Richard Agar has been giving his own verdict on who he feels may earn promotion to Super League in the 2022 Championship season.
Having been a Super League head coach with Hull FC, Wakefield Trinity and now Leeds Rhinos, Agar has not had the experience of coaching in the second tier, but believes that Featherstone Rovers have the man at the helm and the structures in place to make it into the big time.
In advance of Sunday’s clash against Featherstone at the Millennium Stadium, Rhinos’ head coach Richard Agar spoke with Rovers.
“It’s a vital part of our preparations, we have some new players and combinations in the squad so we’re keen to try and develop and move those combinations forward.
“We’ve factored it in as part of our physical preparations so in terms of how we’ve constructed our week, we know which guys are going to get some game time, and in terms of where we are at the moment as a team, we’re ticking along nicely but until you play some real, live rugby league, the benefits you get from it are completely different.
“It’s always been a tough, physical challenge at Featherstone, they have a new coach and it’s the Featherstone players’ first outing in front of Brian and they’ll be looking to impress so it’ll be a really competitive and useful fixture”.
The game will be the latest in a long line of pre-season fixtures between the two sides who recently announced a continuation of their dual registration agreement, speaking of the relationship between the two clubs, Agar commented: “It’s been a strong relationship, probably back to the time when Brian was coaching Leeds, dual registration has been good for us, it’s not to everyone’s taste but it falls within the rules at the moment and you’d always want to make the best of the situation and rules that are in place.
“The relationship between both clubs has been beneficial, we’ve got a really good working relationship and a good, mutual understanding of how we want the process to work.
“I’ve been over the moon during my time at the club with how our (Leeds) players have approached it, off the top of my head, players like Alex Sutcliffe, Callum McLennan, Ash Golding have really used the relationship to really develop and build their careers when the pathway at Leeds hasn’t been as clear as they might have liked it to be.
“At the same time, James Harrison came the other way a couple of years ago and really raised his game as a result, so we’ve been really happy with the way the relationship has gone”.
With so much investment having gone into the club in recent years both on and off the field, Featherstone are strongly tipped to make it third time lucky in 2022 and to make the step up to Super League.
Asked about his own expectations of Featherstone and how he things they will fare, Agar answered: “I’m biased, unashamedly biased, I think for a club that’s been outside the top echelons of the game, and particularly since Mark (Campbell) has been in charge, the club has aspired to be the best version of Featherstone Rovers that they can be.
“Obviously, they’ve made huge improvements to the ground, they’ve looked to make it a successful day to day business, to put a competitive team on the park, they (Featherstone) played some fantastic football last year and in the current set of market circumstance, I don’t think they could have equipped themselves any better.
“They’ve recruited one of the most experienced and successful coaches of the Super League era, he really knows how to get a team over the line. There’s a lot of positivity and I would certainly be excited and optimistic as a Featherstone fan this year.”