Sheffield Tigers: Bates hails ‘new Stead’ Grajczonek

Josh Grajczonek
Josh Grajczonek

Josh Bates believes Sheffield’s strong start to 2017 has been instigated by finding a ready-made replacement for legend Simon Stead.

Leading light Josh Grajczonek was drafted in following Somerset’s elevation to the Premiership and Stead’s decision to retire into team management over the winter.

The Australian has quickly stepped up to the mark by winning half of his heats for the Tigers with 13 of 18 chequered flags on home shale.

And that form has come as no surprise to Bates who can see similarities between old and new number ones.

“Steady was a top number one and now we have someone just as good in Josh Grajczonek,” he said. “They are similar in the way they ride the fence and take no prisoners, they don’t care who is front of them, they just go bigger, wider and better.

“Kyle (Howarth) is great at five as well and having such strength in those two positions really helps us.

“They get double figures all the time, so does Lasse (Bjerre) so the rest of us only need to chip in a few to win meetings.

“It takes the pressure off. You don’t have to worry about things as much, there are other people in the team weighing in if something goes wrong so you can just focus on your own racing.”

Tigers defend a 100 per cent home record while looking for revenge against Scunthorpe at Owlerton tonight (7.30).

Sunday’s 49-41 away defeat to the Scorpions saw Sheffield leave a meeting empty handed for the first time in more than two months but Bates has no doubt his colleagues will get their own back.

“I didn’t have the best meeting but it was a good, close match. I thought we were the better team despite losing, we just didn’t gel as we usually do,” he added.

“To be honest, I think we’re going to absolutely hammer them when they come to Sheffield but we’ll have to see what happens.”

Robert Branford rides for Rye House while Jack Parkinson-Blackburn remains absent. Josh Pickering and Jack Smith stand in at reserve.

SHEFFIELD: Josh Grajczonek, Todd Kurtz, Lasse Bjerre, Josh Bates, Kyle Howarth, Josh Pickering, Jack Smith.

SCUNTHORPE: Michael Palm Toft, Tero Aarnio, Lewis Kerr, Ryan Douglas, Josh Auty, Carl Wilkinson, David Wallinger.