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Sheffield Eagles (1984)

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Title: Sheffield Eagles (1984)  
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Language: English
Subject: 1996 Leeds RLFC season, Martin Wood (rugby league), Huddersfield F.C., 1996 Workington Town season, List of players with 1,000 Super League points
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Sheffield Eagles (1984)


Sheffield Eagles was a professional rugby league club in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, which merged with Huddersfield Giants in 1999.

Contents

  • History 1
    • 1982-1984: Foundation 1.1
    • 1985-1998: Progress and Challenge Cup win 1.2
    • The End: Huddersfield-Sheffield Giants 1.3

History

1982-1984: Foundation

In 1982, Huddersfield captain and Chairman of the Players' Union, Gary Hetherington missed out on a coaching job at York. He decided to form his own club in Sheffield. The original plan to enter the Second Division in 1983–84 fell apart when Sheffield United pulled back from their promise to let the new team play its home games at Bramall Lane.

The club eventually joined the Second Division in 1984 and played at the Owlerton Stadium. A competition was run in the Sheffield Star newspaper to find a name for the new club and "Sheffield Eagles" was the winner. The first Eagles league game was on 2 September 1984 when they beat Rochdale Hornets 29–10. The match took place the day after the club's sponsor went bust. Hetherington was both manager and player in the first season, building the team using experienced players from traditional areas. He also began signing up promising young players, one of whom was Mark Aston, later to be a critical part of the Eagles' survival as a club.

By November the club was close to folding because of financial problems. Sheffield beat Wakefield Trinity to set up a John Player Special Trophy first round tie against Leeds. This lucrative game generated enough cash to see out the season.

1985-1998: Progress and Challenge Cup win

On the field the club progressed steadily, improving their league position until in 1988/89 they finished third in the league table and made it to the Second Division Premiership final at Old Trafford. In the final they outplayed Swinton, beating them by 43–18 and gaining promotion to the top flight of rugby league. Sheffield's record attendance at Owlerton was set at 3,636 for a third round Challenge Cup game against Oldham in 1989.

In the wake of the Hillsborough disaster, stadium safety became an issue in British sport and Owlerton was declared unfit to stage professional rugby league. Eagles were forced to play their home games at seven different venues including Hillsborough Stadium, Bramall Lane, Recreation Ground, Oakwell Stadium and Belle Vue. They survived one season in the top flight but were then relegated. This was a temporary decline as they immediately regained their place in the First Division, winning the Second Division title and Premiership. The Eagles slowly established themselves as a top flight club.

Don Valley Stadium became home for the club in September 1990, it had been built for the 1991 World Student Games held in Sheffield. In May 1991, Eagles sign their first local recruit, Jason Davidson. In 1992 they reached the Yorkshire Cup final, losing to Wakefield Trinity.

Bill Gardner became coach in July 1993 season replacing Gary Hetherington who stood down from his coaching role. [1] In December following a run of five defeats, he was sacked and Gary Hetherington took over as coach again. [2]

Sheffield was included on the schedule for a game against the Kangaroos during their 1994 Kangaroo Tour and were hammered 80–2 in the first game following the first test match at Wembley.

In March 1995, Sheffield pulled out of a proposed merger with Doncaster following a "breach of confidentialty", Sheffield were then set to take-over Doncaster in a deal with administrators, which fell through after the RFL declared Doncaster players to be free agents.

When a Rupert Murdoch-funded Super League competition was first proposed, part of the deal was that some traditional clubs would merge. Sheffield were again down to merge with Doncaster to form a South Yorkshire club that would compete in Super League. This, along with other proposed mergers, were strongly opposed by supporters and never materialised. As Sheffield Eagles the club became a founder member of Super League in 1996 and took part in the first game of the European Super League era against Paris Saint-Germain.

In November 1996, chief executive Gary Hetherington sold his controlling interest in Sheffield Eagles to take over Leeds. Phil Larder became head coach, Paul Thompson, Chairman of Sanderson Electronics, became the majority shareholder and Eagles plc became the first rugby league club to be floated on the Stock Exchange.

John Kear took over the coaching reigns at Sheffield Eagles in 1997, taking them to the Premiership Semi-final in that year. The club's record attendance was set in August 1997 when 10,603 spectators saw Sheffield play Bradford Bulls.

2 May 1998 is the greatest day in the history of the Sheffield Eagles. Having beaten Leigh, Egremont, Castleford and Salford the Eagles faced Wigan at Wembley Stadium in the final of the Rugby League Challenge Cup. Wigan were overwhelming favourites with a side containing some of the best players of the modern era, including Andy Farrell, Jason Robinson and Henry Paul. Sheffield coach John Kear devised a game plan that was executed perfectly by the team on the day. Star of the show was scrum half Mark Aston, who won the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match. The Eagles led from start to finish, running out 17–8 winners in one of the biggest upsets in the history of the competition.

The End: Huddersfield-Sheffield Giants

Just as the club seemed to be on the verge of its greatest period, following the win in the cup final, things began to go wrong. The expected increase in attendances did not happen and the team did not perform well, finishing close to the relegation zone only one year after the Wembley triumph. Finances plummeted and with little outside help it became apparent that the Eagles were not viable in their current state. Just a year after performing the greatest upset in Challenge Cup history, the Eagles announced that they were to fold at the end of the season should no investors come on board to save the club.

In late 1999 the Rugby Football League wanted to lower the number of clubs in Super League. One of the measures they put in place was the option for two clubs to merge for the sum of £1,000,000. Fearing this was the only way to keep rugby league alive in Sheffield, the club accepted an offer from the RFL to merge with another struggling team, the

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