Head coach Jon Sharp reckons Featherstone Rovers will have to be up to speed quickly in the new season after admitting that the fixture planners had given his side a tough start to the 2017 Championship campaign.
Rovers open away to West Yorkshire rivals Halifax on February 5 with their hosts gunning for revenge after being edged out of qualification for the Middle 8s in 2016 by Sharp’s men.
Three of Featherstone’s first four matches are away and they also face a trip to fellow top four side from this year, Batley Bulldogs in their third game so the head coach is keen to make sure his troops are ready right from the off.
Sharp told the Express: “It’s going to be a tough start at Halifax. They’ll be there or thereabouts and in the mix for a top four place.
“It’s always tough there, but it’s an early start, we are getting them early and hopefully we can be ready for them as well. We know we will have to play every bit as well as we did last year to beat them.
“We’ve got three away games in our first four, which will not make it easy, but we’ll feel the benefit at the back end when those home games will be in our favour then.
“We know it’s going to be a tough ask and we need to be ready early on.”
Featherstone have been handed a difficult Easter double-header with games against two of the biggest sides in the Championship, Hull KR and Bradford Bulls, but Sharp is pleased with the way the games have dropped this time.
He said: “It’s going to be a tough Easter period, but also positive because we like playing in big games and they don’t get any bigger than Hull Kingston Rovers away.
“To then have a home game over that time is a relief and to have it against Bradford is a big lift for us.
“We know it will be tough and we know we will have to be on our mettle, but there’s likely to be a big crowd at the Big Fellas Stadium and a great atmosphere that can lift our fellas.
“It’s better than the Easter draw we had last season when we had to travel to London, which really knocked us about.
“Physically it took its toll on us I thought that Easter Monday down there and it took us a while to recover from it so thankfully we have two big games, which we are happy about, and we’re not having to travel too far.”
Sharp is confident that whenever Rovers have to meet the big boys they will be able to cope in 2017 and he is pleased with the progress being made by the club on and off the field with more work going on to improve the Big Fellas Stadium.
He added: “I think the club’s moving in the right direction.
“There’s work off the field as well as on it to develop the club.
“Everyone’s working hard behind the scenes to keep pushing the quality of the stadium and the quality of the experience for the fans when they get in there.
“There is a constant evolution of facilities at Featherstone with more development going on to be ready for next season.
“The work going on shows we’re a club driving forwards.”