1980 - 1989
Sheffield Eagles were accepted into the Rugby League in 1984 and set about assembling a team. The main promoter, Gary Hetherington, was still a player and would be the club’s first choice hooker in 1984/85 but the first signing was, in fact, Daryl Powell, who was signed from the Redhill amateur club in Castleford.
The second was Mark Gamson, a scrum half from Leeds with a fairly active disciplinary record. Other players in the squad included Billy Harris, Paul McDermott, Steve Cooper, current CEO Andy Tyers, Paul Welsh, a couple of Mark Campbells and Vince Farrar, plucked from retirement on account of the miners’ strike.
(Left) Eagles first training session on 16 August 1984.
(Right) the Eagles in action in 1984 at Owlerton.
Eagles played their first game on 2nd September 1984. The opponents were Rochdale Hornets and the game was played at the Eagles home ground of Owlerton Stadium. Rochdale raced into a 0-10 lead but the Eagles, hampered by injuries fought back to win 29-10.
That was one of only a few victories in the season, Eagles finishing the season with a modest record of eight league wins, seven of which were at home. Highlight of the season was probably a home victory in the John Player Special Trophy, a 17-6 win over First Division Wakefield Trinity, which earned the Eagles a trip to Headingley to play Leeds, where they were less successful.
(Left) Gary Hethrington at Owlerton in 1984.
(Right) Andy Dickinson signs on 19th January 1986.
Eagles made steady progress in the following seasons, always finishing higher than in the preceding season. During the 1985/86 season, they made a significant signing in a young, confident half back in Mark Aston. By the third season, 1986/87, they were on the fringe of promotion, finishing sixth.
In an early season game at Fulham, Roy Rafferty kicked twelve goals, a new club record. His two tries in the same game gave him 32 points, a record which still stands today. There were a number of significant signings at the start of the following season, including Mick Cook and Paul Broadbent from Queens and Lock Lane respectively. Eagles finished fifth in 1987/88, well poised for a promotion bid the following season.
(Left) Eagles training in 1985 with New Zealanders M. Roiall & P Burgoyne.
(Right) Neil Kellett in action vs Bramley on 28th August 1988.
Finally in 1988/89, they achieved promotion. In the new year game at Mansfield, Daryl Powell scored five tries which, though equalled three times, has not been exceeded. After a patchy couple of months in February and March, they edged over the line with three vital wins over the Easter period.
The first was a convincing win over close rivals York, 21-0 at Clarence Street on Good Friday. The second was on Easter Sunday, 24-16 against Fulham at Owlerton and the third was a legendary game against Chorley Borough, Eagles winning 26-8 in an Owlerton mudbath.
Third place qualified the Eagles for a home game against local rivals Doncaster in the Premiership quarter final and they were despatched 28-10. Next up was a trip to Barrow in the semi-final. Eagles trailed 0-6 for almost an hour, before coming good in the last twenty minutes, a try from Mark Fleming and three goals from Mark Aston sealing a narrow 9-6 victory.
(Left) Mark Gamson receives a cheque as M.OT.M from Whitbread.
(Right) Anthony Farrell signs for the club on 23rd October 1989
The final was a week later at Old Trafford. Mark Aston had scored in every game that season and relieved the pressure on himself by dropping an early goal to become only the thirteenth player in Rugby League history to score in every game in a season. Swinton briefly took control of the game but tries from Powell and Cook gave Eagles a 13-8 lead by half time.
The second half didn’t start well, Tommy Frodsham’s try, converted by Myler, giving the Lions a slender lead. However, with Steve O’Neill dismissed from the field, Eagles’ numerical advantage finally told as, with further tries from McDermott, Powell (2), Aston and Broadbent, they ran out 43-18 winners to capture their first silverware.
(Left) Eagles celebrate victory over Chorley at Owlerton in 1989.
(Right) Daryl Powell lifts the trophy at Old Trafford with Aston & Broadbent pictured.
1990 - 1999
With everyone eagerly looking forward to life in the top flight, Eagles were immediately dealt a blow when Owlerton was closed down on health and safety grounds.
Four games had already been switched to Hillsborough and Bramall Lane but neither soccer club were prepared to host the remainder of Eagles’ fixtures. There was light at the end of the tunnel as the Don Valley Stadium was scheduled to be completed in time for the 1990/91 season but the 1989/90 games were eventually played at seven different venues.
(Left) The Eagles take on Salford in 1990
(Right) The Team at the grand opening of Meadowhall, pictured in the 'Oasis' Food Court in 1990
Eagles started the season with much the same team as had finished the previous one, though the squad was strengthened as the season went on with Bruce McGuire, whose previous game had been for Balmain against Canberra in the NSWRL Grand Final, Francis Leota, Tawera Nikau, crowd favourite Hugh Waddell and teenage centre Anthony Farrell was signed for a record £55,000.
Significant wins were at Featherstone 37-12, a tremendous win against world champions Widnes, 31-6 at Bramall Lane, two wins in five days at Warrington and a 24-10 win at Oakwell against Wakefield Trinity.
(Left) Eagles players & Nicola Brett on work experience in 1991.
(Right) Keith Mumby & Gary Hethrington at Don Valley Stadium in 1992.
The key match, however, might have been a never say die fightback from 0-20 down at Salford, securing a 20-20 draw which proved crucial as Eagles stayed up on points difference.
1990/91 started well with a draw at Wigan and the opening of Don Valley Stadium, when Eagles beat Wakefield Trinity in some style, 34-6. But the season deteriorated and Eagles won only seven games, being relegated for the only time in their history.
Division Two comprised only eight clubs in 1991/92, with each club playing each other four times. With only one opponent in Yorkshire, there was a good deal of travelling for away fans, including trips to Carlisle Workington and London. Eagles were involved in a close battle for the Championship with Leigh.
After three close games, Eagles won a key match at Don Valley by the surprisingly wide margin of 51-6 and took the title by a point.
A 72-14 win against Keighley, with Mark Aston equalling the club goals in a match record of 12, and a semi-final win over Batley 36-22 took Eagles back to Old Trafford, where they faced Oldham. Once again, Daryl Powell ended up with a hat-trick as Eagles ran out 34-20 winners.
Back in Division One, Eagles strengthened the squad with Bruce McGuire returning along with Balmain team-mate Garry Jack. Paul Carr also joined the club from Hunslet.
There was early season success in the Yorkshire Cup; despite conceding a nine second try to Hull, Eagles beat Hull FC 12-8 to reach the last ever Yorkshire Cup Final.
They warmed up for the final with a tour game against Australia, losing 22-52. With the final taking place only three days later, Eagles trailed 0-21 to Wakefield at one point before rallying slightly to lose 16-29.
At the end of the season, Gary Hetherington resigned and Bill Gardner took over at the start of 1993/94. Lee Jackson was signed for a record £83,000 but results didn’t go in Eagles favour apart from an unexpected 19-12 win against St Helens and an exciting last gasp win, 18-15 at home to Hull FC. Gardner left the club in December with Gary Hetherington taking the reins once again.
A run of nine wins in ten games pushed Eagles up the table, eventually finishing a creditable sixth an earning a Premiership quarter final at Warrington, who had lost out to champions Wigan on points difference.
Eagles won but there was no fairy tale return to Old Trafford as they lost the semi-final at Wigan.
During the close season, Mark Aston joined Featherstone Rovers in a record £100,000 deal. He was replaced with Australian Darrell Trindall who lasted one game at Workington before returning to Australia. Eagles nevertheless finished eighth, winning 15 and losing 15.
Their best performance came against St Helens at Don Valley when, after trailing 0-20, Eagles recovered to win 35-31. Eighth place earned a trip to Wigan in the Premiership where Eagles predictably ended their season.
Sky and Superleague came along in April 1995 and the top ten clubs, plus London Broncos and Paris St Germain were to form the new league in 1996. Before then, there was a short season to switch us from winter to summer rugby.
With Mark Aston’s Featherstone having missed the cut, Rovers were keen to cut their costs and Aston resigned for the Eagles at a very substantial discount. Eagles won one of their first nine before a break whilst the World Cup took place.
Following their success in the World Cup, Eagles signed three Fijians, Joe Dakuitoga, Waisale Sovatabua and Mala Yasa. Their season turned around, winning nine of the remaining eleven games and finishing in fifth place, their highest ever placing.
Eagles opened the Superleague era in front of a near 18,000 crowd in Paris and, in a game which could have gone either way, lost 24-30 to the French.
They finished seventh – another so-so season but, nevertheless, eight points ahead of Leeds who had looked over their shoulders at relegation for much of the season.
They answered that by offering Gary Hetherington the post of Chief Executive and Paul Thompson stepped on the scene to buy the club with massive plans to finance the assembling of a team.
Several players followed Hetherington to Leeds and new coach Phil Larder added Martin Wood, Jean-Marc Garcia, Danny McAllister, Nick Pinkney, Rod Doyle and Whetu Taewa – amongst others.
Larder was replaced in May by his assistant, John Kear, shortly before the club entered into the new World Club Championship competition.
First up was a home game against Perth Western Reds, where Eagles dramatically came back from 2-22 with 20 minutes to play to win 26-22. In the league campaign, Eagles finished eighth, comfortably away from the relegation zone.
Eagles continued to make signings and, for the 1998 season, signed up Dave Watson, Darren Shaw, Michael Jackson and Steve Molloy.
This was, of course, the season where Eagles reached Wembley for the first time and that historic cup run is dealt with elsewhere. Sadly, success on the field and the acquisition of silverware didn’t lead to the anticipated increase in crowds.
By mid 1999, Paul Thompson had become, understandably, disenchanted with his investment and negotiations had begun for the ill-fated merger with Huddersfield Giants.
2000 - 2009
With the club’s name changed to Huddersfield-Sheffield Giants and moved lock, stock and barrel to the McAlpine Stadium, the prospects for Rugby League in Sheffield looked bleak, albeit that there as a promise that some of the merged club’s games would be played at Bramall Lane.
Mark Aston led a race to get a new Sheffield Eagles club up and running in time to start the new season with the deadline only weeks away. The club’s application was initially knocked back but, in the “replay”, Eagles were admitted to the league and began their new existence at Chorley on 28th December 1999.
Eagles won that game 33-20 but the season was undoubtedly a difficult one. The lowlight was a defeat at home to Thornhill Trojans in the Cup and the highlight was a tremendous effort to win 26-24 at Leigh. Eagles eventually finished 14th of 18.
Aston continued to build the squad and the 2001 record was won 14, lost 14. That included some unexpected and hard fought wins at Hull KR, 18-14, at Featherstone 15-12 and a home victory over Widnes, 26-17. That record continued into 2002, a season disrupted by York’s failure to complete their fixtures.
However, suddenly Eagles became genuine promotion candidates in 2003. Not due to any major recruiting coups but because Eagles had failed to make the cut in the reorganisation of the league competition. Eagles eventually topped the league table on points difference from Chorley and Keighley, mainly on the back of a 98-4 win over Skolars, a game in which Gavin Brown scored 13 goals to beat Roy Rafferty’s 17 year old record. From pole position, Eagles reached the final by beating Chorley at Don Valley but it was Keighley who won promotion when they beat the Eagles 13-11 at Widnes, following a controversially disallowed Andy Raleigh try.
Eagles finished third in 2004 but lost to Hunslet in the play-offs. The following season was even more disastrous with the team finished fourth from bottom, just above newly relegated Keighley.
The squad needed some new blood and Mark Aston signed up Gary Wilkinson as his joint coach. Gary brought with him a number of Hull-based players who strengthened the squad and provided the impetus needed. Highlight of the league campaign was a very entertaining win at Featherstone, 56-30. Dewsbury topped the league table and were promoted automatically and the Eagles went into the play-offs for the second promotion place. Eagles were on a run which saw them win the last thirteen games of their season and beat Swinton in the final at Warrington 35-10, current player Rob Worrincy scoring two tries.
Favourites for relegation in their first season back in tier two, Eagles surpassed all expectations and ended up in sixth place, just making the play-offs. Their best performance was a surprisingly large win over Leigh 39-12 with James Ford scoring four tries. In the play-offs, Eagles were edged out by third-placed Halifax 30-26 in an exciting game in which both teams scored five tries.
There was a slight setback in 2008, with Eagles missing out on the play-offs, finishing seventh. A glance at the table shows they were a mere point behind Widnes; closer inspection reveals that Widnes had suffered a nine point deduction after going into administration.
Nevertheless, Eagles were back in 2009. Menzie Yere, who had starred in the 2008 World Cup for PNG, proved a popular signing and scored 14 tries in his first season. Eagles finished third, two points from the top but they were disappointingly beaten by Featherstone Rovers in the first week of the playoffs.
2010 - 2019
Eagles continued their good form as they entered the 2010s. In 2010, they made another popular signing in Misi Taulapapa and went on to finish sixth in the league. A tremendous win at Leigh set them on the road to a good run in the play-offs before they lost at Halifax in the semi-finals.
Aston continued to build his team with another Samoan signing in Quentin Laulu Togaga’e for the 2011 season. An improvement in the league saw them reach fourth place and they came good in the play-offs. Once again, Leigh suffered as they were beaten 20-10 at the LSV to earn Eagles a place in the Grand Final against Featherstone Rovers. Sadly, there was no happy ending as Rovers ran out 4-40 winners.
After 22 years the tries in a season record fell as Q scored 35 tries in 2012. History repeated itself as Eagles once again finished fourth and beat Leigh at the LSV in the final eliminator to face Featherstone Rovers in the final. But this was no Groundhog Day. This time, Eagles beat Rovers 20-16 in a tremendously exciting game to win the Championship for the first time.,
Q once again scored 35 tries in 2013 but his efforts were eclipsed by Menzie Yere, who scored a massive 46 tries. Dom Brambani created new records with 169 goals and 361 points. Eagles had their best cup run since 1998, starting with a record win against Leigh East, with Menzie equalling the tries in a match record of 5, held by Daryl Powell since 1989, and Dom Brambani beating Gavin Brown’s goals record with 14. They were eventually beaten by London Broncos in the quarter finals, 10-29. Shortly afterwards, Eagles faced Leigh at Halifax in the Northern Rail Final but, sadly, were beaten in a free scoring game, 28-43. They finished the league season in second place and once again made the final, where they faced Batley, who had been surprise golden point winners at Featherstone. Batley raced into a 0-12 lead but Eagles came back strongly to win 19-12 and retain their Championship title.
The bombshell news was that Don Valley was to close and be demolished and Eagles were exiled at Owlerton. Eagles struggled to cope with the size of the pitch and their home form was patchy. Nevertheless, they finished fifth and reached the semi-finals of the play-offs, where they lost at Featherstone.
2015 saw another ground, this time at the Keepmoat where there were a number of double header games. Finishing third, they qualified for the new Qualifiers competition. A victory over Wakefield ensured a respectable seventh place.
Another season, another ground. In 2016, Eagles returned to Sheffield to play at Sheffield Hallam University’s ground on Bawtry Road. Facilities for spectators were somewhat spartan but the pitch was wide and provided good rugby. Eagles finished third in the Championship Shield and won at Halifax in the semi final. However, despite playing their part in a competitive game, they lost to Bradford in the final at Odsal.
Yet another move in 2017, this time to Wakefield. Garry Lo had a tremendous season, scoring 37 tries, including five against Rochdale. Once again, Eagles finished third in the Championship Shield. An exciting win in the play-off semi-final, 28-26 at Batley, earned them a trip to Toulouse for the final, where they were not so successful.
In 2018, Eagles finally reached some level of permanence, moving back to Sheffield at the newly opened Olympic Legacy Park. There was little in the way of facilities compared to the old DVS but the management made the best of what they had in difficult circumstances. On the field, Eagles finished a disappointing eighth in a league which had returned to a more traditional promotion and relegation format.
Highlight of 2019 was undoubtedly the run in the new 1895 Cup. In Round 2, in which Eagles entered the competition, opponents Halifax elected to field an inexperienced team which put up a spirited performance before going down 52-8. The quarter final was against the only Championship One team left in the competition, Doncaster and the game was played at Featherstone, owing to unavailability of the Keepmoat. Doncaster led 12-28 at one stage but three tries in the last fifteen minutes put Eagles within two points. In an exciting climax to the game, Anthony Thackeray raced through to score under the posts and secure a place in the semi-final.
Batley were the visitors to the OLP and the game was played in torrential rain. Eagles coped much better with the dreadful conditions and ran out 18-2 winners to secure a return to Wembley.
Widnes Vikings had won at Leigh to earn themselves a place against Eagles in the final. The teams looked evenly matched and Widnes had the better of the early exchanges. Tries from Harrison Hansen and Chris Dean, both goaled by Jack Owens, gave them a 0-12 lead but Eagles clawed their way back into the game with ties from Aaron Brown and Anthony Thackeray, both goaled by Patch Walker. Shortly before the break, Thomas Gilmore put Widnes back in front with a try again goaled by Owens and Eagles went in 12-18 down at half time.
In their first attack after the break, Joel Farrell chased a kick and the bounce favoured him as he touched down for a try, leaving Eagles 16-18 down. Aaron Brown scored a few minutes later, Walker’s goal leaving Eagles 22-18 in front. From then on, Eagles dominated the game. Corey Makelim scored under the posts after a tremendous fifty metre run to the line and Aaron Brown completed his hattrick four minutes from the end. Both tries were goaled by Walker, who ended the game by kicking a penalty goal for Eagles to run out 36-18 winners.
Celebrations carried on well into the night and, indeed, for some, well into the following day.
As 2020 dawned, Eagles were on the road again, as work began on development of the OLP site.