SHEFFIELD Eagles coach Mark Aston is promising “surprises” when the first team squad numbers are released.
The system of giving players in the Championship individual numbers is being re-introduced for the new season following a year when teams used the traditional 1-17 line-ups.
Aston: “There could be a few surprises in the selections and a few in the squad numbers when they are named after Christmas. It will challenge people and make sure they earn the right – it will be a difficult one because so many people did so well at the end of last season.”
His comments raise speculation that the squad numbers may be used to shake his mainly established squad and increase competition.
Aston has plenty of options with five new signings that include established Championship players Patch Walker, Tom Armstrong and Matt Garside.
Walker can be expected to take the number six shirt vacated by Simon Brown’s move to York as he renews the half-back partnership he had with Dominic Brambani at Dewsbury.
If Garside, signed from York, or Tom Armstrong, former St Helens and Swinton, claim one of the low numbers in the backs it will send a message on Aston’s team plans.
Aston added: “Really it’s just a number and if people are not performing they won’t get in the team, no matter what number is on their back.”
The new players – who also include forward Colton Roche from Leeds and hooker James Davey who was on loan from Wakefield last season – are expected to get a first game in the friendly at French Elite club Limoux in the middle of January.