Rugby League: Eagles face uncertain future as Don Valley run comes to an end

Sheffield Eagles' (red strip) in action against Halifax at Don Valley Stadium.
Sheffield Eagles' (red strip) in action against Halifax at Don Valley Stadium.

The curtain comes down on Sheffield Eagles 23-year run at Don Valley Stadium this weekend with the club facing an uncertain future.

Dewsbury Rams will be the visitors for the final ever rugby league game at the stadium.

The stakes are high with the Eagles needing to win to keep alive hopes of retaining their Championship title but there’s still a drama to be played out off the field.

“It’s the last game at DVS and we don’t know where we will be next year,” said Mark Aston who has a dual role as the club’s head coach and chief executive.

“All the doors have been closed on us. I have drawn a blank. I have tried every football club, everything we can.”

Don Valley was built for the World Student Games and has been the Eagles home since 1990. It provided the vital base for a new club to be created after the “merger” with Huddersfield Giants 13 years ago.

The stadium is being demolished under city council cuts with athletics provided with a new centre at a revamped Woodbourn Road Stadium. But no provision has been made for the Eagles.

Hopes of a temporary home at Sheffield Hallam University’s sports complex on Bawtry Road faded this week.

It seems the Eagles last option is a return to Owlerton where the club played from its launch in 1984 until 1989. Work would be needed to bring the greyhound stadium back into use for rugby league and Eagles will turn to the city council for financial help.

“Sheffield City Council is providing capital sums to relocate athletics to Woodbourn Road and it is to be hoped that they can also assist rugby league to relocate to Owlerton if the feasibility study is positive,” said Eagles’ chairman Ian Swire.

Eagles will hope to leave Don Valley on a high. The omens for a big exit on Sunday (kick-off 6.30pm) are high after four wins over Dewsbury in cup and league competitions this season.

But uncertainty has crept into their game after three straight defeats with the last a disappointing 21-6 loss to Halifax in the opening play-off qualification round.

A win would have taken the Eagles into the semi-final, now they face a knockout game for the right to seek revenge against Fax in the last four.

Aston said: “The Halifax defeat means we have lost home advantage if we make the semis. Now we have to do it the hard way but we’ve done that before. We won the Grand Final last season and the desire to do that again is there.”