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Eagles Fans' Q+A with GM Liam Claffey

16/08/2020

In the Sheffield Eagles RLFC Supporters Page on Facebook, we gave the opportunity for fans to put their questions to GM Liam Claffey.

Here are Liam’s answers to those questions. We will look to do the same with Director of Rugby Mark Aston in the near future.


Callum Eaton asked: What would you prefer to see, Eagles in Super League constantly mid table or win the Challenge Cup again?

LC: Tough opening question Callum! I think I would have to say seeing the Eagles in the Super League.

Yes, winning the Challenge Cup would be fantastic, no question, but for the long term benefit of the club and the sport in the city, being back in the top flight would be huge.

 

Zak Davis asked: In the first year of the 1895 Cup, could you see the Eagles winning at Wembley as early on as those first games of the season?

LC: I’ll be honest Zak I wasn’t sold on the competition when it first came in.

Last year we was riding high in the Championship, I think we was 2nd or 3rd and my concern would be the cup would hamper that slightly.

It probably did in hindsight but that was due to getting to (and winning the final!).

I’m still not keen on mid-week matches though, it’s demanding on part time players and staff not to mention a hard sell to supporters but fair to say I’m a big fan of the Cup now, long may it continue!

 

Billy Peat asked: Do you think if the whole 2015 squad went full-time, we would have gone to Super League through the Qualifiers?

LC: I don’t think we would ever know.

The 2015 squad was an excellent group and the victory vs Wakefield at Bramall Lane the end of that season still ranks high in my favourite matches.

But a lot of the squad had employment outside of playing rugby that they couldn’t give up as it didn’t make financial sense for them to do so.

We’ve got players who were in that squad back at the club like Davey & Worrincy so we’ve still got some of that quality around with a good squad this season and was disappointed not to see how we’d have progressed this year.

I would say though, the full-time squad that was put together in 2016 was a good one but was a long-term project which sadly we could not see through to completion.

Particularly those young players that we recruited like Fozard, Minchella have gone on to impress in Super League and those that moved to full-time like Millar and Aston have been great in recent years.

If we were able to develop that squad, in a full time environment, over 3-4 years with minor ins and outs each year then I think that we would have been in the mix for promotion certainly.

 

Kath Owen asked: First of all, thanks for all your hard work Liam. It seems we always take three steps forward then two steps back. How do you keep motivated after all the setbacks?

LC: Thanks Kath and thanks right back to you for sticking with us!

Yes, it’s been a tough 5 years since taking over in late August 2015. There were big shoes to fill when Andy Giles retired and was a great source of knowledge early on.

I was excited as 2016 should have seen the start of the full-time squad being developed along with the stadium come to fruition yet we have some huge blows that year and many more since! How do I stay motivated? There are some down days, some difficult days but I’ve got to take a step back sometimes and think how lucky I am.

There aren’t many jobs in rugby league, even fewer running a club and I get to do that for a team that I became a supporter of very quickly when I came to university in Sheffield 12 years ago.

It’s a privilege and I am honoured to be able to play a small part at the Eagles.

 

Kieran Whitehouse asked: What was your first Eagles game you watched and what was the score? PS: Thanks for all the hard work you put in.

LC: Cheers Kieran - My first game was the club’s first game back at Bramall Lane in 2010 vs Featherstone Rovers.

The Eagles lost 16-40 but did a great job in promoting the match, I think just shy of 3,000 people were there, it’s 10 years on and I’m still hooked anyway!

That and other occasions like the 2013 Challenge Cup Quarter Final vs London when we had a similarly large crowd shows there is an appetite for rugby league in the city but need to market it properly at a quality venue.

We need a viable site and what is coming at the Olympic Legacy Park will deliver that.

We are sadly in a bit of a chicken and egg position though in terms of marketing, we don’t have the funds because we don’t have the crowds, increased crowds would mean money able to spend on marketing, increase our staff etc.

We will get there with it and perhaps one thing we have been lacking on is utilising the universities in terms of unpaid placements etc.

We did have one in place, specifically around marketing for 12 weeks but COVID-19 sadly saw the end to that!

 

Katie Peat asked: What made you come back to work for the Eagles and what is behind the passion you clearly have for the club?

LC: I was marketing manager for the club 2012 to mid-2014 but still in my early twenties I wanted to get more marketing experience elsewhere.

Through no fault of anyone I wasn’t developing some of the skills I had learnt whilst at university – the size of the club lent itself to an environment where there was always something that needs to be done and not much time to take a step back put long term plans and strategies in place and utilised what I’d learnt.

Things are not much different these days ha-ha! Despite getting a good role in which I was doing much more marketing-based work and building strategies, I did miss working in sport very quickly.

Some changes at the club in 2015 meant I was asked if I could design and put together the match day programme on a volunteer basis which I was happy to do, from there things just quickly developed – he may be frustrating at time but I think me and Tubby have a good rapport and knowing him and how the club operates is a big thing so I think that was part of the reason I was offered to take over from Andy once he retired.

 

David Jones asked: Why do you allow Tubbs to wear flip flops on match day?! Put those trotters away!

LC: They are worse in a small, confined space like the office or sat opposite him on the bus to an away game!

It is the Armani sunglasses that are worse I think – them with his bright white teeth and flip flops I am sure he thinks he’s some big shot in Cannes or Monaco or somewhere, not Attercliffe on an overcast May afternoon!

I’ve probably just written my own death sentence there but sure he’ll get his own back in his piece!

Photo by Alex Coleman