Written by Zack Wilson
Photo by Sheffield Forgers RLFC
Sheffield Forgers, sponsored by Everything Rugby League, took another step in their development as a club last weekend.
The side from the south of the Steel City travelled to Hillsborough, to face local rivals Sheffield Hawks at Niagara Sports Ground, a venue which nestles in the shadow of Sheffield Wednesday’s famous old stadium.
Last season, the Forgers were destroyed by 70 points to nil, in a tough return to local derbies for the nascent club.
This season, things went a lot better for the team in purple and gold, with Forgers holding the Hawks fighting back from early setbacks to trail just 22-20 with a quarter of the game left.
Errors and fatigue then saw the scoreline blow out to 46-20 to the home side, though the level of performance was a world away from the equivalent game last season.
Whether the game was actually going to take place looked a moot point at the beginning of the week, with Hawks apparently struggling to find a pitch on which to play.
There was also some doubt about kick off time right up to the day before the game, highlighting the issues that face grassroots sport.
On the day, surprise was also expressed at the amount of players from other clubs who seemed to be appearing ‘on loan’ for the Hawks.
At least one player from Derby City, who had played against the Forgers the week before, turned out in a red jersey, and there were others playing who seemed to have made some sort of short-term agreement to turn out for the Hawks.
As with all good local derbies, there was a touch of controversy about a player transfer too, with one former Hawks player not having the paperwork for his transfer completed in time to play for the Forgers.
Such is life in grassroots sport, where the political and the personal often entwine in surprisingly petty ways.
As for the performance, inexperience showed, and the team lacked a little bit of coherence at times.
That can be improved with better communication, and more drilling into the players of the right rugby league habits.
The Forgers should certainly be pleased with the way that they played.
Ahead of the game, head coach Chris Coates asked all players with more than 10 games of rugby league experience to put up their hands.
“Only around half a dozen of the 20-man squad did so. That such an inexperienced group of players can hold their own against an experienced side is tremendous credit to the players.
It is also credit to the coaching team of Coates and former Sheffield Eagles player Paul McDermott.
“We’ve worked a lot on being more intense,” Coates told Everything Rugby League.
“The intensity is there but the execution is probably not quite there yet.
“I think there’s so much opportunity for growth in that side that I think that when the execution fixes itself it will be great.”
“For a derby game a lot of it is all about keeping your head when things are intense.
“I think it’s good that we’re getting that local rivalry back.
“We move on to Garforth away next week. There’s a lot to come from this side, it’s just a question of time.”
What the Forgers have managed to do is bring players who are entirely new to the game to rugby league.
The majority of the squad has a background in rugby union rather than league, though some have never played either code before.
That is an important point to note – if we are to boost participation rates we need to bring in entirely new people to the sport, and give them reason to stay.
Forgers have been fishing for players in places where most rugby league clubs in Yorkshire never look, and that is worthy of great credit.
Now it is up to those players to reward the faith placed in them by the coaching staff, and to develop into the good team that they can be.