Eagles must prepare to be shot down, says Henderson

Eagles hooker Andrew Henderson

Eagles hooker Andrew Henderson

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Sheffield Eagles’ players know their credentials as Championship title holders will be tested in every game as they go out to silence the doubters.

The Eagles won the Grand Final in 2012, saving their best form for the play-offs after finishing fourth in the league.

Tonight at Halifax the Eagles kick-off the new season - and hooker Andrew Henderson expects every 80 minutes to be a battle.

“There will be teams out there who will not give us the respect we deserve,” he said.

“We are a good team but some don’t regard us as a ‘Champion’ team.

“As the champions, every week will be a challenge and I know for a fact that teams lift their game and want to knock you off your perch.

“That’s a challenge we will have to face so we have to be better than we were last year – more focused, more disciplined, more consistent as a team if we are to achieve what we did last year. We want to win back-to-back Grand Finals.”

The Eagles face a Co-operative Championship increased to 14 teams with the promotion of Doncaster and the three Cumbrian clubs.

The departure of stand off and goal-kicker Simon Brown for York puts the focus on replacement Patch Walker.

The Dewsbury playmaker is one of five signings.

Henderson added: “The league is going to be more demanding but we have a squad with a bit more depth this year and we will be able to rotate and make changes if players aren’t striking. We will be able to compete.”

Quentin Laulu-Togagae, who set a new club record with 34 tries last season, has made a good recovery from knee surgery and could start at full back against Halifax.

Scott Turner is a doubt and Nev Morrison, pictured above, may come in on the wing.

Former St Helens centre Tom Armstrong will make his debut. Henderson, the Eagles’ most experienced player and Academy coach, will have a key role in keeping the team moving from hooker.

He said: “I still have the hunger and desire. I love being around the game, playing and coaching during the day with the Eagles youth.

“But ultimately I am a player.”