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The Sheffield Eagles are a professional rugby league club that play in the Betfred Championship.[1] The club play their home games at the Olympic Legacy Park (OLP) on the former site of Don Valley Stadium, their former ground. The club was formed in 1984 and formerly competed in the Super League. Their biggest achievement was winning the Challenge Cup in 1998. The Eagles are the current holders of the 1895 Cup, after they beat Widnes Vikings at Wembley Stadium on 24 August.

Sheffield Eagles
SheffieldEagles.png
Club information
Full nameSheffield Eagles Rugby League Football Club
Nickname(s)The Eagles
The Red and Golds
ColoursRed, white and gold
Founded1984
Websitesheffieldeagles.com
Current details
Ground(s)
CoachMark Aston
CaptainMatt James
CompetitionBetfred Championship
Rugby football current event.png Current season
Records
Championship2 (2012, 2013)
Challenge Cup1 (1998)
1895 Cup1 (2019)
Most capped389 - Mark Aston
Highest points scorer2142 - Mark Aston

HistoryEdit

1982–1984: Foundation of original EaglesEdit

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, coached by Alan Rhodes, they 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 and current head coach.

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 Rhinos. This lucrative game generated enough cash to see out the season.

1985–1998: Progress and Challenge Cup winEdit

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 itself, 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 signed 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 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 tour.[4] The Kangaroos ran in 14 tries to nil at Don Valley Stadium. However, because of the tie the club benefited from a significant financial gain.

In March 1995, Sheffield pulled out of a proposed merger with Doncaster following a "breach of confidentiality"; Sheffield were then set to take-over 'The Dons' 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 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 Sheffield-based Sanderson Group Plc, 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 them play Bradford Bulls.

On 2 May 1998, having beaten Leigh Centurions, Egremont Rangers, Castleford Tigers and Salford Red Devils, the Eagles faced Wigan Warriors 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 GiantsEdit

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 EaglesEdit

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 F.C. However, on 3 August 2003, London Skolars were the victims as Sheffield Eagles won 98–4, a record league victory to this day. 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: PromotionEdit

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.

2009–2012: Move to Bramall LaneEdit

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 Lions at Don Valley, the Eagles' highest crowd there since the Super League era.

2013–2017: Post Don ValleyEdit

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 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 after an unsuccessful time as professional.

2018–present: Permanent return to SheffieldEdit

The Eagles made their long-awaited return to their home city at the Olympic Legacy Park in 2018.[5] The new stadium has a 4G pitch and a capacity of 1,889, although this is expected to increase to meet RFL regulations. The first home game back in Sheffield was against Toronto Wolfpack on 11 March, they lost 10–44. Ahead of this season players Greg Burns, Matt James and Ryan Millar agreed to sign on for a further two years. They struck a deal with Super league side St Helens for players on Dual registration; this helped bolster the squad throughout the season and was considered to be a huge contribution to keeping them in the division. After a seven game losing streak to open the season, the Eagles finally won, at home against Rochdale by 38 points to 20. The season, however, ended disappointingly as the Eagles finished eighth in the league with the greatest achievement being staying up.

In 2019, however, things were looking up for the side as they brought in 14 new signings, including ex-Eagles Jason Crookes, [[James Davey (rugby league)|James Davey]] and Pat Walker, but lost key players in Joshua Toole (Forbes), Matty Fozard (London). They got off to a flying start as they overcame the challenges of Swinton, Barrow and Bradford in the first month of the new season. That year saw the Eagles return to Wembley for the first time in more than 2 decades to claim the inaugural 1895 Cup by defeating Widnes 38–16.[6] However, their League season was less of a success as they finished in 7th place.

During the off-season, plans to build the Olympic Legacy Park were put into jeopardy as a court case to claim 100% ownership of Sheffield United F.C. found in favour of HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa'ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud over Kevin McCabe -one of the main investors to the OLP project for Sheffield.[7] Because of this, there were fears that Mr McCabe would remove plans for his Scarborough Group LTD to head up construction of a new ground on the site at the OLP. However, these fears were quashed when it was revealed construction would go ahead as planned in early 2020.[8]

Colours and badgeEdit

ColoursEdit

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 2019 home shirt is white with a red and gold V. The 2019 away kit is a full black strip, with yellow stripes down the side of the shirt.

BadgeEdit

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.

StadiumsEdit

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 the Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster. Here they ground shared with Doncaster Rovers and local rivals Doncaster, who were playing in the same division which meant the two clubs playing an extra home game when they faced each other. At the end of the season, during The Qualifiers, the Eagles' were allowed to return to Bramall Lane for games against Hull K.R. and Wakefield Trinity. They also hosted Hull F.C. at the Lane, in a Challenge Cup fifth round tie.

The Eagles moved to Sheffield Hallam University's Sports Park on Bawtry Road, Brinsworth, Rotherham in 2016, where the reserves played 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 played their home matches at Belle Vue, the home of Wakefield Trinity, for the duration of the 2017 season.

The club finally permanently returned to Sheffield and the Olympic Legacy Park in 2018. Work is due to start on the construction of a £5million stadium in the spring of 2019.[9]

Kit sponsors and manufacturersEdit

Year Kit Manufacturer Main Shirt Sponsor
1982–1985 O'Neills Trophy
1993–1995 matchmakers Trophy
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 Furniture
2018– SteelPhalt

2020 squadEdit

Sheffield Eagles 2020 Squad
First team squad Coaching staff

Head coach

Assistant coaches


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

Updated: September 2019
Source(s): [1]

2020 transfersEdit

Gains

Player Club Contract length Date
  Zack McComb Oldham 1 year October 2019

Losses

Player Club Contract length Date
  Pat Walker Retirement N/A September 2019
  Menzie Yere Retirement N/A September 2019
  Ben Blackmore Featherstone Rovers 2 Years October 2019[10]
  Shaun Pick Batley Bulldogs 1 Year October 2019[11]
  Sonny Esslemont Dewsbury Rams 1 year October 2019[12]
  James Thornton Dewsbury Rams 1 year October 2019[12]

Former playersEdit

Players earning international caps while at Sheffield EaglesEdit

Other notable playersEdit

These players are either "Hall of Fame"[19] inductees, or were international representatives before, or after, their time at Sheffield Eagles.

ReservesEdit

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.

StaffEdit

First Team coaching staffEdit

Position Staff
Head Coach   Mark Aston
General Manager   Liam Claffey
Assistant Coach   Keith Senior
Assistant Coach   Ged Corcoran
Strength & Conditioning Coach   Simon Vardy
Head Physio   Mick Heys
Team Doctor   Jimmy Gray
General Manager   Liam Claffey
Commercial Manager   Mark Hannigan

HonoursEdit

LeagueEdit

Winners (2): 2012, 2013
Runners up (1): 2011
Playoff Final: 2006

CupEdit

Winners (1): 1998
Runners up (0):
Winners (1): 2019
Runners up (0):
Runners up (1): 2013
  • Tolent Cup:
Winners (5): 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005
Runners up (0):
  • South Yorkshire Cup:
Winners (8): 2001, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014
Runners up (0):

League historyEdit

RecordsEdit

Player recordsEdit

Team recordsEdit

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

ReferencesEdit

  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. ^ "Sheffield Eagles return home". 5 October 2017.
  6. ^ "Sheffield Eagles beat Widnes Vikings to win inaugural 1895 Cup". BBC Sport. 24 August 2019.
  7. ^ "Prince Abdullah wins Sheffield United ownership battlel". Yorkshire Post. 16 September 2019.
  8. ^ "Shefield Eagles 'New Stadium'". Sheffield Eagles. 27 September 2019.
  9. ^ "Work to get under way on £5 million stadium which will give Sheffield United Women and Sheffield Eagles a home". Sheffield Star. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  10. ^ "Sheffield Eagles return home". Yorkshire Evening Post. 3 October 2019.
  11. ^ "PICK OF THE BULLDOGS". Batley Bulldogs. 8 October 2019.
  12. ^ a b "Dewsbury bring in forward duo". Love Rugby League. 21 October 2019. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 June 2007. Retrieved 15 October 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "PNG thrash Tonga to reach Pacific Cup Final". Daily Telegraph. 25 October 2009. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  15. ^ "PNG seal 2010 Four Nations place". BBC Sport. 1 November 2009. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  16. ^ "Locky stars as Kangaroos thump Papua New Guinea". The Roar. 25 October 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  17. ^ "New Zealand 76–12 Papua New Guinea". BBC Sport. 30 October 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  18. ^ "England end Four Nations with 36–10 win over Papua New Guinea". The Guardian. 6 November 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  19. ^ "Hall Of Fame | Sheffield Eagles RLFC | The Official Website". Sheffield Eagles RLFC | The Official Website. Retrieved 26 December 2017.
  20. ^ Ferguson, Shawn Dollin and Andrew. "Paul Carr – Career Stats & Summary – Rugby League Project". www.rugbyleagueproject.org.
  21. ^ Ferguson, Shawn Dollin and Andrew. "Willie Morganson – Career Stats & Summary – Rugby League Project". www.rugbyleagueproject.org.
  22. ^ Ferguson, Shawn Dollin and Andrew. "Frederic Teixido – Career Stats & Summary – Rugby League Project". www.rugbyleagueproject.org.
  23. ^ Ferguson, Shawn Dollin and Andrew. "Dave Watson – Career Stats & Summary – Rugby League Project". www.rugbyleagueproject.org.
  24. ^ Ferguson, Shawn Dollin and Andrew. "Martin Wood – Career Stats & Summary – Rugby League Project". www.rugbyleagueproject.org.

External linksEdit