SHEFFIELD EAGLES director of rugby Mark Aston is expecting a “tough” Championship opener at Dewsbury Rams tonight.
Their opponents struggled badly early on last year but were transformed once former coach Neil Kelly returned to take over from Glenn Morrison.
Although Sheffield finished seventh, just above Dewsbury in the table, he feels they will improve again.
“Ned (Kelly) had a massive impact on them last year as they were drifting,” said Aston.
“But he transformed them into a team that was very difficult to beat.
“They have a good group of players and some continuity - they haven’t lost many - which is the key.
“We’ve probably changed 10 or 12 again and that takes time.
“Their two key players are Gareth Moore and Paul Sykes, who’s been around the game for a while but their kicking game is as good as anyone in the comp’ so we have a tough challenge.”
But the coach has seen the welcome return of former players Garry Lo and Cory Aston from Castleford Tigers on a month’s loan this week to boost his squad.
On their 2018 season prospects, Aston admitted: “It’s going to be another tough year for us just like it was last year.
“But we need to achieve at least what we achieved then and a bit of progress would be nice.
“We got to the Championship Shield final and got beat again as with the year before so it’d be nice to get into those big games and win them.”