HALIFAX and Sheffield Eagles get the new Championship season started tomorrow with the home side eager to forget the final act of last season.
The Eagles arrive for the televised clash at The Shay tomorrow night (7.30) with coach Mark Aston having made few changes to the squad that won last season’s Championship Grand Final.
In achieving that Sheffield handed out a 54-12 thumping to Halifax coach Karl Harrison’s men on their own ground in the play-offs.
Fax had already had their day in the sun as they secured the Northern Rail Cup, but they will be aiming, along with other front-runners Featherstone Rovers and Leigh Centurions, to knock the Eagles off their perch this term.
Harrison was certainly looking forward and not back and said: “We were empty at the end of last season, while Sheffield timed their run to the final and they deserved to win.
“But that was last season – this is this season.
“The new campaign is always exciting for everybody and to play last year’s champions first should produce a great encounter.
“But obviously we would like to get off to a flyer.”
The Eagles will give full-back Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e a late fitness test in a bid to have him in action at The Shay.
The Samoan has had a knee operation and while he has returned to training, coach Aston has concerns about bringing the player back too soon.
However, Sheffield will be without loose forward Joe Hirst who has broken bones in his hand.
Other favourites to set the pace this term, Leigh and Featherstone, cross swords in the opening round of matches with Rovers coach Daryl Powell hoping a training stint in Spain last weekend will have lifted his squad for their home start.
“We feel like we are in a pretty good spot,” said Powell.
“We have competed well in a couple of tough pre-season games and we feel we are prepared for a real tough opener against Leigh.”
Thursday: Halifax v Sheffield Eagles (7.3).
Sunday: Batley v Keighley (2.00), Doncaster v Dewsbury (3.00), Featherstone v Leigh (3.00), Hunslet v Barrow (3.00), Swinton v Workington (3.00), Whitehaven v York (3.00)
See Friday’s Examiner Sport for the Fax v Eagles match report