Sheffield captain Steve Thorpe has opened up about the Championship club’s season from hell.
Sheffield are struggling to stay afloat because of financial reasons and face an uncertain future with no home ground.
Thorpe has now returned to the Queensland Cup and his former club Easts Tigers after two years with the Eagles, with one season left on his contract in South Yorkshire.
“This year has been a really tough season for Sheffield, 2015 was really great season as everyone knows we made the top four, we had a great bunch of blokes, and the club was going in the right direction,” the prop told Love Rugby League.
“This season’s done a back flip, it’s been a tough season with a lot going on, on and off the field.
“It’s probably taken my mind off my footy, I’ve not had the best season because of it and it’s the way some of the people have been treated around the place hasn’t been the best.
“Definitely if it wasn’t for a good bunch of boys and Tubby [coach Mark Aston] looking after us, fighting for us, they’re probably wouldn’t have been a team six weeks ago.”
Thorpe agrees it was a “massive” decision for Sheffield to change from part-time to full-time for the 2016 season.
“A massive call to go full-time without a home, without a club, without a business plan,” he said.
“A business plan probably would have helped but you let go your Dom Brambani, Tony Tonks, Pat Walkers, Misi Tauluapapas, you could go on all day.
“You let those players go you lose a massive hole, the quality of those players you can’t replace them.
“You couldn’t replace what we had last year we had a tight group, we would do absolutely anything for each other and we haven’t replaced that.
“It was always going to be tough but I think Tubby knew how tough the first full-time season would be, but people looking from the outside and investors, as soon as it went pear shaped they went running for the hills.”
Thorpe said the Sheffield squad has had little support from the RFL as the uncertainty over the club’s survival grows.
“I haven’t spoken to one person from the RFL,” he admits.
“The only person I’ve spoken too is Tubby, and he’s doing the right thing.
“The Sheffield CEO we haven’t seen him once. There hasn’t been too much support for the players, the only support is Tubby but there’s only so much he can do for us.
“You’ve got him hearing from the RFL what if this happens, what if that happens.
“No one’s said if this goes bust that we’ll look after you, there’s been no support there.
“If Tubby wasn’t in our corner we wouldn’t have been playing about two months ago, we wouldn’t have had a team.
“So massive credit to Tubby to keep the team together, it shows what kind of coach he is, a great guy.
“I’ve enjoyed my two years under him, he’s made me a better player and a better person.
“It’s unfortunate the way its finished but I can’t speak highly enough of Mark Aston.
“He’s a great guy and he’s a life-long friend now and I look forward to hosting him over in Australia and showing him around one day.”
Thorpe was one of five Eagles players who played for the club without pay in Sunday’s Championship Shield final. Bradford won that match 27-16.
The Australian is trying to help a number of his teammates secure new clubs. He said he is concerned about the futures of several players in the Sheffield squad and heads home with a “sour taste” in his mouth.
“I’m not too bothered about the club anymore because a few of the things they’ve done to people, but for the boys that are still contracted for the club I really hope that they pull through and for Tubby,” Thorpe said.
“I’m being looked after back home so it’s not a big issue for me, I’m very lucky in that way.
“But some of the younger boys were promised [things], they have built their lives around three-year contracts.
“Some might have got mortgages, bought new cars and we all got a letter from the 1st of September saying that was all going to change. You could be fending for yourself after that.
“So very poor but Tubby is there fighting their corner so they still get paid but some people they promised the world and delivered an atlas.
“It’s a hard position but that’s all I care about, that the young boys get looked after because a lot of them – your Greg Burns, your Cory Astons, your Elliot Minchellas, – they’re great young players.
“They have great careers ahead of them and I hope they get looked after and find there feet soon.
“I hope the club goes part-time next year and they stay in the Championship.
“They’re a Championship club, they’ve proved that, they’ve won two titles in the last five years.
“They made the top four last year so they’re a quality club so I just hope the right people up top are there and do the right thing by the players and start looking after the club the way it should
“It’s unfortunate because after the 2015 season I really enjoyed the club, I would have go back to Australia and really recommended it.
“But if you ask me would I recommend a player to Sheffield at the moment I would say no, stay away from the place.”
Promotion and relegation and the impact of the Million Pound game is a hot topic in the British game at the moment. A number of clubs are experiencing financial difficulty, such as York and Bradford.
Thorpe is not a supporter of the current Super 8s system and of the Million Pound game concept.
“Personally I think relegation and promotion needs to go,” he said.
“The Million Pound game is a poor, poor way to do it. I know it’s exciting for the fans but as a player it’s not very good, if you lose you’re out of a job.
“It’s given a lot of Championship teams false hope, going full-time when they can’t afford it.
“Unless you’re Leigh, Bradford and London and you can afford it, you obviously wouldn’t be able to afford it and they way they do it its very difficult to go up.
“Full credit to Leigh, they have done it, they do have the right people there and they do have the money to do it.
“But I’m not a fan, I’m sure there has been to a different way… if you don’t have the right owner you could go upside down.”
Sheffield have been approached for comment.