SHEFFIELD Eagles’ policy of bringing through young local players is likely to be tested when the new season opens at the weekend.
The departure of experienced players Brendon Lindsay, Tangi Ropati, Craig Cook, Ged Corcoran and Michael Haley has given the squad a new look.
Four locally-based players have been promoted from the reserves and are set to play in the Northern Rail Cup group stages, which kick-off at Gateshead Thunder, on Sunday.
Hallam University student Jamie Cottle will get the nod from coach Mark Aston to start at fullback with Samoan international Misi Taulapapa still recovering from a broken ankle.
Cottle, 20, made an impressive debut in the final game of last season, the play-off semi-final defeat at Halifax.
Norfolk Park teenager Corey Hanson, 18, is on standby to play only his second senior game at Gateshead. Hanson, also a student at Hallam, could start as partner to Papua New Guinea international Menzie Yere in the centres.
Prop forwards Eddie Battye, from Oxspring, and Sheffielder Dan Hawksworth are pushing for an early chance.
Aston said: “I need to look at individuals for different reasons and see where they are at – particularly the new players and the young lads we’ve added to the squad.
“I haven’t brought the young lads into the squad to sit on the bench.”
The make-up of the 17 for Gateshead will be influenced by the availability of his two dual registration signings from Huddersfield Giants half-back Kyle Wood and back row forward James Cording.
The 20 teams that start the Rail competition have been split into two pools of 10 with each team playing two home and two away games. The top four teams from each pool qualify for the un-seeded knock-out quarter-finals.
After the Gateshead trip the Eagles have home games at Don Valley Stadium against Whitehaven (Sunday, February 13) and Hunslet Hawks (Sunday, February 27) split by a trip to Leigh Centurions.