North Derbyshire Chargers
|Full name||North Derbyshire Chargers RLFC|
|Ground(s)||Barlborough Country Park, Barlborough|
|League(s)||Midlands Rugby League; Yorkshire Junior Amateur Rugby League|
North Derbyshire Chargers RLFC are a rugby league club who play in the Midlands Rugby League at open age and junior level. Shortly after formation a merger was agreed with the Chesterfield Spires club.
History of rugby league in North Derbyshire
Rugby league in the area can be traced back to 1978 when a team bearing the Chesterfield name were involved in the West Yorkshire Sunday League. Due to shortage of players, the team ceased playing at the beginning of 1983. The club also ran an Under 15s team, recently identified via an article in a West Yorkshire newspaper from 1980 indicating that the team lost 110-0 to Upton ARLFC. The last secretary of the club was Patrick (Paddy) Fagan.
Within a year, Shirebrook Rugby League Club had been formed by Paddy Fagan and Mick Meadows. Although this new club had a few players from the old Chesterfield team, the majority of the players were from the Shirebrook area. A new team was also formed at Clowne shortly afterwards. Both Clowne and Shirebrook were stalwarts of winter rugby league on the fringes of the game's heartlands in the 1980s and early 1990s. With the introduction of summer rugby in the mid 1990s, both clubs disappeared, with their players moving to the new summer clubs or to winter clubs in Yorkshire.
In 1997 a new junior club was formed in the town of Eckington on the back of development work by the Sheffield Eagles club. The Eckington Eagles played in the Yorkshire league for a few seasons but after the Eagles merged with Huddersfield and then reformed at a lower level there was no development support and the club folded.
Although for many years there has been a latent interest in the sport around Chesterfield, not the least due to the Sheffield Eagles using the football club's Saltergate home for games in the early 1990s, the town itself was not represented in rugby league circles until 2003, when Chesterfield Spires was formed by a group of three friends in the Welbeck Arms on Soresby Street on July 29, 2003. The first training session was held the week after on Highfield Park with only three players.
The Spires grew steadily in the autumn of 2003 and many players gained rugby league experience with the Worksop Sharks in the 2004 season, including one game where the club provided 6 players for a game. The club itself hit a standstill in the autumn of 2004 and it was feared that the ambitious project was dead. However a series of meetings demonstrated that there was still energy for rugby league in the town and the club began to prepare solid foundations for the future.
By the end of April 2005 the club had signed a deal to play rugby league at Gosforth Fields in Dronfield, and they made their first appearance competitively in the Sheffield 7's tag tournament on May 3, 2005 finishing 3rd in their group with two wins and being beaten 6 - 3 by York in the elimination stage of the competition.
The club played a series of friendlies in 2005, winning their first game against the Sheffield IMBRL side, later to become the Sheffield Forgers. The return fixture was won by Sheffield, and a heavy loss was sustained away at Telford Raiders, but the club was up and running.
In 2006 the club entered the Midlands Merit League, a feeder league to the Rugby League Conference. They ended the season in 7th place, winning two matches. The first competitive victory was against the Telford Trojans on July 29.
In 2007 the club reached agreement with Chesterfield Rugby Union Club to play their games at the Stonegravels ground. The season started slowly but ended with the club in 7th out of 13 in the MML, thus qualifying for the Shield play-offs. This included a first win over the Nottingham Outlaws, arguably the club's best result thus far. In their first knock-out fixture they beat the Barton Bulldogs 40-34 but went out in the semi-final to a strong East Riding team.
Before the 2008 season started, it was decided that the club should merge with the newly formed North Derbyshire Chargers, who were based in the town of Eckington to prevent dilution of resource in the area.
In October 2010 Sam Hull became the first Chargers player to be called up for National honours when he was selected for England Under 18 Community Lions against France.
Restart in Eckington
Also in 2007 interest was reignited at Eckington school, where the original Eckington Eagles had briefly been based. The school, branded as the Eckington Chargers, entered teams into Champion Schools at years 9 and 11 and into Champion Colleges, with the year 9 team winning the Derbyshire Championship.
Enough interest was seen for there to be discussions about starting a club to develop the juniors as rugby league players. With volunteers and some sponsorship on board, the club was launched in January 2008 with proposed teams at under-14, under-16, open age (based on 6th form players) and a women's section.
Before the 2008 season actually started, it was decided that the club should merge with the Chesterfield Spires to make a stronger, regional club. A link was made with the Sheffield Eagles, now firmly back in the business of schools development, and the club began playing matches in March 2008.
The club ran teams at Open Age in the RL Merit League and at under-16 and under-14 in the Midlands Junior League. The under 16 team also played friendlies against teams from Yorkshire, including a curtain raiser against Hillsborough Hawks at the Don Valley Stadium. The under-14 team played a curtain raiser at Belle Vue before the Super League game between Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and Catalans Dragons
The club moved from Chesterfield RUFC to Mount St Mary's College in Spinkhill and joined the newly formed Midlands Rugby League with teams at Open Age, under-16, under-14 and under-12. The club also started working with Frederick Gent School in South Normanton. The Open Age team reached the Grand Final of the Midlands Rugby League, losing 16-26 to the Birmingham Bulldogs.
In 2010, North Derbyshire linked up with Super League side Wakefield Trinity Wildcats. On April 18, 2010 the club won its first silverware when it took the Midlands 9s title, but fell again at the last hurdle when losing 22-24 to Leicester Storm in the Midlands League Grand Final.
In 2012 the Open Age side once again made the Midlands Division 2 (entry league) final, but again failed to take the trophy, losing 10-46 to Hope Valley Hawks. The under 15s squad took the decision to enter the Yorkshire Junior Rugby League and won division 4 at the first attempt. In this season, Lee Sanders became the first player developed by the club to make his professional debut when he appeared for Sheffield Eagles against Carcassone RL. This season also saw a full time move to Barlborough Country Park.
- Midlands 9s: 2010
- Yorkshire JARL U15 Division 4 Champions: 2012
North Derbyshire's junior teams at U13 and below take part in the Midlands Junior League. In 2012, the Under 15s team entered the Yorkshire Junior Amateur Rugby League, playing in Under 15s Division 4.