Sheffield coach Mark Aston says his team are better prepared than ever for an assault on the Northern Rail Cup this season.
In recent years, Aston has used the group stages as a way of getting his side ready for the league campaign, but they enter the 2012 season on the back of friendlies against Wakefield and Doncaster.
There is renewed optimism in the Sheffield camp thanks to the way they ended last season, defeating Widnes, Halifax and Leigh in the play-offs, before they were beaten in the Grand Final by Featherstone.
Aston said: “What a great achievement it was last year to get to the Grand Final. We did really well to get there, we had a good end to the season, and pre-season has gone well.
“We’re looking forward to the start against Workington, which is a tough place to go, but we’re in a position where we want to get to the latter stages of the competition, so we’re focusing on it.
“We’re definitely better prepared this year, but it’s still going to be about looking at players, getting our systems ready together and seeing by March 11th (Sheffield’s first league game) what our strongest 17 is.”
The Eagles crashed out of the Northern Rail Cup in the group stages last season, scraping past lowly Gateshead 32-20 in their opening game, which proved to be their only win in the competition.
Aston’s men went on to draw 16-16 at Whitehaven before suffering a 68-6 pasting at the hands of Leigh, and a 16-12 defeat at home to Hunslet.