Championship talking points including Featherstone Rovers pressure, game of the season..

Aaron Bower
Eamon O'Carroll, Mark Aston and James Ford

There’s another big few days incoming in the Championship, with some mouthwatering games and a plethora of stories to dissect. 

Although Wakefield Trinity are the competition’s runaway leaders, there’s plenty happening across the division, including an incredible battle developing at the bottom of the table to avoid relegation. As we approach the midway point of 2024, here’s our talking points for the upcoming round of Championship action.

Could James Ford’s former club deal him a major blow?

After 11 games of the new Championship season, Featherstone find themselves as close to the relegation zone as they do the top two. Okay, that’s slightly complicated by the fact things are so congested below them, but the facts are that Rovers have flattered to deceive on a number of occasions this year.

That was evident last week in their defeat at Sheffield Eagles and with the pressure rising on James Ford, it’s the club with whom he is most fondly associated who could deliver another hammer blow to Fev’s season this weekend.

York will be on a high after a commanding 40-0 win in Mark Applegarth’s first game in charge, and they will seriously fancy claiming another scalp. Defeat for Featherstone this weekend, and the pressure will be higher than ever.

Game of the season incoming

When the predictions were put down for 2024, nobody – yes, even us, dear reader – had Widnes Vikings or Sheffield Eagles finishing second behind Wakefield Trinity.

But as we approach halfway, the Eagles and the Vikings are the two frontrunners to claim second spot – and they meet this weekend in a game which could well be the game of the season in any division.

Mark Aston’s Sheffield are once again proving the doubters wrong, and Allan Coleman’s Widnes are going one better – with many not even tipping them to be in the play-offs in 2024. The winner on Sunday will be in pole position for second.

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Are Bradford lining up to peak when it matters?

The Bulls are firmly in play-off contention this year and, in the eyes of most observers, will certainly be in the top six when the season draws to a close.

But Bradford have plans far loftier than that, and it’s underlined in the nature – and timing – of their recruitment. Incredibly, they’ve used over 40 players this season and after two more signings this week, that number will swell in the weeks ahead.

But the Bulls are aiming to peak for the business end of the season and as they prepare to welcome Doncaster to Odsal this weekend, perhaps it’s still eminently possible that Eamon O’Carroll’s side still have several gears to click through. Settling on a first-choice 17 ahead of the run-in will be vital to challenge, though.

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A mammoth relegation four-pointer

There is arguably no more intriguing battle in rugby league at the minute than the five teams level on points at the bottom of the Championship.

Somehow, a quintet of teams – York, Whitehaven, Swinton, Barrow and Halifax – have eight points each after 11 games, meaning it’s anyone’s guess as to who will, in all eventuality, join Dewsbury in League 1 in 2025. However, that picture will change significantly this weekend.

That’s because two of those five, Swinton and Barrow, square off on Sunday afternoon. With Whitehaven also facing bottom club Dewsbury, it’s likely the relegation tussle will look much different come the end of this weekend – and results could yet drag the teams just above that quintet such as Doncaster right into the mix too.

It has all the hallmarks of a battle that will go right to the final game. But who knows which teams will be involved: it is what makes the Championship rugby league’s most intriguing competition by a distance.

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