Doncaster RLFC

Doncaster RLFC
Doncaster RLFC
DONS Badge copy.jpg
Club information
Full name Doncaster Rugby League Club ("The Dons")
Colours      Blue
Founded 1951
Current details
Ground(s) Keepmoat Stadium
Coach(s) Tony Miller[1]
Competition Championship 1

Doncaster RLFC are a rugby league football club, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire. They will play the 2010 season in Championship 1.

They have previously been known as Doncaster Dragons and Doncaster Lakers. They were also previously informally known as The Dons but it is now their official nickname.




Professional rugby league first began in Doncaster during the build up to the 1951/52 season. Doncaster played their first game on Saturday 18 August 1951 and began on a winning note, defeating Wakefield Trinity 10-3 at the Greyhound Stadium in front of a crowd of 7,600. Doncaster finished their inaugural season in eleventh position, they won 21, drew one and lost 14 league matches.

The club originally nicknamed 'The Dons' played at the Doncaster Greyhound Stadium, York Road before moving to the new Bentley Road Stadium in August 1953. This ground became the spiritual home of Doncaster Rugby League and was later renamed Tatters Field or Tattersfield as a mark of respect for the former Chairman Len Tattersfield.

From 1956-1961, Doncaster finished every season as the bottom side in the Northern Rugby Football Union, and remained consistently in the bottom three between 1963 and 1968. The seventies and early eighties proved to be no easier, with Doncaster only avoiding a bottom three finish on two occasions between 1970 and 1985.

Bill Kenny was coach of the Dons between June 1980-May 1981.

In 1980, Yorkshire Television made a one-off documentary Another Bloody Sunday, the TV crew followed the Dons as they tried to avoid finishing the season without winning a single game. The documentary saw the team struggle without success until the very last match when Doncaster managed a 6–3 home win over Huyton.

On Sunday 1 September 1991, Third Division rugby was introduced into British rugby league. Doncaster entertained Nottingham City that day with the home side winning by a club record 88-6.

Doncaster won eight consecutive games, but in the penultimate game of the 1994 season they fell to a surprise 20-2 away defeat to mid-table Rochdale Hornets as Workington Town beat Keighley Cougars to take top spot. Doncaster won 10-5 in their final game away at Batley’s Mount Pleasant and the club won promotion to the Premier Division for the first time in 1993/94.

In 1994/95 Tattersfield was the venue for a game against Widnes, broadcast live on Sky Television, which Doncaster won by 21-6. At that time, "The Dons" were at the top of Division 1. At the end of their one and only season in the top flight and following unsuccessful attempts to merge the club with Sheffield Eagles [1] the club went into liquidation with debts of £1.4 million and the curtain closed on the Tattersfield era when the stadium was sold for housing development. The Dons played their last game at Tattersfield on 23 April 1995.

When a Rupert Murdoch funded Super League competition was proposed, part of the deal was that some traditional clubs would merge. Doncaster was to merge with Sheffield to form a South Yorkshire club that would compete in Super League. A meeting in Doncaster with Gary Hetherington from Sheffield Eagles was attended by 400 supporters and only 16 voted in favour; 3,000 people signed a petition against the merger [2] and Doncaster survived as an unmerged club.

Doncaster Dragons

The following a year, a new club called Doncaster Dragons raised from the ashes of the previous club, but was forced to restart life in the bottom division of the Rugby Football League. With Tattersfield gone they temporarily shared Belle Vue Stadium with association football club Doncaster Rovers while Meadow Court Stadium (another greyhound stadium in Stainforth, Doncaster) was being prepared for rugby league. The Dragons played at Meadow Court Stadium for a few years before returning to Belle Vue permanently for the beginning of the 1998 season.

In 1999, St. John Ellis was appointed head coach of Doncaster, he was too late to prevent them finishing 18th and last in the Premiership, making them the lowest-ranked club in the professional game. The following year, helped by some ambitious recruitment, they were third. One of Doncaster's achievements under Ellis was to become notoriously difficult to beat at home, with the Belle Vue ground unofficially re-named 'The House of Pain'. John Wright rescued Doncaster from liquidation in 2001 and oversaw the steady growth of the club, while St John remained coach.

Doncaster Lakers

A previous Doncaster Rugby League Logo

At the end of the 2005 season Dragons was dropped and Doncaster Rugby League adopted the name Lakers to reflect the new Lakeside Community Stadium' (now The Keepmoat Stadium), which would soon be their new home. The stadium, a purpose built community facility, would house both Lakers and Doncaster Rovers Football Club as well as women’s football team Doncaster Belles.

Tony Miller was appointed head coach for the 2006 season following the untimely death on New Year's Eve 2005, of St John Ellis. Singe, as he was known familiarly by fans, was rugby league's longest serving coach at the time.

Loyal Doncaster fans began to oppose the re-branding to Lakers, especially when the club's trademark colours, blue and gold, were replaced with red white and black.

The club parted company with Tony Miller in July 2006 and former Great Britain International Alan Hunte of Salford City Reds agreed to help the club in a short-term coaching role. The sacking of Tony Miller later led to him receiving £8,000 when he took the club to court. Australian Kieran Dempsey, formerly of Parramatta Eels, was appointed Head Coach on a two-year contract in August 2006 and Phil Windley was appointed as his assistant.

Ellery Hanley was appointed Head Coach in December 2007. [3]


The 2007 season kicked off early for the Lakers, when they played host to a pre-season warm up against Sheffield Eagles on 27 December 2006. This was no ordinary game, as it marked the opening of The Keepmoat Stadium. The stadium previously known as The Lakeside Community Stadium which houses Doncaster Lakers RLFC, Doncaster Rovers FC and Doncaster Belles (Women's) FC, boasts seats for 16,000 supporters with room for expansion in the future and contains brand new training facilities. Lakers, back in blue and gold, lost 16–10 in front of 5,400 spectators, the club's biggest crowd in a decade. Lakers travelled to the Jungle in their next match, to face Castleford, in a pre-season testimonial for St. John Ellis. 3,000 supporters turned out to pay their respects to Ellis, who had both played for Castleford and coached Doncaster. All proceeds from the game went to the St John Ellis Memorial Fund, to help support his family. The Lakers came bottom of their Northern Rail Cup group containing Castleford, Sheffield Eagles and Featherstone Rovers, with 7 points. Only gaining one win over Sheffield away (18–20), a draw against Featherstone at home (18–18), and bonus points in their losses against Featherstone away (24–22) and Sheffield at home (12–20). On 1 April 2007, Head Coach Keiran Dempsey and Assistant Coach Phil Windley were suspended pending an internal investigation and Gary Wilkinson was temporary placed in charge of the team. The following Friday (6 April 2007) saw the Lakers kick start the 2007 league campaign beating Sheffield Eagles 24–20 away from home.

Doncaster Home and Away Kits 2007

Six and a half thousand people attended the club's first game on live TV for over 10 years, on Thursday 12 April at the Keepmoat Stadium. The game shown live on Sky Sports saw Doncaster pummelled 66–4 against promotion favourites Castleford. Three days later the Lakers suffered another defeat at home against Leigh (52–18). During the two weeks Lakers had to prepare for their next league game away at newly promoted Dewsbury. It was announced by chairman John Wright that the club was having financial difficulties and would have to apply to go into a CVA (Company Voluntary Agreement). The players rallied around and beat Dewsbury 26–33 with an inspirational second half display, which saw Graham Holroyd (returning from injury) lead his team back from trailing 26–10 at half-time.

The Lakers then went on to defeat joint top of the table Whitehaven 26–16. The match, which was promoted as possibly the last ever game of professional rugby league in Doncaster, attracted only 831 supporters, despite pleas from John Wright for the people of Doncaster to help save the club. On Saturday 12 May Chairman John Wright announced he was to resign from the club. Lakers only just managed to put together a team against Rochdale Hornets away at Spotland on 20 May, after several players including Graham Holroyd and Danny Mills left the club. The team went on to lose 58–12 to the sound of the chant, 'We're proud of you' from the travelling fans. A few hours after the match, Coach Gary Wilkinson resigned. The following Tuesday (22 May), local lad and crowd favourite Peter Green was announced as Caretaker Coach. On Sunday 3 June, Lakers lost at home to Batley 48–14 and on the following Sunday 10 June at home, they suffered a massive 90–4 defeat at the hands of Widnes.

The Dons logo in use between 2007 and 2009

This match appeared to be the last ever match Doncaster Lakers would play, when Chairman John Wright decided he would put the club in liquidation come Wednesday 13 June if no buyers came forward. The crowd of over 1,200 including a great Widnes following and the Doncaster diehards applauded the loyal Doncaster players upon the final whistle in what was a spectacular rugby league moment. When Wednesday 13th finally came, it was announced that Doncaster-born businessmen Shane Miller and Craig Harrison had struck a deal with the RFL to set up a new club which would take over from the old one within National League 1. It was thought the club John Wright still had control over would fold. [4]. On Tuesday 19 June, Doncaster announced former St. Helens and Widnes forward John Stankevitch as new Head Coach, taking over from Caretaker Coach Peter Green. Stankevitch had left his post as the Chemics' Senior Academy Coach to take the position. On 28 June it was announced that the new owners had decided to ditch the Lakers moniker and revert back to Doncaster RLFC nicknamed, ‘The Dons'. Subsequently a new logo designed by a local student was revealed. This logo featured two lions from the Doncaster town crest holding a rugby ball which had mortarboard on top of it to symbolise ‘The Dons’. [5]. The Dons lost 20–32 against Sheffield Eagles on 1 July, in front of a crowd of 1,030. At The Jungle on 8 July, Doncaster lost 66–4 against Castleford. On 22 July at the Keepmoat Stadium 'The Dons' lost 30–44 at the hands of Halifax. Former player Graham Holroyd denied Doncaster a bonus point by converting a Halifax try on the final hooter. The following Sunday, 29 July, the travelling Dons put up a gutsy performance, losing 40–18 against league leaders Widnes at the Halton Stadium. The Dons got their first win under the new regime and kept hopes of staying in National League One alive on 5 August beating Rochdale Hornets 34–30 at home.

These hopes were later shattered though the following Sunday, 12 August when they lost 26–12 against Batley at Mount Pleasant, after leading 12–6 at half time. This meant that the only likely outcome would be the Dons playing National League 2 rugby next season. The Dons lost 34–14 against Leigh at Hilton Park on 19 August. In the last home game of the 2007 season, 'The Dons' put on a brilliant performance to beat Dewsbury 51–18. For the final game of the season 'the Dons' travelled to The Shay to face Halifax. Former 'Don' Graham Holroyd ran the game for Halifax, leading them to a 52–24 victory, this result meant that Doncaster had finished bottom of the 2007 League table. As the fans clapped the 'Dons' off for the final time this season, they put this terrible campaign behind them, simply happy they would have a team to support the following year.


During the run up to the 2008 season, on the 29th November 2007 it was announced on the official Doncaster RLFC website that Head Coach John Stankevitch had resigned, due to "personal reasons". On the 14th December 2007, rugby league legend Ellery Hanley was unveiled as Stankevitch's replacement. The Dons were drawn into Northern Rail Cup Group 3 alongside London Skolars, Crusaders and South Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Eagles. The Dons qualified for the knock-out phase still with a game in hand by beating London at home and away as well as taking bonus points off Sheffield and Celtic, who both play in a higher division. The last game of the group however saw an unprecedented event from the Rugby Football League. Having travelled to Bridgend to take on the Crusaders the game was called off near to the kick-off due to a severely water-logged pitch. The RFL ruled that as the result of this game was immaterial to every side in the competitions’ qualifying ambitions the match would not need to be rescheduled. The Dons started the 2008 league campaign with a bang, winning three from three with 56 - 0, 54 - 12 and 36 - 18 wins. This saw them go top of the league at the end of March, a month in which stand-off Kyle Briggs also won the National League Two Player of the Month. Doncaster beat Oldham 18-10 in the National League Two Grand Final at Warrington to seal promotion alongside Gateshead and Barrow. Ellery Hanley resigned as coach, citing financial restraints.

2011 Squad

No Nat Player Position Former Club
1 England Michael Butterfield Full Back Doncaster
2 England Stuart Sanderson Wing
3 England Lee Gormersall Centre
4 England Shaun Leaf Centre
5 England Dean Colton Wing
6 England Aaron Dobek Stand Off
7 England Craig Fawcett Half Back Keighley Cougars
8 England Matt Carbutt Prop
9 England Kyle Kesik Hooker
10 England Liam Crawley Prop
11 England Kyle Sampson Second Row
12 England Ryan Steen Second Row
13 England Jack Ely Loose Forward
14 England Scott Wilson Hooker
15 England Craig Robinson Prop
16 England Mike Emmett Second Row
17 England Adam Scott Second Row
18 England Ashley Williams Wing
19 England Scott Spaven Loose Forward
20 England Jamie Bovill Prop
21 England Scott Howlett Half Back
22 England Paul Hughes Second Row
23 England Grant Edwards Loose Forward
24 England Craig Hughes Centre
25 England Chris Spur Wing
26 England
27 England
28 England
29 England Chris Green Second Row Hull - Dual Contract
30 England Nev Morrison Centre Hull - Dual Contract

Players earning International Caps while at Doncaster

  • Joseph "Joe" Berry Huddersfield, Doncaster, Rochdale Hornets, and Batley 1998…2003 4-caps + 3-caps (sub)
  • Dean Colton Doncaster 2008…present 1-cap
  • Tyssul "Tuss" Griffiths won caps for Wales while at Hunslet, and Doncaster 1946…1951 2-caps
  • Neil Lowe won caps for Scotland Featherstone Rovers, Doncaster, York, and Keighley 1999…present 3-caps + 4-caps (sub)
  • Pehi James "PJ" Solomon Lancashire Lynx, and Doncaster 1997…2003 5-caps

Notable former players

These players have either; received a Testimonial match, were international representatives before, or after, their time at Doncaster, or are notable outside of rugby league.

External links


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