Rovers aim to ‘finish job off’

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DARYL Powell is confident table-toppers Featherstone Rovers can end a magnificent season on a high note by beating Sheffield Eagles in Sunday’s Co-operative Championship Grand Final at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium (4pm kick-off).

Head coach Powell (pictured) is wary of the threat posed by his old club Sheffield but he believes Featherstone’s “team full of winners” can go one better better than last season and lift the Championship Trophy for first time.

“We’ve worked hard all year to get to a final and we now want to finish the job off. That goes without saying, “ he said.

“We’ve played consistently well all year. We just need to apply the same levels of concentration and application to our game on Sunday and we are confident we will be able to get the job done. There’s a strong determination in the squad, there’s no doubt about that. People like to be winners and I think we’ve got a team full of winners.”

Sheffield, who finished fourth in the table, have knocked out Leigh, Halifax and Widnes in the play-offs to reach the final.

They recently conceded a league double to Rovers but Powell says past meetings will count for nothing on Sunday.

“We’ve beaten them pretty convincingly each time but that doesn’t matter,” he said.

“Sheffield have been playing play-off football for quite a few weeks and we need to be aware of that.

“We are massively aware of what they’ve got in terms of their strengths. We need to nullify Sheffield and then apply our strengths and if we do that I am pretty confident.

“They’ve got a fair bit of momentum with them and we are going to have to crack that momentum with how we play the game and we are acutely aware of that.”

Powell believes his team will benefit from not having the stop-start finish to the season they endured last year.

“I am happy with the way things have gone for us this year in terms of the games we’ve played at the back end of the year,” he said.

“We’ve only had one week off and we played on the Challenge Cup weekend, ironically against Sheffield, and I think that has benefited us.

“I’ve said to the players that I’m really happy with the way we are leading into the Grand Final.

“Obviously, we had a week off last week but I don’t see it as a problem. We had a couple of really tough training sessions and we are in the right place mentally and physically.

“We trained exceptionally well on Monday night. We recognise it’s going to be a tough challenge but we are feeling confident about ourselves.

“In the Championship, this is the biggest occasion so we want to get it right, but at the end of the day the occasions don’t matter that much, it’s about the performance. That’s what gets you the result and that’s all we are focusing on.”

Rovers are set to field a similar line-up to the one that beat Leigh 35-20 in the qualifying semi-final two weeks ago. Prop Mick Haley (broken arm) has been ruled out and winger Bryn Powell (ankle injury) remains a major doubt.

“There won’t be too many changes, if any, but I will check on that during the week,” said Powell.

“The likelihood is that Bryn is not going to be available but I will check on him later in the week. He hasn’t played for a fair few weeks now and the chances are that he won’t play at the weekend.

“Mick Haley is not available. The arm is healing but it’s not yet fully healed.”

Former Great Britain half-back Powell played for Sheffield for 11 years and is pleased to be facing them on Sunday.

“I am delighted for Sheffield - I think they are an outstanding club,” he said.

“They reformed a few years back and they’ve worked exceptionally hard. They have a full development pathway for young players and they do a lot of things the right way.

“It’s probably their biggest day on Sunday since they won at Wembley in 1998 which was fantastic for rugby league in the city and hopefully this will continue to raise the club’s profile.

“Sheffield are a good side and Simon Brown’s kicking game is a threat and we’ve got to be aware of diffusing that particular threat.

“Misi Tualapapa is playing well and making plenty of line breaks and is a dangerous customer. He’s pretty aggressive as well.

“Quentin Laulu-Togagae at the back is good. Joe Hirst has been playing well for them in the back row and they’ve got people with Super League experience as well like Andrew Henderson at nine.

“We understand what Sheffield are about and we need to nullify their strengths and work hard at exposing their weaknesses and that’s what we’ll be doing this week. We’ve started the process already and we’ve got another couple of training sessions to nail that down and then it will be ‘may the best team win’ and hopefully that will be us.”

Powell believes Featherstone’s big match experience will stand them in good stead on Sunday.

He said: “It’s probably a culmination of what has happened to us in the past. It’s that experience you learn as a team and individuals pick up different things from different games.

“I think there was a fair bit of that in the way we recently played against Leigh and the way we were able to get ourselves out in front and finish the job in a really important game.

“It obviously put a massive dent in Leigh, looking at the way they played against Sheffield the week after.”

Powell added that Rovers never dwelled on last season’s Grand Final defeat against Halifax.

“There hasn’t been a mention of it all year, to be honest. There doesn’t need to be,” he said.

“We don’t have any apprehension or fear going into this game. We’ve been massively consistent this year and the players know how to play. They know our game plan inside out and the way we want to perform. We’ll tweak it a little bit from what did against Leigh but ultimately it’s the same structures and principles that have been in place all year.”

Meanwhile, Rovers have landed a sponsorship arrangement with Probiz for Sunday’s Grand Final. Their playing kit for the match will feature Probiz logos in prominent positions.

National accountancy firm Probiz already have sponsorship deals with several other RL clubs, including Castleford Tigers, and with cricket and football teams.

Paul Taylor, Featherstone’s commercial manager, said “Probiz has become a prominent brand over the past year, partnering with leading sporting clubs.

“To be aligned with such brand shows the development of the club and its future outlook to growth. The club’s success has attracted professional national brands.

“The good news for all fans is that we expect to announce Probiz as our main club partner following the final.

“Negotiations will continue after Sunday’s match but I am pleased to inform all fans that we are almost there and we expect an announcement next week.”

On Sunday, Rovers players will wear special warm up T-shirts in aid of the mining community of Pontardwe, South Wales, following the recent tragedy at Gleision Colliery in which four miners lost their lives in a tragic accident.

Probiz founder Feisal Nahaboo said: “On behalf of Probiz and our 400 UK-based accountancy offices we wish to express our sincere and deepest sympathies for the families of the Welsh miners who tragically experienced the sad loss of loved ones.

“We are privileged to have the support of the Featherstone Rovers squad who will unveil a joint initiative with Probiz at the Grand Final, where all squad players will parade a T-shirt with a dedicated donation text code to support the affected community. We plea to TV audiences and the stadium crowd to consider donations.”

Featherstone chairman Mark Campbell said: “Featherstone Rovers and Probiz see this as a fantastic way to raise some monies to help a fellow mining community.

“Probiz are increasing their profile and to be associated with them for our Grand Final is a testament to the progress we have made over the last few years on and off the field. We hope our gesture helps a fellow mining community during this very difficult time.”