Championship Preview: Sheffield return to the city but face challenges

James Gordon

The biggest positive for Sheffield Eagles is their return to play in the city at the new Olympic Legacy Park.

While the stadium is being built around them, to be in place for 2019, it is a major boost for Mark Aston to be able to move back to Sheffield, having played at Wakefield last year.

The challenges they face are perhaps best summed up by their recruitment.

In their squad number announcement, they have only 16 players that belong to the Eagles, with another two (Jordan Tansey and Blake Broadbent) on trial.

Their other squad members include Castleford loan pair Cory Aston and Garry Lo, as well as four players on dual-registration from St Helens.

Coach Aston said: “It’s going to be another tough year for us, but the most important thing for us is that we’re going to be playing in Sheffield.

“By 2019, the stadium will be complete which is great news as it’ll be a purpose-built rugby stadium, which is something we have needed in Sheffield for a long time.

“We’ve got a strong link with St Helens with the dual-registration and we’ve taken that into consideration with the size of the squad.

“We’ve got to try and improve what we did last season, get a bit of stability and develop our young players.”

The departure of half-back Simon Brown on the eve of the campaign hasn’t helped, and 2018 certainly looks like being a year of transition for the Eagles.

Head Coach: Mark Aston
Captain: Matt James
Key Man: Oscar Thomas
One to Watch: Nabil Djalout

Ins: Garry Lo (Castleford – loan), Shaun Pick (Toronto), Olly Davies (Swinton), Iliess Macani, Jon Magrin (both Bradford), Daniel Igbinedion (Featherstone), Kieran Moran (Hull KR), Joshua Toole (Mount Pritchard Mounties), Mark Offerdahl (London), Oscar Thomas (Bradford), Nabil Djalout (Catalans), Cory Aston (Castleford – loan)
Outs: Elliott Minchella (Bradford), Garry Lo (Castleford), Duane Straugheir (Hunslet), Scott Wheeldon (Featherstone), Sam Scott (York), Kyle Trout (Dewsbury), Jordan Cox, James Kelly, Perry Whiteley, Paddy Flynn, Mark Mexico, Simon Brown.

Squad: 1 Ryan Millar, 2 Iliess Macani, 3 Menzie Yere, 4 Joshua Toole, 5 Ben Blackmore, 6 Oscar Thomas, 8 Mark Offerdahl, 9 Matty Fozard, 10 Jon Magrin, 11 Nabil Djalout, 12 Shaun Pick, 13 Matt James, 14 Greg Burns, 15 Oliver Davies, 16 Kieran Moran, 17 Daniel Igbinedion, 19 Jordan Tansey, 20 Max Garcia, 21 Blake Broadbent, 23 Cory Aston, 24 Garry Lo, 25 Jake Spedding, 26 James Bentley, 27 Jack Ashworth, 28 Matty Lees.

Prediction: 9th