Sheffield Eagles

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Sheffield Eagles
SheffieldEagles.png
Eagle
Club information
Full name Sheffield Eagles Rugby Football Club
Short name Sheffield
Website sheffieldeagles.com
Colours Sheffeagles colours.svg
Founded 1984
Departed 1999 (merged with Huddersfield Giants)
Readmitted 1999
details
Ground(s)
Coach(s) Mark Aston
Captain(s) Mitch Stringer
Competition Kingstone Press Championship
2013 RFL Championship 2nd
Records
Challenge Cups 1 (1998)
Second Division 1 (1991–92)
Championship 2 (2012, 2013)
Most capped 389 - Mark Aston
Most points 2142 - Mark Aston

Sheffield Eagles are a rugby league club in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England who currently play in the Championship.

History[edit]

Foundation[edit]

In 1982, Huddersfield captain and Chairman of the Players' Union, Gary Hetherington missed out on a coaching job at York. He decided to form his own club in Sheffield. The original plan to enter the Second Division in 1983–84 fell apart when Sheffield United pulled back from their promise to let the new team play its home games at Bramall Lane.

The club eventually joined the Second Division in 1984 and played at the Owlerton Stadium. A competition was run in the Sheffield Star newspaper to find a name for the new club and "Sheffield Eagles" was the winner. The first Eagles league game was on 2 September 1984 when they beat Rochdale Hornets 29–10. The match took place the day after the club's sponsor went bust. Hetherington was both manager and player in the first season, building the team using experienced players from traditional areas. He also began signing up promising young players, one of whom was Mark Aston, later to be a critical part of the Eagles' survival as a club.

By November the club was close to folding because of financial problems. Sheffield beat Wakefield Trinity to set up a John Player Special Trophy first round tie against Leeds. This lucrative game generated enough cash to see out the season.

Progress[edit]

On the field the club progressed steadily, improving their league position until in 1988/89 they finished third in the league table and made it to the Second Division Premiership final at Old Trafford. In the final they outplayed Swinton, beating them by 43–18 and gaining promotion to the top flight of rugby league. Sheffield's record attendance at Owlerton was set at 3,636 for a third round Challenge Cup game against Oldham in 1989.

In the wake of the Hillsborough disaster, stadium safety became an issue in British sport and Owlerton was declared unfit to stage professional rugby league. Eagles were forced to play their home games at seven different venues including Hillsborough Stadium, Bramall Lane, Recreation Ground, Oakwell Stadium and Belle Vue. They survived one season in the top flight but were then relegated. This was a temporary decline as they immediately regained their place in the First Division, winning the Second Division title and Premiership. The Eagles slowly established themselves as a top flight club.

Don Valley Stadium became home for the club in September 1990, it had been built for the 1991 World Student Games held in Sheffield. In May 1991, Eagles sign their first local recruit, Jason Davidson. In 1992 they reached the Yorkshire Cup final, losing to Wakefield Trinity.

Bill Gardner became coach in July 1993 season replacing Gary Hetherington who stood down from his coaching role. [1] In December following a run of five defeats, he was sacked and Gary Hetherington took over as coach again. [2]

Sheffield was included on the schedule for a game against the Kangaroos during their 1994 Kangaroo Tour and were hammered 80–2 in the first game following the first test match at Wembley.

In March 1995, Sheffield pulled out of a proposed merger with Doncaster following a "breach of confidentialty", Sheffield were then set to take-over Doncaster in a deal with administrators, which fell through after the RFL declared Doncaster players to be free agents.

When a Rupert Murdoch-funded Super League competition was first proposed, part of the deal was that some traditional clubs would merge. Sheffield were again down to merge with Doncaster to form a South Yorkshire club that would compete in Super League. This, along with other proposed mergers, were strongly opposed by supporters and never materialised. As Sheffield Eagles the club became a founder member of Super League in 1996 and took part in the first game of the European Super League era against Paris Saint-Germain.

In November 1996, chief executive Gary Hetherington sold his controlling interest in Sheffield Eagles to take over Leeds. Phil Larder became head coach, Paul Thompson, Chairman of Sanderson Electronics, became the majority shareholder and Eagles plc became the first rugby league club to be floated on the Stock Exchange.

John Kear took over the coaching reigns at Sheffield Eagles in 1997, taking them to the Premiership Semi-final in that year. The club's record attendance was set in August 1997 when 10,603 spectators saw Sheffield play Bradford Bulls.

Wembley 1998[edit]

2 May 1998 is the greatest day in the history of the Sheffield Eagles. Having beaten Leigh, Egremont, Castleford and Salford the Eagles faced Wigan at Wembley Stadium in the final of the Rugby League Challenge Cup. Wigan were overwhelming favourites with a side containing some of the best players of the modern era, including Andy Farrell, Jason Robinson and Henry Paul. Sheffield coach John Kear devised a game plan that was executed perfectly by the team on the day. Star of the show was scrum half Mark Aston, who won the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match. The Eagles led from start to finish, running out 17–8 winners in one of the biggest upsets in the history of the competition.

Merger[edit]

Just as the club seemed to be on the verge of its greatest period, following the win in the cup final, things began to go wrong. The expected increase in attendances did not happen and the team did not perform well, finishing close to the relegation zone only one year after the Wembley triumph. Finances plummeted and with little outside help it became apparent that the Eagles were not viable in their current state. Just a year after performing the greatest upset in Challenge Cup history, the Eagles announced that they were to fold at the end of the season should no investors come on board to save the club.

In late 1999 the Rugby Football League wanted to lower the number of clubs in Super League. One of the measures they put in place was the option for two clubs to merge for the sum of £1,000,000. Fearing this was the only way to keep rugby league alive in Sheffield, the club accepted an offer from the RFL to merge with another struggling team, the Huddersfield Giants, making a new team Huddersfield/Sheffield Giants, who were scheduled to play games in both Sheffield and Huddersfield in Super League V. The Huddersfield / Sheffield side's away strip was in the Sheffield Eagles colours. The merged Huddersfield/Sheffield team did not last the season before reverting to the Huddersfield name. The main reason for this was the lack of acceptance of the new venture by both sets of supporters[citation needed], but in particular in Sheffield[citation needed], where the two games played at Bramall Lane attracted pitiful attendances[citation needed] . The merger between Huddersfield and Sheffield is generally regarded as one of the biggest and most embarrassing farces in the history of British rugby league and the team recorded only four wins all season, three of them against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats[who?][citation needed] . Some fans still blame Huddersfield for the demise of the Sheffield Eagles, who were a very popular club at the time, and their rivals often taunt Huddersfield with the 'Shuddersfield' name.

Between the end of the Super League season and the start of the next semi-professional season (only 3 months) legendary player Mark Aston reformed the Eagles from scratch with the support of the Super League clubs[citation needed] and Barrow and entered the Northern Ford Premiership taking Bramley's vacated place.

Rebirth[edit]

Sheffield-eagles.gif

From 1999 to the present the Eagles have played in the semi-professional leagues, first the Northern Ford Premiership and then the second division of the LHF Healthplan National League. Mark Aston assumed the role of player manager, continuing on the field until 2004, when he officially retired from playing. After the 2004 season Mark replaced his father Brian as chief executive, bringing in a new head coach in Gary Wilkinson at the end of the following year. As soon as the new club was reformed, it vowed to never overstretch its finances to achieve success. This made life difficult as the Eagles were denied the money received by other clubs in the NFP for TV rights as part of the deal that allowed them to re-enter the professional leagues.

2003 brought two club records; Sheffield suffered their record defeat on 2 February 2003 0–88 to Hull. However on 3 August 2003, London Skolars were the victims as Sheffield Eagles won 98–4, a record victory. In 2003 the team finished top of National League Two and reached the Grand Final, agonisingly losing 13–11 to the Keighley Cougars. Victory would have sent the Eagles into National League One, but this was not to be and a second play-off against the Batley Bulldogs ended in failure for the demoralised squad.

Until 2006 the team struggled to match this effort, with key players retiring or being signed by bigger clubs – young players Mitchell Stringer and Andy Raleigh went on to sign for Super League clubs. At the start of the 2006 season Gary Wilkinson was brought in as coach and the team finished in second place, qualifying for the play-offs for the right to join champions Dewsbury Rams in National League One. On 22 September 2006 they beat the Crusaders at the Don Valley Stadium to qualify for the Grand Final for a second time. In the Grand Final on 8 October they beat Swinton Lions 35–10 to be promoted to National League One. To the surprise of many Wilkinson resigned as head coach on 15 October 2006, citing personal reasons. National League One was seen as a springboard to a potential return to Super League, although this would be dependent on the RFL's continuation of the franchising or licensing system. As Sheffield Eagles' chairman Ian Swire, remarked, after the 2006 Grand Final victory, "We showed on Sunday that we can compete, and that in the near- to not-too-distant future we will get back into Super League".

Mark Aston returned as coach in 2007. The 2007 season started slowly for the promoted team but ended with the Eagles defying the bookmakers, who had them as favourites for relegation, by finishing 6th in the league table and qualifying for the play-offs, where they lost a close game to Halifax.

In 2008 the Eagles consolidated their position in National League 1, although they missed the play-offs by one place. Both Jack Howieson (Scotland) and Ged Corcoran (Ireland) represented their countries at the 2008 Rugby League World Cup.

In 2009 National League 1 was renamed the Co-operative Championship. The 2009 season started unevenly with incoming International players delayed by visa problems. However, the Eagles rallied to progress to the 5th round of the Challenge Cup and produced consistent performances, gaining at least a losing bonus point from all their League games. Despite a number of long-term injuries, the team finished 3rd only narrowly missing out on 2nd place; their highest finish since the re-launch, and they again qualified for the play-offs. In the play-offs they were expected to easily beat Featherstone Rovers in the first match at Don Valley Stadium. However Rovers surprised many by winning, ending Sheffield's season at the first play-off hurdle.

On 16 October 2009, the Eagles announced they would be moving their home games from the start of the 2010 season to Bramall Lane, home of Sheffield United in a bid to increase attendances and atmosphere at games which now take place on Sunday afternoons. The Eagles moved to Bramall Lane on 11 April 2010, losing by 40–16 to Featherstone Rovers. The attendance of 2,871 was 3 times the average the Eagles achieved at Don Valley Stadium and the club hope to push on from there to achieve a Super League licence. The 2010 season saw the club finish in 6th place, making the play-offs and surprising both Leigh Centurions and Barrow Raiders with away victories before falling to eventual champions Halifax RLFC.

The 2012 season was the Eagles most successful to date, reaching the semi finals of the Northern Rail Cup for the first time and beating Featherstone Rovers 20–16 in the Grand Final to become Championship Champions. The final was a re-match of the 2011 fixture which was the Eagles 1st ever appearance at the final but were beaten soundly on that occasion 40–4. The Eagles defeated Batley, Halifax and Leigh to reach the Grand Final with Scott Turner, Misi Taulapapa, Quentin Laulu-Togagae and Dane McDonald all scoring for the Eagles to bring the trophy back to Sheffield.

The Eagles played 3 home games at Bramall Lane in 2012 with the rest taking place at Don Valley including a crowd on 1,895 watching the opening league game against Swinton at Don Valley, the Eagles' highest crowd there since the Super League era.

2013 season[edit]

The 2013 season was equally if not more successful that the previous season, reaching the final of the Northern Rail Cup for the first time, losing to Leigh Centurions at the Shay, but more importantly becoming the first side to win back to back Championship Grand Finals by beating Batley Bulldogs 19–12 at Leigh Sports Village to retain the Championship title.

Coaching roster[edit]

2014 squad[edit]

* Announced on 7 February 2014:


Sheffield Eagles 2014 Squad
First team squad Coaching staff

Head coach

Assistant coaches


Legend:
  • (c) Captain
  • (vc) Vice captain

Updated: 7 February 2013
Source(s): 2014 Squad Numbers


2015 transfers[edit]

Gains

Player Club Contract length Date
England
England

Losses

Player Club Contract length Date
England Liam Higgins Retire N/A January 2014
England Lee Sanders Retire – Temporarily 2 Years January 2014
England Will Hope Salford Red Devils Loan Return August 2014
England Jon Ford Salford Red Devils Loan Return
England Gareth Owen Salford Red Devils Loan Return

Honours[edit]

Players earning international caps while at Sheffield Eagles[edit]

Other notable players[edit]

These players have either; received a Testimonial match, are "Hall of Fame" inductees, played during Sheffield Eagles' four Super League seasons, or were international representatives before, or after, their time at Sheffield Eagles.

Records[edit]

Player records[edit]

Team records[edit]

  • Highest score for: 112–6 vs Leigh East 7 April 2013
  • Highest score against: 0–88 vs Hull, 2 February 2003
  • Highest attendance: 10,603 vs Bradford Bulls, 16 August 1997

References[edit]

External links[edit]