COACH JON Sharp believes Featherstone Rovers will benefit from last year’s experience when they compete in the Middle 8s for a second successive season.
Rovers lost all seven matches in the Qualifiers last year but Sharp feels they are better placed this time.
They have clinched a top-four spot with two matches of the regular campaign remaining and are relatively injury free.
“Last year it took every ounce of energy and effort to win those last six out of eight league games,” said Sharp.
“It felt like a relief to make the top four whereas this year it feels like it’s just part of the process but it’s not done. We’ve got some unfinished business.
“Throughout the year I’ve been able to freshen people up and bring people in and rest people.
“Potentially we want to pick our strongest team but any players who are carrying knocks won’t play.
“That’s been the fortunate thing this year - we’ve been able to rest people with niggles instead of being forced to play them and that’s been one of the big things that has helped us .
“We’ve also been been in the top-four all year which is testimony to the squad and to the medical staff who’ve kept them all fit and healthy.
“I think we’ll learn some lessons from last year.
“We came close on three occasions in the Qualifiers against Leigh, Hull KR and Batley and gave really good accounts of ourselves.
“I think we will be better for the experience. I think we’ll understand the level we need to get to and what we need to do to compete at that level.
“Last year will stand us in good stead.
“Touch wood, we’ll go into the Middle 8s in better shape than last year and hopefully do a little bit better than last season.”
Former Super League coach Sharp, who is out of contract at the end of this season, steered Rovers to a 36-4 victory over London Broncos in the 2015 Championship Shield final only three months after taking charge of his hometown team.
The 50-year-old former Huddersfield Giants boss is thrilled that Rovers have now become the first part-time team to clinch a place in the Qualifiers for a second successive year.
“We are the only part-time team to do it back-to-back which is a fantastic achievement,” he said.
“Leigh and London have also done it and they are both full-time.
“I am absolutely delighted for all our staff and also the supporters. Ever since I’ve walked in the joint the fans have been brilliant .
“It’s important I thank all the staff because we couldn’t have done it without them.
“They put the hours in and some of them don’t even get paid, they are voluntary. I am chuffed to bits for them as well because it’s reward for them.
“I am delighted for the club itself and the development the club has tried off the field with the recruitment of people and trying to bring the club up to Super League standard.
“I am pleased for Mark Campbell (Rovers chairman) who drives the club and brought me in to coach the team.
“Qualifying early helps the club as well in preparations for the big games coming up.”
Last year Featherstone’s partner club Leeds Rhinos allowed Josh Walters, Jordan Baldwinsaon and Luke Briscoe to play for Rovers in the Qualifiers.
Leeds played in the same competition as Rovers last season after finishing in Super League’s bottom four but this time they are chasing the title in the Super 8s.
Sharp doesn’t know whether Leeds will make any players available this year.
“At this stage, I’m not sure. I don’t know what Leeds’ thoughts are or what their injury list is either,” he said.
“It’s very much down to what Leeds decide and how they look with their injuries.”
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