Challenge Cup: York boss Henderson grateful to Sheffield Eagles ‘mentor’ Aston

Andrew Henderson and Mark Aston
Andrew Henderson (left) thanks Mark Aston for help on his coaching journey
Event: LNER stadium Date: Sunday, April 2 Kick off: 12:30pm BST Coverage: Live on BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, BBC Sport website and app

York head coach Andrew Henderson thanks Sheffield boss Mark Aston for putting him on his coaching path as the two friends go head-to-head in Sunday’s Challenge Cup tie.

Henderson played 130 games for the Eagles, winning two of the three Grand Finals reached under Aston’s tutelage.

His Knights side must now beat his former club to advance to the fifth round.

“It’s always a challenge when you’re up against someone you’ve worked with,” Henderson told BBC Sport.

“He’ll know about me and the way my teams play. I have a lot of respect for him and he’s had an influence on my career and my training. It’s always good to catch up with one of your mentors.”

Having grown up in Australia, being born on the English Riviera in Torquay and playing his rugby league for clubs as varied as Balmain, Castleford, Barrow and Gateshead, Sheffield retains a special place in Henderson’s heart.

Since hanging up his boots and becoming a manager, the former Scotland international has been head coach in London, assistant coach at Warrington and even head of rugby union at Keighley in a totally different, more strategic hat.

His focus now is on York, and turning the potential of a club with top-flight aspirations into a real contender.

He has run into his old friend Aston on numerous occasions, but feels this scenario with the Knights is slightly different.

“It’s a different situation now, in London we were a full-time team with Super League ambitions, whereas now I’m coaching a club part-time, still with Super League ambitions, but at a different stage of the journey,” he added. Henderson. .

“Sheffield is doing the same, trying to build for that dream.”

Aston full of praise for ‘champion’ Henderson

Having been a leader on the pitch and a useful conduit off it while with the Aston team, there is much affection and respect for a man the Eagles manager describes as “an absolute champion”.

Aston always felt that Henderson’s personal skills and attributes suggested he would be a good fit, and he has “no qualms” that he will make York a success in the five years he has been given to deliver the project.

“He was the ultimate professional,” Aston said. “As a player I was lucky to spend a year with him (before retiring) and he was a good coach.

“He took care of himself, he talked and he had the knowledge, when you have that in your locker, and the way he talked to the players and got the players to play, it doesn’t surprise me.”

Eagles hoping to extend the legacy

Aston believe Sheffield continue to reap the benefits of the work Henderson helped implement during his time and the paths set for rugby league in South Yorkshire.

Having had an association with Sheffield for 37 years, winning the Lance Todd Trophy in the 1998 cup victory and having done just about every job, Aston are already entrenched in Eagles history.

That work has been tireless in retaining professional rugby league in Sheffield, and their move to Olympic Legacy Park was an important step forward after a nomadic state following the demolition of the old Don Valley Stadium.

“We’ve had many difficult years, time out of town, but now we’re back in town,” Aston added.

“There’s the development of the youth, men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams, and we have a learning disability team.

“We’ve really worked, not just with the men’s team but also with the foundation, with people like David Butler, Adam Hughes and Andrea Dobson. It’s about the ‘one club’ spirit. We’re all part of Sheffield Eagles.”


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