SOME people may feel it is a pipe dream for Featherstone Rovers to play Super League but the only thing that actually now stands in their way – aside from big-spending Toronto Wolfpack, of course –is the trivial matter of floodlights.
If they do complete their remarkable odyssey and win Saturday’s Championship Grand Final in Canada, that will quickly be resolved.
The part-timers, who started the year with just nine contracted players and a Yorkshire Cup loss to amateurs Hunslet Old Boys, make their unlikely bid for the elite in Saturday’s Grand Final in Canada.
It would be a stunning feat to overcome their star-studded hosts, backed by millionaire owner David Argyle who has vowed to put on a “mini Super Bowl” style party ready for their arrival.
Yet, given their brilliant form – winning away from home at Leigh, York and Toulouse on successive play-off weekends – and the obvious pressure tunnelling down on Toronto, who lost at home to London Broncos in last year’s Million Pound Game, there is a quiet confidence exuding from the ‘flat-cappers.’
That and also a feeling of inescapable dizziness caused by the effects of arriving back from France on Monday and flying out to Canada today.
Considering their ambitious hosts are being made to tick numerous boxes to gain the green light for the top-flight, you would imagine the comparatively small West Yorkshire club might struggle even more to meet the requisite criteria.
However, asked if they will be in Super League should they win, Featherstone chief executive Davide Longo – in the midst of the logistical “whirlwind” of recent days – replied: “Yes, I believe so.
“We only really fail on floodlights and I started some dialogue a month ago with a company about installing some new floodlights. It’s not that big a deal, if I’m honest.
“We’d have to sort those out for broadcast purposes but the rest of the stadium is fit for purpose.”
It is, indeed, more so arguably than some other Super League venues and Longo says the capacity of just under 6,000 at Post Office Road could easily be increased to 7,000 if they do do the unthinkable in Ontario.
Shifting to a full-time squad may be more difficult but, in a bid to cover every scenario come the weekend, Longo said: “We’ve had a little chat about it.
“We’re looking at a few different options, a hybrid version of a full-time environment, but we’re mindful that we’ve already recruited a large number of our squad.
“We’ve got 16 players that we’ve re-signed. There would be a lot of work to do if that dream does come true.”
For now, Longo and the rest of the players, coaches and staff are riding the wave at Featherstone –as are the club’s stalwart support many of whom are now trying to sort a trip across the Atlantic at short notice.
“I’m hearing all sorts of stories about fans spending their life savings and sacrificing all sorts to get themselves there,” added Longo, who, for those who don’t make it, has ordered the fireworks for Saturday’s live big-screen showing of the game on the club’s pitch.
“We had a great support in France and I reckon we’ll take between 300 and 400 fans there as well.
“And we’re allowed 25 players and staff but we’ve got 31 flying out
“We’re taking some of our injured players, too, including Brad Day and Josh Walters so they can experience it all.
“It’s been great. You suddenly get messages from people you haven’t heard from for a long time.
“I had six or seven chairmen who texted and said you know what you’ve been fantastic this season now go get the job done.
“It is a whirlwind. I still haven’t come down from the Toulouse game, to be honest. And at the Toulouse game I’d still not come down from the York game.
“It just feels like everything is happening but hopefully it will settle down when we get out there on Friday.”
Rovers last won the league championship in 1977 and have never played Super League.
But Longo added: “I think the club deserves its opportunity to be in Super League.
“We’re the last remaining club that never made it back into the top flight having been cut from the old Division One.
“It’s 20-odd years now that the club hasn’t been there.
“We’ve been one of the better clubs outside Super League for a number of years now and I think the derbies we could have next year – Castleford and Wakefield – would be magical from a crowd point of view and for this area,” he added.
Meanwhile, he commented on the future of Ryan Carr, the Australian who has enjoyed a memorable finish to his debut season at the club having only arrived in January.
He has been assisting at Leeds Rhinos and there is speculation he may move on in 2020.
“Ryan is on a two-year contract,” said Longo.
“There was a clause in his contract that clearly stated if we did get to Super League, his contract would become a Super League contract and he’s looking forward to taking the club into Super League.
“We always said we’d speak to him after this first year to see how his family have settled down.”