Underdogs Featherstone Rovers are determined to enjoy themselves in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship Grand Final at Headingley.
After a difficult season on and off the pitch it has not been plain sailing to the final for Rovers this year, but they have risen to the occasion with big play-off wins against Sheffield Eagles and Halifax and can now claim a third big scalp if they can take down hot favourites Leigh Centurions.
Head coach Andy Hay believes his side are under no pressure against opponents who suffered only one league defeat all year so they can go and enjoy the occasion with their army of fans – but he warned Leigh that Fev were not going “just to make up the numbers”.
He told the Express: “It’s obviously going to be another tough game. We’re up against the team that’s been the best in the competition all year and we know it’s going to be another big effort needed form us to be competitive.
“We’re not over-confident, but we’re quietly confident we can perform better than we did last time against Leigh and build on the Sheffield win.
“They have had a great season and they go into the game as massive favourites so there’s no pressure on us. We can just go and enjoy the occasion of a Championship Grand Final.
“We probably got written off for making it earlier in the season, but we’re there, one more win and we will have had a great season.
“We’re going in it to enjoy the occasion, but we’re not going there just to make up the numbers. We’re going there to get stuck into a good side.”
Hay has respect for Leigh’s achievements so far this year and believes they have big threats throughout their team.
He said: “They are strong all over the field, they’ve got some good half-backs, they’ve got pace out wide and probably the biggest forward pack in the league so we’ve got to be on our game.
“We’ve got to match them in the forwards first and foremost. When we played them over there it was a tough battle in the middle. We’ve got to match them with our kicking game then and defensively across the field we’ve got to be on our game because they test you.
“We need to test them and I think that if we are good, come up with a team effort and are focused on what we’re doing we’re in with a chance.
“I think we are confident. We had a good game against Halifax, had a week off and prepared well for Sheffield. There were quite a few nerves around the camp for that game and I think it’s a good thing. It will be the same against Leigh, we know they are a good side and we’ve got to be on our best to even compete with them.
“On the day it comes down to who is the most enthusiastic, who does their job well and who’s there fighting at the end.
“It’s a one-off game now. We’ve risen to the occasion in a couple of big games recently and we need to do it again.”
Eight Leigh players were selected in the Championship Allstars team announced this week with only winger Will Sharp making it in from Featherstone and Hay believes this could act as a motivation for members of his team.
He said: “Will Sharp has had an outstanding season and is deservedly in there.
“Credit to Sharpy, he got our player of the year and the players’ player of the year and it’s well deserved. But it might be a motivation for some of our players who weren’t selected because there’s some good players who haven’t made it into that team.”
Hay will be selecting his team for the final from largely the squad that did the job against Sheffield, although he admits to having one possible selection dilemma if centre Greg Worthington recovers from the calf injury that kept him out last Sunday.
He added: “We lost Greg Worthington last week after the Halifax game and he’s 50-50 going into the final.
“But Jamie Cording stepped in at centre and had an outstanding game. He’d been out for 10 weeks and you wouldn’t have thought he’d missed a week because he looked fit, he looked enthusiastic and strong out there.
“So there’s a selection dilemma if Greg is fit, but it will be a nice one to have. We didn’t pick up any new injuries so we’ve probably got 18 or 19 players to pick from. It’s up to me to select the team I think will do the job for us.”