Featherstone Rovers head coach Andy Hay admits seeing the fixture list for next season has brought it home just how tough the Championship is going to be in 2015.
A slimmed down division with 12 teams, including full-time clubs Bradford Bulls and London Broncos, is likely to stiffen up competition and make it harder for Rovers to finish in the top two again, but will ensure plenty of excitement, according to Hay.
He told the Express: “When you have a look at the fixture list in full it proves how tough a division it’s going to be.
“There’s a lot of good teams in there and we’re in for an exciting season for everybody involved. Now we’ve got the fixture list in place it brings everything into reality.
“We’ve been talking about the new structure for a while and when you see the fixtures put out on paper you see there’s some big games.
“You go down the list and say that’s not an easy game and that’s not an easy game either. All of a sudden we’ve got this competition everybody wants, we’ve got 12 teams in the division and everybody’s there to compete.
“There’s a lot at stake and although it was tough last season it’s only going to get tougher next year. We need to be prepared for that during pre-season. There’s a lot to look forward to, but a lot of hard work is needed as well.”
Featherstone begin the new campaign at home to promoted Hunslet Hawks on February 15 before they face what looks like an immediate hard run of matches against Doncaster, Bradford, Halifax and Leigh.
Hay said: ”It’s a good start for us. We’ve got a home game against a Hunslet side that’s just come up and are making recruitment of their own.
“It won’t be easy, but it’s good to get a home game and good for the fans, I’m already looking forward to it.
“Everybody will be looking forward to the Bradford game down at Featherstone. It’s still a matter of getting your head round it, Bradford in the Championship and London, week-in, week-out in the division.
“Along with us there’s also Leigh, Halifax, Sheffield, Dewsbury and Donny so there’s going to be some massive games and we’re looking forward to them all. There’s going to be some massive games and we’re looking forward to them all.”