Rugby League: Eagles fly in for pre-season happy with new Owlerton base

Owlerton Stadium
Owlerton Stadium
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Sheffield Eagles’ players report for pre-season training tonight secure in the knowledge that they have a home ground for next season.

They will play first team games at Owlerton Stadium ending fears that the club could be forced to leave the city.

It’s been an anxious two months for the Eagles who were made homeless when Don Valley closed its gates for the last time only hours after they clinched a second successive Championship title.

The Eagles will be returning to the stadium where they began in 1984 and played for five seasons.

The Rugby Football League has approved the move to the 6,000 capacity stadium - which stages greyhound, stock car and speedway racing.

John Gilburn, managing director of Owlerton Stadium, said the club was “coming home” and added: “It is fantastic that we have been able to help the club stay in Sheffield and we look forward to working in partnership to help the Eagles realise their Super League ambitions.”

The Eagles will play home games on Sundays and hope the move will boost attendances that have been hovering around the 1,000 mark.

The fans will be closer to the action - always a bugbear at Don Valley. Supporters were given an insight into the club’s plans at a special meeting at Owlerton last night.

Club chairman Ian Swire said: “We are all highly impressed with the huge improvements in facilities at Owlerton Stadium since we left there in 1989 and I’m sure all of our spectators, old and new, will enjoy the amenities that the stadium has to offer.”

Sheffield City Council is expected to announce aid to keep the Eagles successful community programme running.

Training will switch to Hallam University’s sports complex on the outskirts of the city.

The club’s reserve and junior teams will play their games at the Bawtry Road centre.

The squad that starts pre-season training includes two new signings in prop Ben Jones from Dewbury and 19-year-old Huddersfield Giants Academy forward Jack Blagbrough.

Assistant coach Dave Larder will oversee the opening weeks of training with Mark Aston taking a break after leading Ireland in the Rugby League World Cup.

The Irish bowed out after losing all three group games ending with a 50-0 hammering by tournament favourites Australia.

Aston remains upbeat saying: “The lads’ attitude has been great and I’m proud of what we served up.

“It’s hard playing the best in the world but we stuck in, had a dig and showed character.”

Eagles’ fans still have a direct interest in the World Cup with Mitch Stringer, Alex Szostak and Andrew Henderson in a Scotland squad which has been one of the big performers in the tournament.

The Bravehearts finished unbeaten in their group and face the Cup holders New Zealand in the quarter-finals at Headingley, Leeds, tomorrow night.