Home form will be the key, says Powell

COACH Daryl Powell is hoping to use the opening fixture of next year's Co-operative Championship season as the perfect platform to create a formidable home record at Featherstone Rovers.

Fev were let down by their efforts at Post Office Road last term – their brilliant away record responsible for sealing a play-off place.

But this year Powell wants to see that transformed, his side set to open the Championship season with a hosting of local rivals Batley Bulldogs on Sunday, February 28.

Rovers then visit Barrow Raiders and Dewsbury Rams before two further home clashes against Whitehaven and Halifax and Powell is targeting a flying home start against Batley.

"That's one of the challenges for us this year as last year we were exceptionally good away from home," said Powell.

"We've got to look to maintain that consistency on the road but we need to be playing like that at home as well.

"This gives us the opportunity to start off straight away with that.

"With the fixtures, everybody has got to play everybody at some stage, but there is also the Northern Rail Cup which we go straight into first – we took that very seriously last year and we will be taking it very seriously this year.

"Last year, we got to two semi-finals and obviously this year I would like us to take the next step. I don't see why not."

Rovers are drawn in Pool B for the Northern Rail Cup alongside London Skolars, York Knights, Sheffield Eagles, Leigh Centurions, Oldham, Rochdale Hornets, Halifax, Hunslet Hawks and Dewsbury Rams.

Pool A consists of Barrow Raiders, Batley Bulldogs, Blackpool Panthers, Doncaster RLFC, Keighley Cougars, Swinton Lions, Whitehaven, Widnes Vikings, Workington Town and Gateshead Thunder.

Fev's opening Northern Rail fixture comes at Hunslet Hawks on Sunday, January 31 with ties against Sheffield Eagles at home, Leigh Centurions away and Rochdale Hornets at home, all preceding their opening league game against Batley.

Meanwhile, Batley coach Karl Harrison admits his side could hardly have been handed a tougher start to their league campaign – hosting Halifax on a Thursday night fixture live on Sky – 11 days after their season opener at Featherstone.

But Harrison is refusing to panic, stressing his side start with a clean slate in 2010.

"Featherstone away is a tough game, Daryl has recruited quite heavily in the off season and Halifax are beaten Grand Finalists last season," said Harrison.

"They are two teams who are going to be there or thereabouts at the end of the season but it's a fresh start this season and we're quietly confident.

"We've had a really good off-season and we're pleased with what we've done so far.

"Halifax will be strong, Barrow will be strong but it's like last season and the Championship is so tough.

"Widnes will be strong and Leigh too and if you are not on your game, or you have injuries or you are unprepared, you are going to get beat.

"It's a tough league."

Batley's opening four Northern Rail Cup games start at Whitehaven on January 31 followed by Widnes Vikings at home, Swinton Lions at home and finally Gateshead Thunder away.

Elsewhere, Dewsbury Rams are heading to France come the first weekend of the league season after being handed an away clash at Toulouse Olympique to get cracking.

However, coach Warren Jowitt feels his men have been handed a significant boost being asked to visit their Gallic counterparts even before the arrival of Spring.

"I'll be quite pleased to get that one out of the way to be honest as we are playing them at a time of year when it's not scorching," said Jowitt.

"Hopefully, that should go in our favour.

"It's a lot hotter there in the summer and they are used to that weather, whereas our players are not, so playing them when we are is probably a bonus really.

"Don't get me wrong, they are a good side, they have recruited well and we know they have recruited a few players from the Catalan Dragons but hopefully we can go there and take the spoils.

"Things are going well for us and we've just come back off our pre-season Army camp.

"It's all part of the team building and get together – it was a bit gruelling – but it worked well for us last year and hopefully, it will work well for us this year."

In the Northern Rail, Rams kick-off at home to London Skolars, before trips to Halifax and Rochdale Hornets followed by a home clash with Leigh Centurions.

In Championship One, Hunslet Hawks start with a hosting of Gateshead Thunder before a trip to Oldham two weeks later.

Hunslet's opening four Northern Rail games are Featherstone at home, London Skolars away, Oldham at home and Halifax away.


Featherstone Rovers

January: 31 – Hunslet Hawks (A) (NRC).

February: 7 – Sheffield Eagles (H) (NRC); 14 – Leigh Centurions (A) (NRC); 21 – Rochdale Hornets (H) (NRC); 28 – Batley Bulldogs (H).

March: 14 – Dewsbury Rams (A); 20 – Barrow Raiders (A); 28 – Whitehaven (H).

April: 2 – Halifax RLFC (H) (7.30); 11 – Sheffield Eagles (A); 22 – Toulouse Olympique XIII (H) (7.30 Sky); 30 – Widnes Vikings (A) (8pm – Date TBC)#

May: 9 – Leigh Centurions (A); 16 – Keighley Cougars (H); 22 – Toulouse Olympique XIII (A) (7.00); 30 – Dewsbury Rams (H).

June: 13 – Halifax RLFC (A); 27 – Widnes Vikings (H).

July: 4 – Keighley Cougars (A); 11 – Leigh Centurions (H); 25 – Whitehaven (A).

August: 1 – Sheffield Eagles (H); 8 – Batley Bulldogs (A); 22 – Barrow Raiders (H).

Dewsbury Rams

January: 31 – London Skolars (H) (NRC).

February: 7 – Halifax RLFC (A) (NRC); 14 – Rochdale Hornets (A) (NRC); 21 – Leigh Centurions (H) (NRC); 27 – Toulouse Olympique (A) (7.00).

March: 14 – Featherstone Rovers (H); 21 – Sheffield Eagles (A); 28 – Widnes Vikings (H).

April: 2 – Batley Bulldogs (A) (6.30); 5 – Keighley Cougars (H); 11 – Whitehaven (H); 24 – Barrow Raiders (A) (6.30); 29 – Leigh Centurions (H) (7.30 Sky).

May: 9 – Halifax RLFC (A); 20 – Sheffield Eagles (H) (7.30 Sky); 30 – Featherstone Rovers (A).

June: 13 – Keighley Cougars (A); 27 – Halifax RLFC (H).

July: 4 – Toulouse Olympique XIII (H) (KO TBC).

11 – Widnes Vikings (A); 25 – Batley Bulldogs (H).

August: 1 – Leigh Centurions (A); 8 – Whitehaven (A); 15 – Barrow Raiders (H).

Batley Bulldogs

January: 31 – Whitehaven (A) (NRC).

February: 7 – Widnes Vikings (H) (NRC); 14 – Swinton Lions (H) (2.00).

NRC); 21 – Gateshead Thunder (A) (NRC); 28 – Featherstone Rovers (A).

March: 11 – Halifax RLFC (H) (7.30 Sky); 25 – Keighley Cougars (A) (7.30 Sky).

April: 2 – Dewsbury Rams (H) (6.30); 5 – Leigh Centurions (A) (7.00); 10 – Barrow Raiders (A) (6.30); 25 – Widnes Vikings (H).

May: 1 – Toulouse Olympique XIII (A) (7.00);

9 – Sheffield Eagles (A); 16 – Whitehaven (H)

23 – Widnes Vikings (A); 29 – Toulouse Olympique XIII (H) (6.00).

June: 13 – Leigh Centurions (H).

July: 4 – Sheffield Eagles (H); 11 – Barrow Raiders (H); 25 – Dewsbury Rams (A).

August: 1 – Keighley Cougars (H); 8 – Featherstone Rovers (H); 15 – Halifax RLFC (A); 22 – Whitehaven (A).

Hunslet Hawks

January: 31 – Featherstone Rovers (H) (NRC);

February: 7 – London Skolars (A) (2.00) (NRC);

14 – Oldham (H) (NRC); 21 – Halifax RLFC (A) (NRC); 28 – Gateshead Thunder (H).

March: 14 – Oldham (A); 28 – Rochdale Hornets (H).

April: 2 – Doncaster RLFC (H); 5 – South Wales RLFC (A) (2.00); 11 – Swinton Lions (H); 25 London Skolars (A) (2.00).

May: 3 – Workington Town (A); 9 – Blackpool (H); 16 – York City Knights (A); 23 – Oldham (H); 30 – Doncaster RLFC (A).

June: 13 – Rochdale Hornets (A); 27 – London Skolars (H).

July: 4 – Swinton Lions (A); 11 – York City Knights (H); 25 – Gateshead Thunder (A).

August: 8 – Workington Town (H); 14 – Blackpool Panthers (A); 22 – South Wales RLFC (H).

All matches kick off at 3pm unless stated.

NRC – Northern Rail Cup.

Sky – Selected for Sky TV coverage.

Fixtures subject to further Sky selections.

THESE fixtures are the copyright of the Rugby Football League, Regd. Office Red Hall, Red Hall Lane, Leeds, LS17 8NB, and must not be reproduced in whole or in part except by written consent of The Rugby Football League.

Mark Campbell

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