HUNSLET HAWKS coach Barry Eaton admits their start to the 2015 season, after promotion back into the Championship, is as “tough as it gets.”
The fixtures were revealed last night and Hunslet – having beaten Oldham in the Championship One Grand Final – face an ominous opener at Featherstone Rovers on Sunday February 15.
Their West Yorkshire rivals, of course, reached the Grand Final earlier this month where they fell against Leigh Centurions, but are hoping to reach Super League now promotion and relegation has returned.
“It’s going to be an exciting game to start with,” admitted Eaton. “It’s a local derby – there’s quite a few of those for us next year – and we’re looking forward to it already.
“It’s certainly as tough a start as you can get, away from home at Featherstone, who have just played in the Grand Final this year and will be one of the favourites to be in that mix for top four spots come the end.
“It will be a difficult challenge but a good early test.”
A week later Hunslet host Batley Bulldogs and then Dewsbury Rams as the derbies come thick and fast before heading to the home of three-times World Club Challenge champions Bradford Bulls on Sunday March 8.
Eaton said: “Crikey, who’d have thought this time 12 months ago that Hunslet would now be talking about playing a league fixture against Bradford Bulls?
“That’s going to be a brilliant prospect, too. Obviously Bradford have had their problems with relegation and the like.
“They’ve been through some disruption but they look like they are finally back on their feet now.
“Without doubt, it’ll be the biggest game in the calendar for most Championship teams.”
After Hunslet, Featherstone head to Doncaster before hosting Bradford on March 1 while Dewsbury start with a visit from Sheffield Eagles on February 15 with Glenn Morrison welcoming Bulls – his former club – to Tetley’s Stadium on Easter Monday.
Batley, meanwhile, open their campaign when Workington arrive at Mount Pleasant on February 15
Obviously, the sport is entering a bold new era in 2015 when the dozen Super League clubs and 12 Championship clubs split into the Super 8s after 23 rounds.
Championship clubs play home and away against the other 11, plus one additional fixture (announced next month) in the Summer Bash at Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road over May Bank Holiday weekend. After all 23 rounds, the top four Championship clubs join Super League’s bottom four in a Super 8 pool called the Qualifiers.
The remaining eight Championship clubs will go on to a Super 8 pool called the Championship Shield. After playing each other once, the top three Qualifiers will be awarded Super League status in 2016 with the final promotion spot determined by the Million Pound Game involving team four and five.
The Championship Shield will culminate with the play-off final at the Kingstone Press Championship Finals Day on October 4 while the teams finishing seventh and eighth in the Championship Shield will be relegated to League 1 for 2016.