FEATHERSTONE ROVERS need to go up a level tomorrow when they begin their bid for a place in the Kingstone Press Championship’s top-four away to key rivals Halifax (3pm).
Rovers won four of their five warm-up games, including a 38-14 success at the Shay on Boxing Day, but coach Jon Sharp has identified a strong start – both in the game and the season – as crucial for his team.
“We have got to turn up right on the money,” he warned. “I think we’ve got to play better than we played in the pre-season games, even though we’ve played well in all of them.
“I think we’ve got to go to another level, but we feel like we are ready and we know what challenge we’ve got. We are looking forward to it.”
Halifax finished sixth in the regular season last year, three points behind Rovers.
Sharp said: “You hit round one and everybody’s full of enthusiasm, everybody’s fit and healthy and you are ready to go.
“The challenge we have got in front of us is that if we want to be in the top-four we have got to beat teams like Halifax, who will be there or thereabouts.
“They were in the top-four the year before last so they know what it takes.
“I know they’ll be ready, they’ve got a good coach and a good group of people and they are going to be a stiff challenge for us.
“We understand that. We have had some tough tussles with them over the past 12 months in particular.
“The games have been really tight and the ledger is two-one to them. That shows it is going to be difficult for us.”
Rovers will take confidence from the Christmas result. Sharp said: “Winning is a good habit. You get some momentum when you get a group of blokes who are used to winning.
“The last twice we’ve been there we’ve won both times. Those are the emotional and mental things that give us a bit of an advantage, but we know Halifax are going to be a different proposition.
“On Boxing Day Scott Murrell came off after half an hour. He’s a key player for them and one we’re going to have to look after. We understand they weren’t at their best, but neither were we.”
Leeds Rhinos winger Ash Handley and forwards Jordan Baldwinson, Jack Ormondroyd and Josh Walters are all included in Rovers’ squad for tomorrow on dual-registration.
James Duckworth (ankle) and Michael Knowles (dead leg) are sidelined along with new first-team captain Misi Taulapapa who is awaiting visa clearance.
Featherstone’s 19-man squad is:
Andy Bostock, Anthony Thackeray, Ash Handley, Brad Tagg, Chris Ulugia, Darrell Griffin, Frankie Mariano, Ian Hardman, Jack Ormondroyd, Jason Walton, John Davies, Jordan Baldwinson, Josh Walters, Keal Carlile, Kyle Briggs, Luke Briscoe, Matty Wildie, Richard Moore, Scott Turner.