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Fans Q+A with Mark Aston - Part 1


In the first part of the Eagles fans' Q+A with Mark Aston, the Director of Rugby discusses a number of topics including the new signings, potential comeback of the Academy and testimonial for a modern-day legend. 

Dave Jones asked: “Any plans for Menzie to have a Testimonial Year?”

Tubbs: “I can’t find Menzie, does anyone know where he is? I will have to try and kick his door in!

We want Menzie to be a part of what we are doing, we want to get him a testimonial, there’s no doubt about that.

I suppose if everything had gone ahead as planned, before COVID came along, we probably would have had all of that in place.

The uncertainty means that we have not been able to do that as of yet.

The plan around the club is to get Menzie Yere a testimonial.

Will he play on? He has told me he will not, he got through a handful of games earlier this year but was difficult for him.

We want to do the right thing and still have him involved with the club in some capacity.

Simon Travis asked: Are we going to have any pre-season games?

Tubbs: “It is a tough question as we need to know where everything is at.

Would we like to have pre-season games? Yes, I’d like to have a couple.

We have the biggest squad we have had for a while, 28 in all, and we want to see everyone in action.

In an ideal world, yes is the answer to that but it depends on when the season starts, if they’re going to throw a competition in at the beginning, nobody really knows.

The players have been out for a long time now so what we need is a window of 12-16 weeks to prepare our players to play a physical game of rugby league.

If we don’t, and have friendlies before they’re ready, that’s when all the injuries will happen which is what we saw in the early stages of the Super League returning.

Michael White asked: With the new signings and players that have stayed, what are your realistic aims for the season?

Tubbs: I’d like to say to do similar to what we did this year, but we didn’t actually do anything this year, did we?

We always want to be a little bit better and the fans understand what I have done this year as they’ve seen the age of all the signings. Our oldest is 24 years old.

They are young and we’re doing what we’ve always done, wanted to develop the kids into Championship players like what’s happened with Blake Broadbent, Paddy Burns, Ryan Millar etc.

There have been more players available coming out of reserve systems so we have jumped on them. They’re not the finished articles but we want to develop them.

I always speak about continuity bringing the consistency for years to come.

There is a nice balance of experience in the squad already, so we didn’t feel we needed more.

We thought we needed some kids for us to drive on and make the transition, for when the experienced players retire, a lot smoother.

It’s a long-term vision for us to get young players into our culture, with the right mentality and attitude, and then in years to come we can have that continuity.

We need to improve on what we achieved in 2019. With a bigger squad, that will help us as it keeps those who have been in the starting lineup on their toes.

You might have a number from 1 to 13, but it doesn’t guarantee you a place.

Pre-season will hopefully be five or six months, people will be jumping out to be noticed and play in the first game.

Katie Peat asked: Who do you think will be the star of 2021 out of the new signings?

“There’s going to be a great battle in the halves between Izaac Farrell and Harry Tyson-Wilson.

Izaac showed glimpses of class when he played for us this season and by his own admission, he’s in 100% better shape and place now than when he joined.

He has his mojo and cockiness back.

Harry is a kid with massive amounts of potential and came through a good system at Hull.

He has been away from for a year or so, playing amateur, and it’ll be great to see him now he’s got the love for the game back.

Jack Render played quite regularly for Featherstone last year, when they were a top team who got to the playoff final against Toronto.

I’m excited to see them all really. Jordan Bull was in our Scholarship before it got taken away from us. Chris Ball is a big specimen but a real athlete.

Then we’ve got the likes of Johnson, Adlard and Corion – quick backs who are exciting players in their own rights and will be challenging Rob & Ryan for a place out wide for sure.

I’m not going to be putting much pressure on them this season.

They have to be realistic as we’re building something here.

If they play 0-5 games in the first year, aim for 5-10 the next year and so on. That is how we develop rugby league players.

I’m sure the fans will love all the players we have brought in but the first year is the hardest, they have to gain the trust of the squad on and off the pitch.

We are excited to see them all and the best thing is, they’ve all got the right attitude.

Katie also asked: What teams do you think will do well next year?

Tubbs: Leigh, Toulouse and Fev. They are the big boys.

Toulouse have signed a couple from St Helens as well as Pelissier, they will be strong and are full-time.

Leigh have signed well and will keep spending, especially now Toronto have gone as well I am sure a few of them will end up there.

The teams who have got the money will be the ones to keep an eye on.

We don’t know enough about London yet, although they’ll be full-time.

They haven’t recruited yet but they will be up there, alongside the other three.

Stephen Eaton asked: If the new lads are for the future, why are they only on a one-year contract and is there a clause for these to be extended?

Tubbs: A very good question. It’s all about money, as it always is with the Sheffield Eagles.

The Sky deal ends in 2021 so we don’t know, as a club, what our money will be and I’ll think you’ll find a lot of similar contract deals and extensions across the sport at the minute.

Everyone knows your placing in the Championship table gets you a certain amount of money. If there’s no money from Sky in 2022, it changes the dynamic of the club and the competition entirely.

We’re covering our backs and all the players’ contracts will end after 2021.

Hopefully we’ll know by the middle of the year about the Sky situation so we can sign them on again.

We have said that we don’t know what the finances will be like from the game itself and the national governing body. If there are no finances, I’d suggest there’s going to be a lot of clubs in a bit of a pickle.

Steve Tyler asked: When do you anticipate the resurrection of the Academy?

Tubbs: It took me a year or two to get over the fact that we had it taken away from us. You get a few kicks in the goolies and that one was from a steel toecap kick.

It broke my heart to be honest as people know. At the end of the day, I said I wouldn’t do it again because it hurt me so much I didn’t want a chance of it happening again.

I have changed now. I’ve got my head back on. Seeing the likes of Blake Broadbent, Greg and Paddy Burns, who have come through the system as well as others in the professional system, we want to do it again but make it as a Centre of Excellence.

We’ll build it up like that to start with so there’s not a chance it’ll get taken off us. When I had to stand in front of 150 kids to tell them their dream was over, it’s something I never thought I’d have to do.

Nobody will do that, ever again, to me or to the club because it’s wrong.

It will take time to start again. You have to get the community engagement, with the schools, so once we’re out there seeing 10,000 kids a year, we can then get a performance programme.

We want to get kids re-engaged. If you haven’t got a performance structure, what’s the point of going out into the community - and vice versa?

We have to get the numbers right and ultimately, we need to give a kid a dream again because that’s what we’re here for.

It’s on the agenda again.

Part two of the Q+A with Tubbs will be published in due course.

By Dan Fowler, photo by Alex Coleman