Doncaster RLFC

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Doncaster RLFC
Club information
Full name Doncaster
Rugby League Football Club
Nickname(s) The Dons
Short name Doncaster
Colours Doncaster colours.svg
Founded 1951
Departed 1995
Readmitted 1995 (as Doncaster Dragons)
  • Keepmoat Stadium (15,231), since 2007
    Belle Vue, 1998-2006 and 1995-96
    Meadow Court Stadium, 1996-97
    Tattersfield, 1953-95
    York Road Greyhound Stadium, 1951-53
Coach(s) Gary Thornton
Competition Kingstone Press Championship
2014 RFL Championship 4th

Doncaster RLFC is a professional rugby league football club, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire. They play in the Kingstone Press Championship.

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.


1950-1994: Foundation

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.[1]

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 [1]. 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 [2] 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

A previous Doncaster Rugby League Logo

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. [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. 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.

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. 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.

File:New Donny Logo.png
The Dons logo in use between 2007 and 2009

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. [4].

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.

Association football side, Doncaster Rovers took over the club in 2013. [5]

Kit sponsors and manufacturers

Years Kit Manufacturer Main Shirt Sponsor
1990-1995 Ellgren none
1996-1997 Puma Taylor Anderson
1998-2002 Bulldog Resdev
2003 Kukri Earth Mortgages
2004 Furniture Factors
2005-2006 Impact Doncaster College
2007 ISC Lakeside Village
2008-2009 Centurion
2010-2012 K4
2013- Fi-ta

Past coaches

2016 squad

* As of 21 December 2015:

2015 Squad Numbers

No Player Position Former club
2 Tom Carr Wing Whitehaven RLFC
9 Kyle Kesik (C) Hooker Sheffield Eagles
11 Michael Kelly Second Row Hunslet Club Parkside
17 Liam Welham Centre Hunslet Hawks
22 Brad Foster Second Row Castleford Tigers
23 Jack Walton Second Row, Prop Wakefield Wildcats
26 Sam Doherty Wing, Centre Central Queensland Capras
28 Alex Gilbey Centre Hull Kingston Rovers
Makaie Aizue Prop Dewsbury Rams
Mark Castle Prop Hunslet Hawks
Matthew Cook Utility Back Hunslet Hawks
Kieran Cross Hooker Doncaster Toll Bar
David Foggin-Johnston Winger Warrington Wolves
Ben Frankland Hooker Leeds Rhinos
Jordan Harper Centre Coventry Bears
Jordie Hedges Scrum Half South Sydney Rabbitohs
Daniel Hirst Hooker Warrington Wolves
Jordan Howden Stand Off Castleford Tigers
Aaron Jones-Bishop Utility Back Oxford RLFC
George Milton Loose Forward, Utility Leeds Rhinos
Matt Nicholson Prop Featherstone Rovers
Joe Picketts Loose Forward Australia
Connor Scott Prop Sheffield Eagles
Louis Sheriff Utility Back Newcastle Thunder
Jason Tali Centre, Second Row Newcastle Thunder
Mason Tonks Second Row Leeds Rhinos
Mitch Vincent Winger Sheffield Eagles
Matty Welham Full Back, Utility Unattached
HC Gary Thornton Head Coach
AC Peter Green Assistant Coach

2016 transfers


Player Club Contract length Date
England Mark Castle Hunslet Hawks 1 Year September 2015
England Daniel Hirst Warrington Wolves 1 Year September 2015
England David Foggin-Johnston Warrington Wolves 1 Year September 2015
England Matt Nicholson Featherstone Rovers 1 Year September 2015
England George Milton Leeds Rhinos 1 Year September 2015
England Mason Tonks Leeds Rhinos 1 Year September 2015
Australia Jordie Hedges South Sydney Rabbitohs 1 Year September 2015
Papua New Guinea Makali Aizue Dewsbury Rams 1 Year October 2015
Papua New Guinea Jason Tali Newcastle Thunder 1 Year October 2015
England Jordan Howden York City Knights 1 Year October 2015
England Connor Scott Sheffield Eagles 1 Year October 2015
England Louis Sheriff Newcastle Thunder 1 Year November 2015
England Aaron Jones-Bishop Oxford RLFC 2 Years November 2015
New Zealand Mitch Vincent Sheffield Eagles 1 Year November 2015
England Matty Welham Hull Kingston Rovers 2 Years November 2015
England Matthew Cook Hunslet Hawks 1 Year December 2015
England Ben Frankland Leeds Rhinos 1 Year December 2015
England Jordan Harper Featherstone Rovers 1 Year December 2015
England Joe Picketts Australia 1 Year December 2015
England Kieran Cross Doncaster Toll Bar 1 Year January 2016


Player Club Contract length Date
England Shaun Leaf Retirement N/A September 2015
England Paul Mennel Retirement N/A September 2015
England Steve Snitch Featherstone Rovers 1 Year September 2015
Australia Matt Groat Dewsbury Rams 1 Year September 2015
Scotland David Scott Batley Bulldogs 1 Year September 2015
England Danny Cowling Batley Bulldogs 1 Year September 2015
England Russ Spiers York City Knights 1 Year September 2015
England Mike Emmitt York City Knights 1 Year September 2015
England Brett Waller York City Knights 1 Year September 2015
England Richard Wilkinson York City Knights 1 Year September 2015
England Tom Hodson Huddersfield RUFC 1 Year October 2015
England Matt Carbutt Hunslet Hawks 1 Year October 2015
England Lee Waterman Hunslet Hawks 1 Year October 2015
Australia Mitch Clark Bradford Bulls 2 Years November 2015
England Craig Robinson Hunslet Hawks 1 Year November 2015
England Peter Fox Newcastle Thunder 1 Year November 2015
England Josh Kittrick Newcastle Thunder 1 Year December 2015
England Ryan Wright Dewsbury Rams 2 Years December 2015
England Danny Nicklas York City Knights 1 Year December 2015
England Joe McLocklan Released
Samoa Ben Musolino Released

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.

External links