New Sheffield Eagles signing Scott Wheeldon believes the club has the infrastructure in place to reach Super League.
Wheeldon penned a three-year contract with the Eagles last week following his departure from Super League.
After winning the Championship in 2012 and 2013, Sheffield continued their rise this year with qualification for the Qualifiers, with the money gained from that achievement allowing them to turn full-time for the first time since the club’s rebirth.
The acquisition of Wheeldon, a man who has never played outside of Super League, is further indication of their improvement, and Wheeldon admitted he had no qualms in joining Mark Aston’s ambitious club.
“The club seems to be going in the right direction,” said Wheeldon.
“They’ve gone full-time for the first time and there’s a new stadium on the way. Over the last few years they’ve been up there with the top Championship teams, so when the offer came up I was more than happy to take it.
“By moving to Sheffield I think I will get plenty of Rugby League and they offered me security with a three-year contract.
“Sheffield came in and were keen to sign me. To give me a three-year deal is a big thing really and shows the trust they are putting into me. I’m looking to repay that trust to the club now. I’m 30 in February and it’s a short career so you’ve got to make the most of it.”
Really looking forward to the challenge at @SheffieldEagles and getting stuck into pre season.
— scott wheeldon (@swheely19) November 9, 2015
Interest in Wheeldon has been rife since Castleford told the former Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers forward that he was free to search for another club. Speaking exclusively to TotalRL.com, Wheeldon revealed that he had interest from both Super League and Championship clubs before signing with the Eagles, with Bradford thought to be keeping tabs on the forward.
“There was a couple of Championship clubs in for me and I’d spoke to various Super League clubs, but there was nothing really on the table in Super League.
“I’d been speaking to Castleford a little bit but I don’t think it was going to work there. Early on in the season I’d been informed that I wasn’t required there and I was free to look for another club.
“It was only really near the end of the season that I was told differently but there was nothing on the table guaranteed. With that in mind and limited game time I thought it was the right decision to move on.”
Dropping out of Super League is considered a scary proposition for professional players, with finances and full-time opportunities much more limited, however Wheeldon believes that the Championship’s prestige is increasing and is keen to get to grips with the second tier.
“The Championship is getting a lot stronger now,” he said.
“Going back five or six years, going into the Championship wouldn’t have been that appetising really, but I think it’s a really strong competition and that was proved last year.
“Sheffield themselves beat Wakefield and got stuck into some of the other clubs. It proves that the Championship is getting better and has some quality players in it. It’s a great competition.”
But despite his admiration for the Championship, he has sights set on a quick return to Super League with Sheffield.
“Ultimately, that is the goal.
“There’s no reason why the club can’t do that. It won’t happen overnight and it might take a period of time, but everything seems to be moving in the right direction, they’re in the mix consistently and they’ve just gone full-time. We just need to keep progressing and eventually we’ll be right up there.”