Sheffield Eagles will have more steel in their defence next season

Jason Crooks
Jason Crooks

There has been a significant emphasis on making Sheffield Eagles a much stronger defensive unit for next season, according to director of rugby Mark Aston.

The Eagles endured a disappointing 2018 campaign, although Aston’s side did achieve their survival goal despite a worrying slide in results towards the back end of the season.

Aston has moved swiftly to address his side’s deficiencies, with four players confirmed for next season and plenty more are set to be announced over the coming days and weeks.

One of the key characteristics that Aston is keen to add to his squad’s make-up is making his side a much tougher unit defensively, with the experienced coach often disappointed last season with drops in intensity which ultimately cost his side points.

New signing from Batley Jason Crookes will certainly add some steel after matching the criteria set by Aston, with other signings in the pipeline that are designed to toughen up his side for what looks to be a much tougher 14-team division next season.

“One of the big things for us this year is being solid defensively, we need to be a lot better,” Aston told The Star.

“If they are in the system nice and early we can get them working together, then we'll be in a much better position.

“Pre-season will be massive for us this year. This year it will be massive for us to get us in a good place for a big season.”

Crookes has joined fellow Batley team mate James Davey and Hemel duo Sonny Esslemont and Louis Sheriff in committing themselves to the Eagles.

Meanwhile, it appears the slim chances of a return for versatile centre Joshua Toole have now gone.

The Irish international has gone back to his native Australia with the caveat of some extra thinking time over his future, but Aston admitted there has been no further developments.

Aston added: “He's back home and unless there's a phone call to me in the next few days then it'll be dead and buried.

“I wanted to keep Josh, there is no doubt about it. He is one of them that we spoke very early about regarding keeping him on. He didn't enjoy this year, I don't blame him, neither did I. It's disappointing because I think he would have given us a lot from the back-row, but if it is not to be then someone else will get the opportunity. The longer it goes, the less chance of it happening.”