Sheffield Eagles

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Sheffield Eagles
SheffieldEagles.png
Club information
Full name Sheffield Eagles Rugby Football League Club
Nickname(s) Sheff
The Eagles
Website sheffieldeagles.com
Colours Sheffeagles colours.svg
Founded 1984
Current details
Ground(s)
Coach Mark Aston
Manager Liam Claffey
Captain Matt James
Competition Championship
2016 7th
Rugby football current event.png Current season
Uniforms
Home colours
Away colours
Records
Championship 2 (2012, 2013)
Challenge Cup 1 (1998)
Most capped 389 - Mark Aston
Highest points scorer 2142 - Mark Aston

Sheffield Eagles R.L.F.C. are a professional rugby league club from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, who currently play at Belle Vue in Wakefield. They play in the Kingstone Press Championship.[1] The club was formed in 1984 and formerly competed in Super League and won the Challenge Cup in 1998.

History[edit]

1982-1984: Foundation of first club[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.

1985–1998: Progress and Challenge Cup win[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.[2] In December following a run of five defeats, he was sacked and Gary Hetherington took over as coach again.[3]

Sheffield was included on the schedule for a game against the Kangaroos during their 1994 Kangaroo Tour and were defeated, 80–2, in the first game following the first test match at Wembley. This was the highest score by a Kangaroo touring team in England since they had defeated Bramley, 92–7, on the 1921–22 Kangaroo tour.[4] The Kangaroos ran in 14 tries to nil at Don Valley Stadium.

In March 1995, Sheffield pulled out of a proposed merger with Doncaster following a "breach of confidentiality"; 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 reins 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.

On 2 May 1998, 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.

Huddersfield–Sheffield Giants[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. An immediately resurrected Sheffield Eagles would continue in the lower leagues.

2000–2005: 'New' Sheffield Eagles[edit]

The merger with Huddersfield was not accepted by Sheffield supporters[citation needed], and so former player Mark Aston formed a new Eagles phoenix club, earning a place in the Northern Ford Premiership for the 2000 season, taking Bramley's vacated place.

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.

2006–2008: Promotion[edit]

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.

2009–2012: Move to Bramall Lane[edit]

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.

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–present: Post Don Valley[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 at the Shay, but more importantly becoming the first side to win back to back Championship Grand Finals by beating Batley 19–12 at Leigh Sports Village to retain the Championship title.

The Eagles moved back to Owlerton Stadium for the 2014 season as the Don Valley Stadium was scheduled for demolition. The Eagles planned to were play at the new Sheffield Hallam University facility at Bawtry Road but unfortunately this was not possible and Owlerton Stadium stepped in at the last minute. Sheffield Eagles announced that they would leave Owlerton for the 2015 season due to new Rugby Football League ground regulations and played the season in nearby Doncaster at the Keepmoat Stadium, home of Doncaster.

In 2016 it was announced the Eagles would play at Sheffield Hallam University's Sports Park. The first league game played by the professional team there was against Halifax and they won 26–6.

In 2017, the club agreed a one-year ground share with Wakefield Trinity at Belle Vue. The club also returned to being a semi-professional outfit.

Colours and badge[edit]

Colours[edit]

The club adopted the colours of the original Sheffield Eagles, playing in red, yellow and white. The club's shirts have been predominantly red with either a yellow or white V across the front. Away shirts vary in colour with some being black or white. The 2016 away shirt is white with blue horizontal stripes.

Badge[edit]

Sheffield-eagles.gif

The original club's badge was an Eagles head inside a crest with The Eagles across the top and Sheffield Eagles in italics across the bottom. The inside of the crest was yellow with a red border. The new club chose to use a different more updated crest to replace the old dated one. The new more modern crest features an eagle carrying a rugby ball within a circle with Sheffield Eagles around it.

Stadiums[edit]

Sheffield originally played at Don Valley Stadium. In a bid to increase attendances, the Eagles left Don Valley in 2010 and moved to Bramall Lane where attendances rose to three times more than what they were at Don Valley. The Eagles returned to Don Valley midway through 2011 and stayed there until 2013. Don Valley was demolished in 2014.

After being left homeless the club moved to the city's greyhound track, Owlerton Stadium in Hillsborough where they had previously played games between 1984-1989. The club experienced a dip in form at Owlerton, with there being temporary changing rooms and poor facilities.

The club moved out of Sheffield for the first time in 2015 when they made the temporary switch to Doncaster. Here they ground shared with Doncaster Rovers and local rivals Doncaster who were currently playing in the same division which meant the two clubs playing an extra home game when they faced each other.

The Eagles moved to Sheffield Hallam University's Sports Park on Bawtry Road, Brinsworth, Rotherham in 2016, where the reserves play their home fixtures. Temporary seating was erected to bring the capacity to 3,000 to meet RFL regulations.

After finding themselves homeless again with work on the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Stadium delayed and unable to find a home in Sheffield, the Eagles will groundshare with Wakefield Trinity throughout the 2017 season.

Sheffield Olympic Legacy Stadium[edit]

The Eagles are expected to move into their new permanent home at the Olympic Legacy Park on the site of the old Don Valley Stadium in 2017 or 2018 at the latest. The new stadium will have a 4G pitch and a capacity of 2,500 although this is expected to increase to meet RFL regulations.

Kit sponsors and manufacturers[edit]

Year Kit Manufacturer Main Shirt Sponsor
2007-2008 Kukri Roof Shop
2009-2010 Dave Lamb
2011-2014 Macron GBI Group
2015 Black Eye Project
2016 BLK DBL Logistics
2017- O'Neills OSI Office & School Funiture

Players[edit]

2017 squad[edit]

Sheffield Eagles 2017 Squad
First team squad Coaching staff

Head coach

Assistant coaches


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

Updated: 25 June 2017
Source(s): 2017 Squad Numbers

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, or were international representatives before, or after, their time at Sheffield Eagles.

Reserves[edit]

Sheffield Hallam Eagles were formed in 2013 to compete in the new Conference League South. They are a joint venture between the Eagles and Sheffield Hallam University to help young local rugby players progress and serve as a reserve team for the Eagles. They have played matches at the Don Valley Stadium before it was demolished, but their regular home is at Sheffield Hallam University Sports Park. In 2013 under coach Andrew Henderson they lifted the title, beating Nottingham Outlaws, having lost just once all season. In 2014 they also lost just one game, the Grand Final against Valley Cougars. Between these two defeats they registered 32 straight wins. In 2015, they finished 5th. The Hallam Eagles also finished 5th in 2016 with 17 points from 16 games.

Staff[edit]

First Team coaching staff[edit]

Position Staff
Head Coach England Mark Aston
Assistant Coach England Keith Senior
Assistant Coach England Dave Larder
Head of Athletic Performance England Nick Ward
Head Physio England Kat Ferneyhough
Team Doctor England Andrew Hogg
Kit Man England Brian Moore

Honours[edit]

League[edit]

Winners (2): 2012, 2013

Winners (1): 2006

Cup[edit]

Winners (1): 1998

  • Tolent Cup:

Winners (5): 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005

  • South Yorkshire Cup:

Winners (8): 2001, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014 (8 times)

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]

  1. ^ "Operational Rules". RFL. Retrieved 10 March 2017. 
  2. ^ "Rugby League: Broncos man to coach Eagles". Independent.co.uk. 6 May 1993. Retrieved 28 December 2016. 
  3. ^ "Rugby League: Gardner takes leave of Sheffield". Independent.co.uk. 8 December 1993. Retrieved 28 December 2016. 
  4. ^ Dollin, Shawn; Ferguson, Andrew. "Kangaroos Tour 1921 Series - Game 16 - Rugby League Project". RugbyLeagueProject.org. Retrieved 28 December 2016. 
  5. ^ "PNG thrash Tonga to reach Pacific Cup Final". Daily Telegraph. 25 October 2009. Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  6. ^ "PNG seal 2010 Four Nations place". BBC Sport. 1 November 2009. Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  7. ^ "Locky stars as Kangaroos thump Papua New Guinea". The Roar. 25 October 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  8. ^ "New Zealand 76-12 Papua New Guinea". BBC Sport. 30 October 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  9. ^ "England end Four Nations with 36-10 win over Papua New Guinea". The Guardian. 6 November 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2016. 

External links[edit]