Rugby League Football Club
|Readmitted||1995 (as Doncaster Dragons)|
|Competition||Kingstone Press Championship|
|2014 RFL Championship||4th|
They have previously been known as Doncaster Dragons (1995-2005) and Doncaster Lakers (2006-07). They were also previously informally known as The Dons but it is now their official nickname.
- 1 History
- 2 Kit sponsors and manufacturers
- 3 Past coaches
- 4 2016 squad
- 5 2016 transfers
- 6 Players earning international caps while at Doncaster
- 7 Notable former players
- 8 External links
- 9 References
Professional rugby league first began in Doncaster during the buildup 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 York Road 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 Club 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 1970s and early 1980s 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.
John Sheridan became head coach of the Dons in 1984. The club had no money but Sheridan still managed to put together one of the Dons' best squads and went on to win 30 of the 44 games they played under him. He was replaced by his number 2 Graham Hepptinstall after a few years but a players' revolt saw him come back for a second spell. He was voted the most influential person in the club's history by the Dons fans.
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 under Tony Fisher, 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 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.
1995-1997: Proposed South Yorkshire merger
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. On 15 December 1994, Doncaster were already in trouble with debts of £1.4m and were put into administration. The RFL took over the costs of running the club after an aborted attempt to merge the club with Sheffield Eagles . Doncaster were bought from administration by owners of Tattersfield ground in March 1995 but at the end of their one and only season in the top flight 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  and Doncaster survived as an unmerged club.
1998-2004: 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 renamed '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.
2005-2006: Doncaster Lakers
At the end of the 2005 season Dragons was dropped and Doncaster Rugby League Club 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 historic 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 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, 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.  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. Lakers, back in blue and gold, lost 16–10 in front of 5,400 spectators, the club's biggest crowd in a decade. The Lakers came bottom of their Northern Rail Cup group.
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.
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. It was announced by chairman John Wright that the club was having financial difficulties and would have to go into a CVA (Company Voluntary Agreement). 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. 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.
Chairman John Wright announced that he would put the club in liquidation on 13 June if no buyers came forward. The crowd of over 1,200 applauded the loyal Doncaster players upon the final whistle. When Wednesday 13th 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. .
On Tuesday 19 June, Doncaster announced former St. Helens and Widnes forward John Stankevitch as new Head Coach, taking over from Peter Green. On 28 June it was announced that the new owners had decided to ditch the Lakers moniker and revert to Doncaster RLFC. 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.
2007-present: Doncaster RLFC
On 29 November 2007 it was announced on the official Doncaster RLFC website that Head Coach John Stankevitch had resigned, due to "personal reasons". On 14 December 2007, 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 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. 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.
Kit sponsors and manufacturers
|Years||Kit Manufacturer||Main Shirt Sponsor|
- Alan Rhodes 1980-3
- John Sheridan 1984-9
- David Sampson 1990-1
- Tony Fisher 1993-4
- Ian Brooke
- Colin Maskill
- St. John Ellis 1999–2005
- Tony Miller 2006
- Keiran Dempsey 2007
- Gary Wilkinson
- Peter Green
- John Stankevitch
- Ellery Hanley 2008
- Tony Miller 2011–2012
- Paul Cooke 2012-2015
- Gary Thornton 2015-
* As of 21 December 2015:
Players earning international caps while at Doncaster
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.
- Official site
- Doncaster forum on rlfans.com
- Website of the Doncaster Fanzine Who The Hell Was St.George Anyway?
- National League website
- Doncaster RLFC Fans Forums – RugbyLeague.org
- Doncaster RLFC site on Myspace