Swinton making the most of Championship stay

Handed a reprieve by the change in structure, Swinton will be determined to make the most of their second chance in the Championship.

The Lions survived by beating Workington in a hastily arranged play-off fixture following changes to the format of the league and the increase to 14 teams for 2019.

They are happy with their recruitment, though a lot will fall on the shoulders of Oscar Thomas in the halves.

Bringing in Jamie Acton, suspended for the first few weeks, is a coup and their partnership with Wigan will again prove important – though perhaps with less reliance on using players in key positions, as we saw with Josh Woods last season and his absence was clearly felt.

They’ve also added bodies – with coach Stuart Littler boasting much more depth than he had in 2018.

He told the club’s official website: It’s good for once that I’ve got a bit of a headache. Last year I was obviously used to just having 18 or 19, now we’ve got 25. We’ve obviously got a few injuries from the pre-season games but we’ve also got Wigan to lean if we need to.

“We’re rolling in with a bit of form, two wins on the bounce. We’ve got stuff to work on like every team but it gives us a chance look at our footage to get it right for next week.”

“I’ve said all along, pre-season is pre-season. The fun starts this week and it gets real now. Obviously there is winning pay on the line and we need to be rolling into the Championship. We need a positive start and we need to go there all guns blazing and let’s see how it goes.”

Outside of the top six or seven teams, there isn’t much to choose between the remaining Championship teams and both Swinton and Sunday’s opponents Sheffield will be keen to get off to a good start.

Sheffield have enjoyed perhaps their most organised and settled pre-season for a long time, and with less reliance on loan and dual-registration players, have put together a squad that can compete.

Mark Aston knows what it takes to win in the Championship – the Eagles were of course double champions earlier this decade – and players like Anthony Thackeray, James Davey and Aaron Brown all have significant experience and quality at this level.

Swinton 19-man squad: Ashton, Austin, Bennion, Brickhill, Butt, Fairclough, Gray, Hall, Hansen, Halton, Hatton, Hope, A Jones, P Jones, Kenga, Lloyd, Thomas, Ratu, Waterworth, Warne, Williams, Worrall.

Sheffield 19-man squad: Guzdek, MIllar, Crookes, Blackmore, Walker, Thackeray, Davey, James, Knowles, Farrell, Brown, Burns, Davies, Makelim, Pick, Glover, Esslemont, Broadbent, Burns.