Sheffield Eagles have hopes of finishing the season with an unusual double – finding a new home ground and retaining their Championship title.
The odds have shortened on the club staying in the city next season, with a move back to Owlerton Stadium the clear favourite.
Preliminary talks have gone well on a return to the greyhound and speedway venue where the Eagles were launched in 1984.
The hunt for a new home goes on the backburner for 80 minutes tonight, though, as the Eagles bid to reach a third successive Grand Final.
There’s no problem about a venue, with Halifax earning home advantage at the Shay (kick-off 7pm) following a 21-6 win at Sheffield in the opening play-off round two weeks ago.
Eagles’ coach Mark Aston believes his team have come through a bad spell, which saw them lose three games and can overturn that result.
In an impressive final game at Don Valley Stadium they outclassed Dewsbury Rams to win the play-off elimination round 52-16.
“There’s a twinkle back in the lads’ eyes and we’ve got a bit of confidence back,” said Aston.
“Halifax will be a bit different but I’m not worried about anybody.
“When we played Halifax they were good, they were strong and ran at 80 per cent ball control, we ran at 50 yet with six minutes to go they were only beating us 9-6.
“So if we get that side of our game right, which we did against Dewsbury, they will be a little bit more worried than we are.”
Eagles ran in nine tries against Dewsbury, with centre Menzie Yere’s hat-trick setting a new career record for the club of 117. Tom Armstrong, with two, Scott Turner, Mitch Stringer, Michael Knowles and Dominic Brambani got the other tries with Brambani kicking eight goals.
Eagles face a swift turnaround before tonight’s game, with Halifax’s first round win giving them nearly two weeks to prepare.
Aston said: “We’ve done it the hard way before. We’ve got a few bumps and bangs but the lads will stand up and be counted.”
On the home front, the Eagles will conduct a feasibility study on work needed to bring Owlerton up to standards required for Championship rugby.
A move back to the stadium would be popular with fans and Owlerton have put out a welcome.
John Gilburn, stadium managing director, said: “We would not have had preliminary talks with Sheffield Eagles if we didn’t feel something was possible and if we didn’t want to encourage them to come back ‘home’.”