ON-LOAN FULL-BACK Danny Craven reckons Featherstone Rovers will mount a challenge to the Kingstone Press Championship’s top-four this year.
Rovers finished fifth last term, behind Leigh Centurions, Bradford Bulls, Sheffield Eagles and Halifax but went on to win the Championship Shield.
Craven, who scored two tries in last Sunday’s 32-16 win over Leeds Rhinos, has been brought in for a season from Widnes Vikings as part of a major overhaul of coach Jon Sharp’s squad and is confident about what Rovers can achieve.
“We have got a good enough squad to do well this year,” insisted Craven.
“It is a small squad, but it’s good enough if everyone’s on song.
“If we play like we did at times on Sunday we won’t do very well, but parts of our game were really good.
“A few things were a bit scratchy, but if we iron those out we should do well.”
Rovers led 18-0 early in their final pre-season game, but had to dig deep as Leeds fought back either side of half-time.
“It is hard to stick to a game plan when you are so far ahead, but fair play to Leeds,” said Craven.
“They brought a young side and they had loads of energy.
“They gave it to us at times and we went away from our game-plan a bit.
“We know we can’t do that against Bradford this week, because they are a quality team.
“We have got to stick to what we set out to do and if we do that I don’t think we’ll go far wrong.”
Sunday’s visit to Odsal in the first round of the Championship will show Rovers where they are in comparison with the division’s top sides.
Rovers pulled off a fine win at Bradford under previous coach Andy Hay last summer.
“They are a great club and an historic club as well,” Craven said. “They have a lot of good players, but so have we.
“They are probably one of the favourites to win it, them and Leigh, so if we go out and put a performance in against them it will set us in good stead for the rest of the year.”
Craven, 24, made his debut for Widnes in 2010 and has played on dual-registration for Whitehaven and Workington, as well as having a loan spell with Halifax last year.
Of his new start, he said: “It has been going well. I am coming down twice a week and still doing odd bits at Widnes as well.
“The lads have been great and helped me settle in really well. It was my second game last Sunday and hopefully we’ll get a few more combinations through the season and we’ll go all right.”
The prospect of regular first team rugby tempted Craven to drop down a division. He said: “There’s a lot of competition for places at Widnes at the minute and I was third or fourth in line.
“They thought it would be best for me to go out on loan and get some game-time I needed, rather than playing on dual-reg.
“Obviously I need to work for my place here, which I feel I have done in the two games I’ve played.
“Hopefully I can keep up a bit of form and steer them around in the right direction.
“Sunday was my second game with (stand-off) Kyle Briggs and first with (scrum-half) Anthony Thackeray and the more you play together, the more you know each other.
“Get a few more games under our belt and we’ll go all right.”