James Webster wants to make Featherstone Rovers the "leading force" in the Championship

JAMES WEBSTER is aiming to make Featherstone Rovers the “leading force in the Championship” this year.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 6:00 am
Featherstone Rovers head coach James Webster. Picture: Dec Hayes.

Rovers return to action for the first time since March 13, 2020 with a friendly clash against Oldham at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The 1.30pm fixture will be the first of two warm-up games before Webster’s side take on Bradford Bulls in the first round of the Challenge Cup on March 21.

Featherstone were unbeaten across all competitions when the season was suspended before eventually being curtailed last year.

Their target this year is to get promoted after they came a whisker away in 2019 when they lost the Championship Grand Final to Toronto Wolfpack in Canada.

It will prove no easy feat, with numerous Championship rivals setting the same aim and recruiting strongly to achieve it.

Webster has been delighted by Rovers’ transfer business and feels they have the right mix of experience and youth for a promotion push.

“I am really optimistic,” he said.

Featherstone Rovers reached the Championship play-offs in 2019 and hope to replicate that feat again this year. Picture: Dec Hayes.

“I think it is a great competition and a lot of teams in there have been talked up to win it. I will be honest, I haven’t spent a lot of time analysing other squads.

"I spent the first lockdown last year watching games to get better acquainted with the Championship; the names, the styles, the grounds and things like that.

“Since then, I have just worried about Featherstone and what we can do to improve and become the leading force in the Championship.

“I think we have recruited some experience and some young and hungry people who want to make rugby league their future.

“I think we have been able to mix that in and not just go for the people slotting out of Super League.”

Following Saturday’s meeting with Oldham, Featherstone will welcome Batley Bulldogs to Post Office Road for a friendly encounter on March 13.

The sides are set to meet again on the opening weekend of the Championship season but Webster is just eager to get his side out on the field this weekend.

“We are over the moon, we can’t wait to get out there and get a game,” he added.

“It has been roughly 12 months. I still remember sitting in the bar and waiting for Boris Johnson to come on and give an announcement.

“It was the Challenge Cup draw as well, we drew Wakefield. We were excited by that, it was a local derby but then Boris Johnson came on and squashed that. It has been a long time for us.”

With teams out of action for an extended period, fellow coaches have raised concerns about the number of injuries that might occur with players not used to the physical contact of rugby league.

Webster does not think that will be too big an issue for his side, adding: “I don’t know if your body gets any worse off after three or four months that it does after 12 months.

“So, all the stuff I am hearing about getting extra time for contact, I think it is rubbish to tell the truth. I think we will be just as good or as bad as we normally are when you come back for your first friendly.

“We have trained really well. We have got a lot more numbers this year, mainly due to us not having a dual-registration partnership that we are able to use at the minute.”