Featherstone Rovers boss Jon Sharp is delighted that his young side have rewarded supporters for their backing this year by giving them a big day out at a final.
Rovers booked their place in the Championship Shield final with a convincing 52-14 win over Workington and go into Sunday’s game against London Broncos in their best form of the season.
They can expect to be backed by the majority of fans inside Widnes’s Select Security Stadium and Sharp is keen to have them celebrating at the end of the game and the end of a difficult season for the club.
He told the Express: “I am really pleased for the club and for the fans that we’ve made this final.
“It almost rescues what has been a tough year for everyone.
“The last eight games, we’ve won seven of them and seen a team come together, but a very different team to the one that started the year.
“I am extremely proud of the achievements of everyone.
“It’s massively important to give the supporters a reward with a day out in the final. They have been ever so supportive of me and of the team and they have embraced this new look team of youngsters.
“In return the young fellas have been really excellent in rising to the challenges that have been set.
“Before the Championship Shield started we spoke about wanting to win as many games as we possibly could and give it our best shot, trying to finish the season off strong to give us momentum to go into next season – and I think we’ve achieved that.
“I think we’ve excelled beyond our expectations with a very young team.”
Rovers beat London 20-10 just two weeks ago, but Sharp does not believe that game will not have much of a bearing on Sunday’s final and is expecting a tough challenge for his team.
He said: “We have an understanding of what London do and what they try to do.
“We also know they are a full-time team and that in itself gives them a massive advantage over us. We’ve got to be at our very best to beat them I know that.
“Their overall athleticism and skill levels are good, they work hard for each other and they are fit and in good shape.
“We played London a few weeks ago, but it will have no relevance to what we’re going to get this week.
“It’s a cup final, I’ve got a young team and my greatest challenge is just maintaining the players’ composure and focus and not getting overawed by the occasion.
“There’s some belief among the players that if we play our best with the momentum we’ve got we are in with a chance. But we have to be at our very best.
“We need to handle the game and the build-up to it.”
Featherstone look set to be without experienced half-back Paul Cooke, but Sharp has no other injury worries.
He added: “We will probably roll around with the same team that played last week.
“The players have deserved to keep the team as it is. They worked hard for each other and we won’t tinker with it.
“Paul Cooke looks like being out for six to eight weeks, he’s got a nasty tear in his Achilles. It is a blow to lose him, but he’s been struggling with it for a while. He tried to get himself ready for the semi-final and in practice it just flared up and eventually just tore. It’s a disappointing end to the season for him.”