Sheffield shaping up for a golden season, but still work to do in South Yorkshire

Something has been stirring in South Yorkshire for quite a while now, but really seems to be coming to fruition this season.

While Sheffield Eagles won the Championship last year, triumphing over Featherstone Rovers in the Grand Final, they were also joined in the second tier by Doncaster, who claimed the Championship One crown.

With the Eagles on a 13-game winning streak, and still challenging in three competitions, things really look rosy for the sport in South Yorkshire. 

The Sheffield team is full of Championship stars, with the likes of Dominic Brambani, Quentin Laulu-Togagae and Mitch Stringer among some their top performers.

Donny are well led by veteran stand-off Paul Cooke, and have made great strides this season, and could yet finish in the top half of the table, even if the play-offs looks a stretch too far.

But there is still much work to be done the region. There are still too few amateur clubs in the area, certainly in Sheffield itself, with resources spread thinly. Too many players and potential players are lost to rugby union because of this.

There still seems to be little general enthusiasm for the Eagles or the wider game amongst Sheffielders, which is a real shame, as the two soccer teams in the city have been gripped by mediocrity for what sometimes feels like decades.

Often people will recognise the achievement of the team, but they would never consider going and watching them. They have not become a habit for many people who have gone to the odd game.

This is strange, in a city which prides itself on its sporting prowess. The Eagles themselves have done great work in schools and at junior level in trying to stimulate wide interest, but grabbing adults with money to spend seems to be harder.

Hopefully the end of Don Valley Stadium, a dreadful venue to watch team sport in, might change this a bit. There is mean to be a new, rugby-specific, stadium in the Don Valley area on the way.

The recession also plays a part, with Sheffield and South Yorkshire not in a great place economically at the moment, and money is tight.

Hopefully the ongoing success of the region’s two sides can inject some enthusiasm into the wider population, and the hard work done by the Eagles’ marketing team can begin to pay off.

But at the moment it is still hard graft, and it would be unwise to be fooled by what is happening at the top of the South Yorkshire rugby league pyramid.

The small group of ‘Treizistes’in the region need the backing of the rest of the rugby league community. Then we might be able to say that expansion in this soccer-daft city and region is starting to pay off at last.

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