Ryan Carr’s masterminding a renaissance at Featherstone Rovers

Featherstone Rovers head coach Ryan Carr. 'Picture: Bruce Rollinson.
Featherstone Rovers head coach Ryan Carr. 'Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

NINE MONTHS ago there were worries Featherstone Rovers might not be in the Betfred Championship at the end of this season.

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Now their fans are hoping that is the case, but promotion, rather than relegation, is on the agenda.

Featherstone Rovers players celebrate Bradley Day's try against York.

Featherstone Rovers players celebrate Bradley Day's try against York.

Rovers will face Toronto Wolfpack at Lamport Stadium tomorrow with a place in Super League up for grabs.

It has been a remarkable journey after Rovers had to bring in players from Leeds Rhinos on emergency loan for the Championship Shield final against Leigh Centurions a year ago. Key players left before and after that game and coach John Duffy joined Leigh Centurions on what was due to be the first day of pre-season.

New boss Ryan Carr was appointed in December, but did not arrive at Featherstone until a week before the opening league fixture – two months later – and poor pre-season results, including a home loss to amateur side Hunslet Club Parkside, left some fans fearing for Rovers’ Championship survival.

It took time for a new-look squad to gel, but since mid-April Rovers have been beaten only four times in 19 league or play-offs fixtures and, after finishing fifth in the table, they have won away to the three teams immediately above them, Leigh Centurions, York City Knights and Toulouse Olympique in successive elimination ties.

“As it has gone on yes, but at the start probably not,” Carr said of whether he believed Featherstone could reach the Grand Final.

“When you get to know the players and how hard they work you can see it and see how good they can be, but looking at our team from round one to today it is hugely different.”

Last Sunday’s victory at league runners-up Toulouse was Rovers’ best under Carr and, though he is realistic about the scale of the challenge, the coach reckons they have nothing to fear tomorrow.

He said: “Toulouse is a tough place to travel to, they are a good team and they are usually strong at home. The boys put a good 80-minute performance together, which was great. It is a short turnaround, we had to leave at 3.30am to go to France the day before the game, we had to fly back into Bristol and had a four-five hour bus ride back home on Monday. Then a couple of days at work for the guys who go to work and then we flew out on Thursday, but there’s no pressure on us and no expectation on us.

“The only expectation is the standards we’ve set ourselves all year. As long as we do our best and they try as hard as they can for each other that’s all we ask.”

Toronto beat Featherstone twice during the league campaign, but there was only nine points in it at LD Nutrition Stadium, Post Office Road and four in the game in Canada.

“Toronto are exceptionally good,” Carr added. “We are well aware of that, we have got a lot of respect for them, but at the same time we can only control what we can control and that’s our performance.

“We can’t control how Toronto play the game, we will just worry about ourselves and we will enjoy it.

“We are enjoying the experience and enjoying the journey and these extra weeks together are something we will cherish because you never keep the same squad together year on year.

“We are enjoying each other’s company and enjoying every bit of it.”