Featherstone Rovers coach Jon Sharp wants his players to embrace the big-game atmosphere expected at the Big Fellas Stadium tomorrow afternoon – and has also called on the club’s fans to recreate the feel of their big Challenge Cup upset in 2012.
Four years ago, Rovers headed into a Challenge Cup tie against Castleford huge underdogs, but pulled off a 23-16 victory before running Wigan mightily close in the following round.
Both of those ties saw ferocious atmospheres at Fev’s ground, and Sharp said he would love to see the “tribal” feel recreated again this Saturday as they welcome Super League champions Leeds for the opening round of the Qualifiers.
“I went to the Castleford and the Wigan games a few years ago as a referees assessor and there was a tribal feel to the whole place back then,” he said.
“It needs to be the same again this week; the fans need to get behind the team – but they will. It needs to be tribal, hostile without not respecting one another. Let’s make this a good old-fashioned sporting occasion and give it a big cup tie feel.”
Sharp also wants his players to not be distracted by the occasion itself – nor the television cameras, with the game the first Qualifiers match on Sky this year.
“It’s a big occasion,” Sharp admitted.
“The players need to embrace it and not be afraid of it; it’s a challenge of pitting your wits against great players and the thing for us is that we don’t get too embroiled in that. We’ve treat every game like cup football for the last few weeks and this is the start of something new.
“We don’t want to be too distracted about the Sky cameras or who we’re playing, this is our job at the end of the day and we’ve got to perform.”
And Sharp admitted that after a testing few weeks for the players – which saw them beat Batley, Halifax and Bradford in the final three rounds of the season to claim a top four place – they are refreshed and raring to go in the battle for promotion to Super League.
“There’s a spring in the step of the players.
“There’s lads in the gym getting ready and there’s a spring in the step of the coaching staff too because we’re looking forward to facing a great team. It’s been nice to have a weekend off and freshen up because the emotion of the last few weeks can take its toll.”