FEATHERSTONE chairman Mark Campbell says there is “a real sense of optimism” at LD Nutrition Stadium ahead of the new season.
He believes Rovers’ new-look squad can make a major impact in the Betfred Championship after finishing fourth in the table for the last two seasons.
“I think it could be our year this year,” said Campbell.
“There’s a really good buzz at Featherstone for 2018.
“It looks a really strong squad with lots of competition for places and then obviously we’ve also got our dual reg arrangement with Leeds. When you look our squad, you think we’ve got a good chance this year.
“When you see the team, the fans and the sponsors, there just feels a real sense of optimism this year. I just can’t wait for the season to start.
“The players will be ready for the season and they we will be a different animal this year. They will definitely be fit.
“I can’t wait until we play Toronto. I am really looking forward to that and I hope we pack the place out. I just want us beat Toronto and to beat Leigh.”
Campbell is delighted with the club’s off-field progress since Davide Longo was appointed general manager just over 12 months ago.
“On the club’s commercial side, it’s the best I have known it in the 10 years I’ve been here,” added Campbell.
“Dav (Davide Longo) has done an amazing job and Ryan (head of communications Ryan Sparks) has backed that up by giving the club more exposure.
“Everything is really buzzing. We have some great partners again this year who we’ve added to from last year. We’ve even got money in the bank.
“It’s taken us a few years to get here but I just feel that as a business we are going where we need to be and that’s a big part of Dav Longo.”
Former Dewsbury, Bradford, Swinton and Keighley player Longo, who was Wakefield Trinity’s general manager for 10 years and later general manager at Leeds Rhinos Foundation before he joined Featherstone, echoed Campbell’s belief that 2018 could be a “special year” for Rovers.
Longo hopes Featherstone’s average home attendances can be increased to around the 3,000 mark with more match-day attractions for fans.
“Some of the stuff we did in 2017 I feel was really beneficial for the club,” said Longo.
“We are ambitious and we are trying hard at Featherstone.
“We’ve got the aspirations of being a Super League club and are certainly acting like that off the field at the moment.”
Longo also feels Rovers are better equipped on the field this season.
“I feel there is possibly seven teams going for the top four spots in the 2018 season and that’s not being disrespectful to clubs like Dewsbury and Batley and Rochdale and Swinton because they are going to be tough challenges as well,” he added.
“We are ready for it this season. I felt last season that although we made the top four we let ourselves down a little bit in the Super 8s Qualifiers but this season, with signings like Tom Holmes, Martyn Ridyard, Scott Wheeldon and Shaun Robinson, these lads are going to add real firepower to the squad.
“The dual registered partnership with Leeds is fantastic and probably one of the best in the game.
“With the players we retained from last season - which is very important and retention is sometimes better than your recruitment - when I look at the squad now I am excited.
“We’ve got a tough start to the season with Halifax and Toulouse our first two home games and a home game against Toronto on Good Friday.
“For me, we have to have a 100 per cent home record and for us to have that we want the fans to come down here and make it a bit of a fortress.
“The players can do what they can do on the field and hopefully that’s win. A winning team will generate a bit more of a fan base.
“The fans need to come down here a get behind the team.
“I feel it’s going to be a special year. There’s something about it this year. I look around and I think we the real deal this year.
“We need the fans to come down in their thousands. We have got a pretty healthy fan base but I believe we can do a little bit more. We probably need an extra 500 to 1,000 home fans.
“We need to get it up to around 3,000 here but I believe we can do that and it’s realistic. It’s a target of ours and it’s something we are going really drive for in 2018. The message to the fans is to bring your friends down here.”
“For me, it’s a cheap sport to come down and watch and it’s a fantastic sport as well. Next season we are going to see a lot more effort put into the matchday experience.”