COACH Danny Evans says table-toppers Featherstone will be taking “absolulely nothing for granted” in Sunday’s opening play-off clash against fourth-placed Leigh Centurions at Big Fellas Stadium.
The teams have already met three times this season, with Rovers completing a league double over Leigh but the Centurions winning 22-12 at Featherstone in the Northern Rail Cup.
“At the end of the day no team has the given right to win the Grand Final just because they’ve finished top of the table. It’s all about play-off football from now on,” said Evans.
“Every time we play Leigh we know we are in for a tough game that can go either way and I’m sure that will be the case again this weekend.
“Being at home gives us a bit of an advantage but they beat us here in the Northern Rail Cup so we are taking absolutely nothing for granted.
“Leigh have some outstanding players who can hurt you so we need to make sure we are at our very best to beat them.
“I’m sure our pack are looking forward to locking horns with them. It should be a good encounter, every time we play Leigh it’s usually a thriller.
“Our pack has been absolutely outstanding in recent weeks. We have some big boys in there and they’ve been going about their business really well and I think they are all complimenting each other.”
Under the new play-off format, Sunday’s winners will have a second round bye and then a home tie the following week. The losers will be straight back into knock-out action, also at home.
Evans believes the appointment of Sean Long as football manager last month has given Featherstone a timely boost in their bid to win the Grand Final.
Rovers finished top of the table for the fourth successive season by winning their last six league games, all since former Great Britain half-back Long took up his new role.
“Sean coming in has given us a bit of a gee up,” added Evans.
“After losing at Swinton, we knew that if we lost another game the league title would be gone so we’ve been playing what amounts to knock-out football since Sean arrived.
“We’ve lifted our game at the right time at the business end of the season when we really need to.
“Sean has been in a lot of big finals and we can benefit from his experience.
“He is having a big influence. He’s done just about everything in the game and the players respect that. He’s also a very smart coach and he’s brought in some fresh ideas into the place.
“We’ve achieved one of our goals which was to be top again. To do that for four years on the trot is an outstanding achievement and is something that needs recognising.
“Our other goal is to go one better than last season and win the Grand Final this year.
“At the moment we seem to have hit a bit of form and hopefully we can carry that on.”
Centre Greg Worthington and hooker Ben Kaye could both be back this Sunday.
Kaye has missed the last five games with a shoulder injury and Worthington has missed the last two with a calf strain.
“Both Greg and Ben could come into selection for Sunday’s game. They are both nearly back to full fitness,” said Evans.
Rovers second-row forward Tim Spears has been suspended for two matches.
The RFL’s disciplinary panel found him guilty of the grade C charge of making dangerous contact with an opponent in the 46th minute of Sunday’s game at Hunslet.
He will miss Featherstone’s opening two play-off ties.
Featherstone will be formally presented with the League Leaders’ Shield immediately after the game on Sunday.
Rovers chief executive Craig Poskitt said “Everybody at the club is delighted to retain the League Leaders’ Shield.”