Thursday, 16 August 2018

Sunday's Coming: But Killer's Going!

A week is a long-time in Rugby League - and what a week this has been. Ahead of this weekend’s clash, both Hornets and Featherstone have been dealing with the challenges of life in an increasingly difficult Championship.

Edged out of the top four by Halifax, Featherstone don’t have a great deal to gain from schlepping round the Championship shield. Along with fast-imploding Leigh, Fev bring a 16 point advantage into this competition and, with only 14 points available over its seven protracted weeks, they face a series of dead rubbers before taking their guaranteed spot in the final. The flaw in the system brutally exposed - though the arse might drop out of Leigh long before the final comes round.

Featherstone come into Sundays game on the back of two results that are eyecatching for different reasons. Two weeks ago they made history when they became the first side to beat Toronto on their own patch - a 16-man Fev squad claiming a 30-12 win over a clearly ‘not-arsed’ Wolfpack preparing for the Super 8 Qualifiers.

In contrast, Rovers struggled to a 26-12 home win over Batley last week - having been locked at 6-all at the break. With Batley ahead on the hour mark, it took a quick-fire triple from Thackeray, Cooper and Maskill to wrench the game away from the Bulldogs.

The win came at a price for Fev, though: Scott Wheeldon with a leg injury in the first minute - and his replacement Sam Brooks removed with a eye socket damage.

Off the field, the failure to reach the top four has sparked some deep introspection at Post Office Road. This week Rovers’ General manager Davide Longo was in the spotlight as he offered answers to questions on the club’s intentions and viability going forward - given that the club had invested heavily in personnel yet  - in the words of his coach John Duffy - “…  not achieved what we wanted to achieve…”

On finishing 5th in a four-horse race, Longo said: “Featherstone Rovers will experience a potential 55% cut in central distribution funding, therefore immediate action is required in order to remain sustainable.”

In an extensive interview on the club’s website, he admits that Feathewrstone “… rolled the dice…” on making the top four, but maintains: “This was a calculated risk from a club who wanted to push on after securing our status as the country’s best part-time club last season, but as is necessary in sport, we had a plan for if this did not materialise as expected.”

“We are now executing that plan, by reducing the deficit and cutting where we need to cut.”

In terms of where those cuts will fall, he said: “It is imperative that we reduce the playing budget, but we are in the process of a thorough recruitment operation” and: “We are in communication with the coaching staff over the current situation. There will be a need to reduce the number of coaching staff in our setup for next season, but we are consulting with them to come to a solution.”

Click here for the full interview.


Hornets fans were rocked this week by the bombshell news that Alan Kilshaw will leave at the end of the season. In a club release this week he said: “I believe I have taken the club as far as I possibly can under the increased restrictions.”

In what has been a challenging season beset by financial concerns, budget disparity and a relentless injury list, Hornets have stuggled hard against what Killer says are: “… a unique set of circumstances out of the control of the playing and coaching staff which has impacted and halted the progression we had made in 2016 and 2017.”

Having delivered Hornets’ first League Title win of any kind for almost a century in the odds-busting win in Toulouse in 2016, Killer went on to defy the odds again last year, keeping Hornets in the Championship. But this year has seen the squad and the club stretched to breaking point in its battle for Championship survival

“I count myself incredibly lucky to have coached such a historic and traditional rugby league club and thank each and every player and member of support staff who I have worked with during my time here.”

He went on: “Finally I would like to thank the supporters and members of this club who have stood by me and the players and have backed us week after week during my tenure. Keep turning up and backing whoever comes in next because a club is only as good as its members.”

With six games to go, there’s still the opportunity for Hornets - and Killer - to go out with a bang. There remains a chance that Sheffield could blow-up and, with nothing to lose, Hornets could spring a shock or two.

Given Alan Kilshaw’s ability to upset the bookies, whilst there’s still even the slimmest of chances, we wouldn’t write the season off just yet.

See you Sunday.