Sheffield Eagles may have ticked off one major milestone last week, but the work continues to find the winning formula on the pitch, to match their progress off it.
The Eagles completed their successful return to the Steel City against Toronto Wolfpack last Sunday, with more than 850 attending for the club’s inaugural fixture at the Olympic Legacy Park.
Despite preparations coming together for a largely successful event, the Eagles failed to ignite against their big-spending opponents as Mark Aston’s side fell to their fifth straight defeat of the season.
The on the field struggles aside, being back at a permanent base within the city was the culmination of four years of hard work and persistence, with Chief Operating Officer Liam Claffey under no illusion of the significance of last Sunday.
“It was emotional at kick off, but a great feeling,” he explained to the Telegraph.
“It has been fantastic to finally get back to Sheffield. It has been great for the club and the supporters, and the numbers that came to the first game, even with minimal away support, show that.
“We were hoping for a dry run with the London game, to try and iron out any mistakes, but there haven’t been too many from last Sunday. I think when you look at the crowd we have exceeded our early expectations. We were looking at between 500 and 600 but we have got 850 plus.
“The feedback has been positive, but we are always looking to improve. We have a local brewery on site, and a local food company which has proven popular. The corporate and media facilities are great, so everything has come together.”
After the fanfare of the return to Sheffield, came the realisation that the current crop are still very much a work in progress.
Director of rugby Aston has promised reinforcements, with new blood expected before Sunday’s Challenge Cup pilgrimage to Barrow Raiders.
The Eagles have had to endure four away fixtures, and a home start against a side who enjoy considerable riches in comparison to the rest of the league, so perspective may still be required in the embryonic stages of the 2018 competition.
But Aston has been around long enough to know improvement is needed, with the long-serving coach sending a warning shot to some of his current squad, that he won’t put up with second best from any member of his side.
“Until I can get some more people in, and then say to some of the current side, sorry mate not today you are out, then I am restricted to a degree,” Aston explained.
“We are picking from a really tight squad, and that makes it difficult. We need some more bodies, we need Menzie Yere back and we need the lad I am talking to who is a signing that we have in the pipeline to come in. There are some positives, Menzie will be back soon, and he is someone who will inspire. Matty James is trying his socks off, Matty Fozard is doing great but we need a little bit more.”