Rovers coach relishing final home fixture

Jon Sharp: Our home form was great in the regular season and we have been inspired by our fans."
Jon Sharp: Our home form was great in the regular season and we have been inspired by our fans."

Featherstone Rovers coach Jon Sharp is looking forward to Sunday’s home clash against Hull Kingston Rovers.

It will be Featherstone’s final fixture of the season at Big Fellas Stadium before they end their Super 8s Qualifiers campaign by visiting London Broncos the following week.

It’s a crucial match for Hull KR in their bid to avoid playing in the Middle Pound Game that involves the teams that finish fourth and fifth in the Middle Eights.

“It’s a game I’m really looking forward to. I’m excited about being back at Big Fellas Stadium. We’ve been away for a few weeks and we’ve missed that,” said Sharp.

“Every home game we’ve had has had a really good feel to it. The atmosphere has been great and I’m sure there will be a good turn-out from the Hull KR supporters as well because it’s a really big match for them.

“We’ll be signing off at home in what has been a fantastic year with a group of blokes who won’t play again together at Big Fellas Stadium so it should be an emotional afternoon for us.

“As every season ends, there’s always people who retire or move on and that’s the circle of life at a football club.”

Bradley Knowles-Tagg is in contention for a recall on Sunday after missing last weekend’s 70-16 defeat at Salford Red Devils because of a one-match suspension.

Half-back Kyle Briggs faces a late fitness test after returning from injury against Salford.

Sharp said: “Tagg is available and will come back into the reckoning.

“Briggs played at Salford but I think he’s struggling. We will make a late call on him.”

Sharp is looking for an improvement after depleted Rovers remained at the foot of the Middle Eights table with a fifth straight defeat at Salford.

He hopes they can recapture the outstanding home form they showed in the regular season.

“We are making too many mistakes and the kicking game is inconsistent. We are also conceding penalties at crucial times which is helping the opposition get out of their half. They are key elements we need to fix up,” he added.

“I don’t think we are playing with enough energy and with enough enthusiasm.

“It’s almost like we are resigned to the fact we are going to get beaten and that mindset has got to change.

“When we’ve played at home we’ve had confidence and we’ve had a crack at teams. I think we gave Leigh one of the toughest games they’ve had. We are looking forward to being at home and playing in front of our home crowd.

“Our home form was great in the regular season and we have been inspired by our fans. I would personally like to thank them because they’ve got right behind me and right behind the team and been very supportive in victory and defeat. For me that’s invaluable so it’s a big thank you to them.”

Sharp believes Featherstone’s players are gaining crucial experience from competing in the Qualifiers.

“We are wanting the players to have a taste of it and then wanting some more. I certainly do,” said Sharp.

“Plans are afoot and intentions are in place to get back into the top-four next year by recruiting well and building a strong squad with a bit more depth that can handle the rigours of being in the top-four all year and then ultimately finishing with some energy and some fit bodies for the play-offs and hopefully the Middle Eights.

“It can’t be underestimated the potential development and experience the players are gaining from the Qualifiers, whether they are youngsters or whether they are aged players. It’s a massive experience for them.

“Our younger guys have looked really good at that next level and handled the situations really well. They are the backbone of the club for the next five years so for them to be in situations like they are at the minute is invaluable for their development and the growth of the squad.

“The game is not just about two points. There is a much bigger picture and it can have a greater effect on the club and the team than just two points.”

Sharp felt there were positives in last Sunday’s defeat at Salford.

He said: “There were some good passages of play and our first try was an unbelievable effort. It was really top drawer.

“There were some things in there that were not good enough as well. The energy in defence was not acceptable and it’s not what we are about so that’s disappointing.

“There is some mitigation because we’ve six regular first-teamers that are not playing and we’ve got to accept we are not going to be at the same standard we were in the last three or four games of the regular season due to personnel changes and injuries.

“The run in to the regular season and we way finished it was a massive emotional and physical effort.

“To make the top four we had three back-to-back outstanding efforts and then to back that up against Leeds Rhinos was very tough, compounded by the fact we’ve got a lot of injuries.

“We’ve had three or four blokes playing with pain-killing injections and it’s not often we get more than 14 out on the training field during the week so it’s been a punishing time physically for the players and certainly a big test on the size of the squad.

“There are clearly things we can learn about we can handle things in the future.”

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