Seeking dream finish as Eagles rise away from heartland

I was born in Torquay, but when I was eight the family decided to emigrate to Australia. I came back to play over here when I was 21, I am 33 now and have only been back to Australia for one season.

I had a contract dispute when I was at Barrow, Sheffield Eagles came in for me in 2010 and I have been here since then.

My role at the club now is player-performance manager, working with the youth, the Academy and coaching the Hallam Eagles side, which is a joint venture with Hallam University. It almosts acts as an Under-23 team for us.

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My role has evolved over the years. I still train every night with the first team, play at the weekend. I do coaching work during the day with some of the younger guys.

It’s challenging. It’s important that Sheffield has this infrastructure in place. The club has a long-term vision. They haven’t just had a huge injection of cash and tried to get instant success.

Since they rebuilt the club, they have taken things just one step at a time. A team on the field came first, and they built on that with a community department which is self-sufficient and self-funded. Then they have got a performance department up and running in recent years. Slowly but surely, the building blocks have been put in place, with scholarships and an Academy.

We even have a junior Eagles programme, which works with Under-13s and Under-14s, introducing kids to professionalism at an earlier age.

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We have got some really good things in place here and that’s important, particularly to a developing club as this is not a rugby league heartland area.

It’s harder to attract players here because we don’t have the luxury of a number of amateur clubs locally, so we are working very hard at trying to improve the club links. We are doing a lot of work within schools and we need to transfer the kids, which we are engaging in there, into these amatuer clubs.

Hopefully, we will then develop more amateur clubs in the area so we have more to choose from in our talent pool to bring into our professional system.

This weekend is Challenge Cup weekend. I love it. I have never played in the final, but it’s a fantastic competition.

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The small clubs get the opportunity to be on the biggest stage, whether you’re an amatuer club playing a Championship club, or a Championship club facing a Super League side.

It’s not only an opportunity for players to test where they are at, but also for clubs to have a big day out.

The final itself is just magical. The carnival atmosphere, the festivities building up to the game, is fantastic. I would recommend anyone who has that weekend spare to go down and experience it.

Maybe the RFL need to do something like put the Northern Rail Cup final and Challenge Cup final on the same day, as a curtain-raiser. That might create a little bit more interest.

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It would get more people down and help rekindle the magic. I am a big advocate of the competition, I think it’s fantastic.

I am still involved with Scotland and, providing I stay injury-free, should be featuring in the World Cup at the end of the season.

That will probably be my last international action, I will probably hang up my international boots then.

The dream finish would be to win another Grand Final with Sheffield Eagles, feature at a second World Cup with Scotland, and win the Northern Rail Cup. That would be a remarkable season by anybody’s imagination.