Aston: Stone cold Eagles will be ready

Mark Aston and Sheffield Eagles
Mark Aston and Sheffield Eagles

Sheffield boss Mark Aston insists his Grand Final-winning side will be ready for next Thursday’s televised Championship opener at the Shay, despite a total lack of pre-season action.

The Eagles, who edged out hot-favourites Featherstone to win last season’s showpiece, saw their one planned warm-up outing, in the south of France against Limoux, postponed.

That means the South Yorkshire side will go into their clash with Halifax - who have played three times - without a game under their belt, although Aston was unconcerned.

“We’ve been in France and had three or four great days together,” said Aston.

“Did we get a game? No. But we had some quality training in a different environment.

“We’re not going to be the finished article next week, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.

“Our intensity in training has been high, we’ve been very demanding and very physical.

“Three or four years ago, we didn’t have a pre-season game and ended up doing okay. Did it have an effect early on? Perhaps.

“But it’s a long season. Playing 30-plus games over nine months is not the ideal scenario for me, so why start early?

“We’ve got some continuity and consistency in the team, which will help us.

“Winning last year didn’t just suddenly happen; we’ve worked really hard over the last three or four years to get to this point.”

Aston labelled Karl Harrison’s Northern Rail Cup winners as a “quality” team, but confirmed he expects the departure of captain and hooker Sean Penkywicz, who has joined Leigh, to have a significant impact.

“Penkywicz is a big loss, because there aren’t many of those players about,” he said.

“You can’t just go out and buy another one.

“I remember him beating us on his own at Bramall Lane last spring and when he’s on that form he’s irreplaceable.

“They’ve fetched Scott Murrell in, where does he fit in? Does he play in the halves? Is he as explosive as Penkywicz, probably not.

“They will adapt themselves because they won’t have that sharpness there and they won’t be as much about what happens in that dummy half area.

“It will be interesting to see what kind of style they play in the end.”