Coach Jon Sharp believes Featherstone’s six pre-season games will be ideal preparation for the tough opening Kingstone Press Championship fixture at Bradford Bulls on February 7.
Rovers have warm-up matches against Super League clubs Castleford Tigers (December 27), Wakefield Wildcats (January 10), Salford Red Devils (January 17) and Leeds Rhinos (January 31) and against amateurs Featherstone Lions (January 3) and National One Hunslet Hawks (January 24).
“I think it’s really important we challenge ourselves against Super League opposition. It gives us a benchmark for where we are at and the standard we need to try to get to,” said Sharp.
“It’s important we get really tough hit outs and it gets us ready and battled hardened for the start of the season and a really important opening game at Bradford.
“Of the six games announced, there will be one where solely reserve grade will play and others where there will be a mixture of squad players and reserves.
“And then there will be a couple of games when we’ll probably pick our strongest team.
“We’ll move things around a little bit and give everyone within the squad an opportunity to start a game.”
Sharp believes “the bar has been raised” for next season’s Championship campaign.
“There’s going to be some challenges,” he said.
“There’s obviously the top four from last season who have stayed in the Championship and you’ve got to add London to them who I think will be better this time.
“I think it will be a six or seven horse race for the top-four which is good for the competition and good for the spectators.
“Obviously, the funding the clubs received for finishing in the top four last season will make them stronger and Sheffield going full time will give them an added edge.
“London have recruited really well and they have got a couple of our former players in there which will certainly improve them.
“It’s going to be a tough one next season.
“Leigh would have been hard to beat anyway and then they go and recruit some top-notch Super League players like Rangi Chase. It’s a good example of how hard everyone is trying to push to improve.”
Featherstone finished last season on a high note by trouncing London Broncos 36-4 in the Championship Shield final at Widnes. It was their eighth win in nine matches.
“The end of the season just came too soon for everyone at Featherstone,” said Sharp.
“The concensus of opinion was that they felt fresh and happy and invigorated and wanted to continue playing and were disappointed that the season came to an end.
“The way the season ended was superb for us all and that has given us added impetus going into the off season.”
Sharp was delighted with the way young players such at Kyran Johnson, Jack Ormondroyd, Sam Day, Jack Coventry, Luke Cooper and Bradley Knowles-Tagg took their first-team opportunites towards the end of last season.
He said: “I’m really pleased we’ve got some young talent that has come through and proved themselves at the back end of last season.
“It gives me a bit more confidence in them. Otherwise, they would have just been unknowns to me and names but now having worked with them for 10 weeks at the end of the season it gives me more confidence to use them as and when.
“There’s some excellent young talent there that I’m sure will stand Featherstone in good stead over the next 10 years.”
Meanwhile, former Nottingham Forest, Leeds United and Everton striker Duncan McKenzie will be the special guest at the Rovers Christmas lunch in the clubhouse on Friday, December 18 (1pm).
Standard tickets for the lunch cost £25 and there are also 40 VIP places available at £35 per person.
There are tables of eight and 10 available but bookings will be accepted of any denomination.
For more information or to book a place call 01977 702386 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Latest £500 Rovers lottery winners are S Metcalf (R2870), G Downes (S2228), P Hunter (Y0384), C Sowrey (S1482, A Mellor (Y3501). £5 consolation prizes: P Rayner, J Birkitt.