HUNSLET coach Barry Eaton has conceded his side are most pundits’ tip to finish at the foot of the Co-operative Championship ahead of Sunday’s league opener at the Shay (3.0).
The Hawks, who beat Fax in south Leeds in the last league game of 2011 and were within seconds of snatching a point at the Shay last summer until Paul White’s last-gasp try won it for the home side, have undergone a winter of restructuring, with Eaton replacing Paul March as boss.
The club is now run by a supporters’ trust, which has left Eaton managing on what he admits are meagre financial resources.
“We are probably everyone’s favourites to finish bottom,” admitted the former Keighley coach.
“We have the lowest budget in the league by some distance, and probably lower than a lot of Championship One clubs, and that’s a fact.
“The Trust is running the club now and they need to make sure it’s on a sound financial footing, not just this season but for the future.
“That means none of our players are on contract payments; they’re all getting match terms only.
“The challenge for us is to be the best we can be with the players we have available.
“It’s not something we’re worrying about, it’s something we’re embracing.”
Nevertheless, Eaton – whose side built an impressive three-from-four record in the group stages of the Northern Rail Cup, with a 30-12 reverse at Leigh their only loss – has told his players they will need to register a considerable improvement if they are to trouble Karl Harrison’s line up.
“We are under no illusions,” said Eaton, who will be without star half back Danny Grimshaw – who had signed for Featherstone for 2012 before returning to the Hawks – with a groin problem.
“We’ve got a tough start, we’ve got Halifax on Sunday and then Sheffield the week after.
“They’re two teams most people expect to be up there at the end of the year. We’re going to need to step things up.
“Hunslet obviously had a decent record against Halifax last year, but it’s two clubs with new regimes: I’m doing things differently to the previous coach and I’ve no doubt Karl will be doing things differently too.
“I don’t think anyone will be talking about what happened last season.”