FEATHERSTONE ROVERS coach John Duffy has joined in calls for a return of reserve-grade teams.
Injuries and player departures led to Duffy fielding only 14 players in an epic 22-4 Betfred Championship Shield win over Leigh Centurions.
He has named a 16-man squad for tonight’s trip to Sheffield Eagles with Leeds Rhinos’ Dakota Whylie and Harry Newman added to last week’s team. Whylie has passed a head test and Newman was on academy duty for Yorkshire five days ago.
That means Rovers will be outnumbered again tonight and Duffy admitted: “There’s a welfare issue especially when you’ve got 14 players on Sunday and you’ve got to back them up on Friday.
“Just having 14 players is a welfare issue. The game has got a lot quicker, it is played at a good pace and I’ve never been in this situation before.
“It is challenging me as a coach and the staff as well. I think we need reserves back, then we can push lads up who are ready and you’re not going out and buying somebody you wouldn’t normally buy, just to cover a number.”
The win over Leigh lifted Rovers into top spot in the table and made them favourites for home advantage in the Shield final against the same opposition.
“It means everything,” Duffy said of the prospect of playing the competition decider at LD Nutrition Stadium, Post Office Road.
“We want as many Featherstone fans at the final as we can get.
“They have been superb and they are the ‘extra man’ you need to push through in finals.”
Duffy admitted it will not be easy to repeat last week’s performance this evening.
“It was a big result,” he said.
“We’ve had to look after the players this week, it took a lot out of us, but we want to get some real consistency going into these last few games after that.”
Eagles play on an artificial pitch and Duffy added: “We’re training on a 4g [last night] for our run through to get us up to speed.
“Sheffield played well against Dewsbury last week, even though they didn’t get the result and Mark [Aston] always has them up to play Featherstone so we’ve got to go there in the right frame of mind.”