SHEFFIELD Eagles go into their winter break able to look back on a season of progress although the final chapter was a massive disappointment.
The team made their first ever Championship Grand Final but the effort of battling through three play-off rounds took its toll and they lost 40-4 to Featherstone Rovers.
Rovers raced into a 12-0 lead although the Eagles came back briefly with a try from Dane McDonald.
The pack – whose performance was key to the Eagles chances - couldn’t control possession and it was one-way traffic for much of the game. The Eagles’ fate was sealed by tries either side of half-time.
“It was a game too far for us, we came up against a very good team in Featherstone – the most consistent team in the league this year,” said coach Mark Aston.
“The positive is that we finished fourth and reached a Grand Final – nobody expected us to do that. We beat good teams in Widnes, Halifax and Leigh to get to the final.
“There are young guys in the squad still learning their trade and they will benefit from the experience. We have got to a Grand Final and we have learned a lesson and we will build on that.”
Aston now turns to building his squad for next season. He has had talks with many of the out-of-contract players and will hope to close deals before he switches to his role as Ireland coach for the autumn internationals.
He can be expected to keep the forward pack together and will be keen to ensure that young emerging players like student international back row forward Sam Scott are not lured away.
Most of the players coming in will be in the backs with centre a priority. Misi Taulapapa has joined Hull KR and Aston wants to avoid too much reliance on dual registration players to fill gaps.
Aston is believed to have agreed a deal to bring centre Duane Straugheir from York City Knights and is also interested in Dewsbury’s Scott Turner.