Featherstone Rovers boss Jon Sharp is looking forward to competing against Hull KR following the surprise relegation of a team that just over 12 months ago were playing at Wembley in the Challenge Cup final.
The Robins, who will be coached by former Australia head man Tim Sheens, will be the biggest spenders in the Championship and will start as obvious favourites to finish top of the table ahead of next year’s Middle 8s.
They have announced their intention to stay as a full-time club, but while acknowledging their presence in the competition will present a challenge, Sharp reckons his Featherstone team can compete with Hull KR on the field even if they cannot match their spending power.
He told the Express: “It‘s almost replacing like for like with Leigh going up and Hull KR coming down.
“They will come in with another big budget so that’s the challenge we face, but we were competitive against Leigh every time we played them in the three games this year and we were competitive against Hull KR as well in the Middle 8s so we’re positive and we’ve got a positive attitude towards next year.
“We’re looking forward to already getting new guys in and looking to improve on this year.
“We’re already busy with plans for next year. We’ve been working behind the scenes with player meetings and discussions regarding the players’ performances and some of the things that they need to work on in the off season.
“They’ve all been given training programmes by our conditioner Billy Mallinson that they will do away from the club before they start back again on October 31.”
Sharp has taken encouragement from the season just finished.
He said: “If you want to gauge the season by team goals we wanted to be successful at home and we won nine out of 11 and we wanted to be the best defensive team in the competition and we were.
“We aimed for the top four and we made the top four.
“So we’re really pleased with achieving those targets, but we’re not happy with some of the performances that were put up in the Middle 8s.
“Some were good – I think three, against Hull KR, Leigh and Batley when on any other given day they could have turned into wins for us.
“We were encouraged by that, but the performances against Leeds, Huddersfield and particularly against Salford just weren’t good enough. We have to address that.”
Sharp identified players he believed had a good season and was encouraged by the performances of four of the youngsters in particular.
He added: “Misi Taulapapa was a revelation. He came into the group and was outstanding.
“James Duckworth and Luke Briscoe were late additions and gave us a big lift at crucial times.
“The youngsters did well, Jack Ormondroyd, Brad Tagg, Luke Cooper and Sam Day to the latter end stood up and looked like they’d got big futures in the game.
“Pathways need to be created for these youngsters to come through.
“Featherstone’s a club that prides itself on producing quality young players and I think this year we’ve unearthed four that have got big futures in the game and we must allow them to prosper and to blossom.”
Latest Featherstone Rovers Treasure Chest lottery winners: J Bell (A0379), W Brown (F2704), R Hewitt (F0177), W Reynolds (R6097), D Carter (L0641). £5 consolation prizes: D Morgan (V1245), M Verow (W1245).