The only 10 professional rugby league teams in the British game to never play at Wembley

Ben Olawumi
Joe Lovodua (Doncaster), Luke Jeremy (Newcastle Thunder), Joe Wardle (Oldham)

Doncaster (left), Newcastle Thunder (middle) & Oldham (right) are three of the 10 professional clubs in the British game who have never played at Wembley

Walks down Wembley Way to watch your team are rare for most sports fans, even rarer in rugby league given we visit the national stadium just once a year on Challenge Cup final day.

In recent years, we’ve seen a slight expansion on that with the introduction of the 1895 Cup which allows two teams from outside of Super League, normally the Championship, a day out in the capital if they reach the final.

This year, that will be Sheffield Eagles & Wakefield Trinity, whose supporters will join one of Wigan Warriors & Hull KR as well as one of Warrington Wolves & Huddersfield Giants – in the Challenge Cup final – under the arch on June 8.

All of those bar Wakefield have played at the ‘new’ Wembley before, and Trinity did get to play at the ‘old’ Wembley too, most recently doing so back in 1979.

Accordingly, while it may be a new venue for a generation or two of the West Yorkshire outfit’s supporters, some will have seen their team in a showpiece at a national stadium before.

Some clubs and supporters have never experienced that and having scoured the record books (with some not going quite far back!), we’ve deduced there are 10 clubs currently competing in the British game’s top three tiers who are yet to reach Wembley in any capacity.

R.e. our headline, we know clubs in the Championship and League 1 aren’t ‘professional’, but they officially do compete in ‘professional’ leagues.

If we went into community clubs yet to play at Wembley, we’d be here all day, so forgive us as we had to cut it off somewhere!

Below, we detail the unfortunate 10 alphabetically…

Cornwall (League 1)

Cornwall RLFC
Cornwall RLFC in action in 2023

Formed in 2021, Cornwall only entered the Challenge Cup for the first time last year, knocked out at the first attempt by community outfit Rochdale Mayfield.

They were also beaten in the competition by York Acorn, another amateur side, earlier this year and are yet to enter the 1895 Cup.

Doncaster (Championship)

Joe Lovodua
Joe Lovodua in action for Doncaster in 2024

Doncaster, founded in 1951, have never won a major honour and have never appeared in a Challenge Cup final.

Having just been promoted back to the Championship, their best run in the 1895 Cup to date came in the inaugural year of the competition in 2019 when eventual winners Sheffield knocked them out in the quarter-finals.

Midlands Hurricanes (League 1)

Midlands have only been known as that since 2021, previously recognised as the Coventry Bears, which they were formed as in 1998.

They’re yet to go further than Round 4 in the Challenge Cup, and finished bottom of their 1895 Cup group this year having decided not to partake in it back in 2019 under the Coventry Bears name.

Newcastle Thunder (League 1)

Jack Potter
Jack Potter kicks a conversion for Newcastle Thunder in 2024

North East outfit Thunder, formed in 1999 as ‘Gateshead Thunder’ following the merger between the original club and Hull Sharks (now FC) have not got close to Wembley since.

After all of the financial issues they’ve faced recently, Newcastle finished comfortably bottom of their 1895 Cup group this term, and a walk down Wembley Way seems highly unlikely anytime soon.

North Wales Crusaders (League 1)

Round 5 was the furthest Crusaders got in the Challenge Cup during their stint as a Super League outfit, beaten 35-34 by Catalans Dragons in 2010.

Since, they’ve understandably got nowhere near Wembley in that competition and having been re-formed under the ‘North Wales’ tag in 2011, this year was the first time they’d entered the 1895 Cup – finishing bottom of their group.

Oldham (League 1)

Joe Wardle Oldham Alamy
Oldham player-coach Joe Wardle at the 2024 League 1 season launch

1929 was when Challenge Cup finals began to be played at Wembley, which is why Oldham, founded in 1876, are – perhaps surprisingly – on this list. The Roughyeds thrice lifted the cup, in 1899, 1925 & 1927 and ended as runners-up on four occasions prior to the ’27 triumph with the locations of their final venues including Wigan, Leeds & Manchester.

Sean Long’s side, aiming for promotion this term, were beaten by Championship outfit York in the quarter-finals of the 1895 Cup this year. The club are yet to make it past the second stage in that competition, be it by straight knockout games or group stage into knockouts.

Rochdale Hornets (League 1)

Formed in 1871, Rochdale‘s situation is similar to Oldham’s. The Hornets lifted the Challenge Cup in 1922 when they beat Hull 10-9 at Headingley, that their only appearance in the competition’s final to date.

Having reached the Second Round of the 1895 Cup in 2019, they finished bottom of their group in that competition this year.

Swinton Lions (Championship)

Swinton Lions
Swinton Lions celebrate Championship survival after winning at Halifax Panthers on the final day of the 2023 season

Swinton are three-time Challenge Cup winners, and ended as runners-up in the competition on two other occasions, but just like Oldham, all five of their final appearances came away from the capital.

The Lions in fact played in – and won – the last-ever Challenge Cup final (prior to 2022) held outside of Wembley in 1928, beating Warrington 5-3 at Wigan’s Central Park. Bradford Bulls beat Alan Kilshaw’s side in the quarter-finals of this year’s 1895 Cup having reached the semi-finals of that competition back in 2021 when York got the better of them.

Toulouse Olympique (Championship)

Unless something changes anytime soon, it’s literally impossible for Toulouse to get to Wembley because they don’t compete in either the Challenge Cup or 1895 Cup by choice.

Joining the British game in 2016, they played in the Challenge Cup for the first two years, reaching Round 6 at the first attempt, but haven’t partaken since, even when in Super League for a season in 2021.

Whitehaven (Championship)

Whitehaven in action in 2023

Whitehaven round off this list of the unfortunate 10 clubs to have never played at Wembley, but the story could have been a different one had they hung on in the semi-final of the Challenge Cup against Leeds back in 1957.

Losing out 10-9 having conceded late on, Haven missed out on a spot in the final at Wembley against fellow Cumbrian outfit Barrow Raiders. The Marras lost to Widnes in the quarter-finals of the 1895 Cup come 2019, and then were beaten in the play-off round by Sheffield in 2022. This year, they finished 2nd and failed to qualify from the group stage of the competition.

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