Eagles Column: A fitting finale for stalwarts

Misi Taulapapa splits Wildcats Andy Yates and Danny Kirmond' Picture: Dean Atkins
Misi Taulapapa splits Wildcats Andy Yates and Danny Kirmond' Picture: Dean Atkins
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Like all good soap operas Sheffield Eagles’ season finale left devoted fans wondering about the next twist in the drama.

In the last round of the Middle Eight Qualifiers the Eagles gained their first victory over a Super League team since they dropped out of the top tier in 1999.

It was a fitting exit for the likes of Scott Turner, Eddie Battye, Dominic Brambani, James Davey and Misi Taulapapa - established cast members who won’t be staying for the switch to full-time.

Coach Mark Aston evoked a spirit matching that of the 1998 Challenge Cup final as a reason for the win – maybe, but Wakefield at Bramall Lane with 1,712 watching isn’t quite Wembley.

The curtain is down on a season of exile in Doncaster that saw a third place finish in the Championship before the Qualifiers providing a springboard for the future.

Aston must rebuild his squad for 2016. That’s maybe no bad thing – injecting a fresh attitude for the transition to full-time.

“People are asking where are you getting our team from? Quite a lot are already in the bank,” he said.

“There are some teams in Super League now that are catchable. We have enjoyed it (the Qualifiers) and learned a few lessons.”

A mix of those leaving and those staying set up the win over Wakefield with tries from Turner, Cory Aston and Menzie Yere giving a 16-10 lead at halftime.

The final 40 minutes saw outstanding defending before a penalty from Walker and a try from Quentin Laulu-Togagae sealed a 24-10 win.

The result secured seventh place in the Qualifiers adding £50,000 to give £500,000 funding next season.

That’ll be needed with the club posting losses in recent seasons and likely to continue ‘sofa-surfing’ as their new ground on the old Don Valley site remains an article of faith. The big hope is that Sheffield United will offer space.

Aston isn’t keen to talk balance sheets. “I want to talk about rugby league … never mind losses, this is a win and everything is a positive … we got £175,000 last year and £500,000 this year and we are going to enjoy that and we’re not going to spend it madly.

“We are going to fetch (in) a group of people that want to play for Sheffield Eagles.”

He added: “We fought 16 years ago to keep rugby league alive with Sheffield Eagles and we need to be back in the city.

“We are certainly talking to Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, anybody to keep us in Sheffield while the new stadium comes off in 2017.”