2nd September: Happy birthday, Eagles

Richard de la Riviere looks back at what happened in Rugby League over the years on this day: 2nd September

Sheffield Eagles celebrate their 29th birthday today, having played their first match on this day in 1984.
The seeds were sewn a in 1982 when Gary Hetherington, now the chief executive at Leeds, missed out on the coach’s job at York. With the encouragement of his wife Kath, he decided that the best way to coach a side was to set up his own club.
But when Sheffield’s introduction to the league was delayed by a year, he played for another new club, Kent Invicta, in the 1983-84 season, before returning north to set up the Eagles.
Stuart Sheard was one of a handful of volunteers involved in the early days.
“Gary would write a list of things he wanted doing on the back of envelopes and then disappear for a day or two at a time,” Sheard wrote in Rugby League Journal.
“I didn’t realise until after the season began that he was working in his double-glazing business in order to keep some income coming in.”
Hetherington will be glad he did that as, at the eleventh hour, the club’s major sponsor, Telvista, went bust, meaning that the very existence of the club hung by a thread.
After plans to play at Sheffield United’s ground, Bramall Lane, had fallen through, the Eagles moved into the tiny Owlerton Stadium near Hillsborough. They posted a crowd of 1,214 for that opening match against Rochdale Hornets, although they had hoped for far more.
But they did at least record an impressive win. Paul McDermott, older brother of current Leeds coach Brian, scored three tries, with Hetherington himself kicking a drop-goal in a 29-10 win.

Robins avoid the drop with derby win

Hull Kingston Rovers preserved their Super League status in the most satisfying way imaginable as they thrashed Hull FC at the KC Stadium on this day in 2007.
Their win condemned Salford to National League One.
Having been the bookies’ favourites to be relegated at the start of the season, Rovers took to life in Super League in a more comfortable fashion than many had predicted.
They won four of their first five games, including wins over Wigan and Leeds. At the JJB Stadium in round four, they led at half-time by a quite astonishing 26-0.
Eight defeats followed, but that run was ended as they beat Hull in the game’s inaugural Magic Weekend. Kicking three goals that day was new signing Paul Cooke, snatched from FC in controversial fashion just a fortnight earlier.
With three rounds to play, second-bottom Rovers still needed another win to maintain their spot at the game’s top table, and they stunned everybody by winning 42-6 in front of a record 23,004 crowd at Hull’s stadium, two more than the figure that attended the corresponding fixture on Good Friday.
And it was Cooke’s kick that provided the first try as his bomb was tapped back by Andreas Bauer for Jason Netherton to score. Amid raucous jeering from the home fans, Cooke goaled from touch for a 12th-minute 6-0 lead for Rovers.
Luke Dyer put them further ahead after a Kirk Yeaman fumble and, when the centre scored again just before half-time after intercepting a Hutch Maiava offload, Rovers were in dreamland at 16-0.
The procession continued after 13 scoreless minutes in the second half. Welsh international Mark Lennon touched down another Cooke kick before Rhys Lovegrove took Cooke’s long pass to beat Shaun Briscoe to the line.
James Webster and Stanley Gene added fine individual efforts before Lovegrove scored his second with two minutes to play, again from Cooke’s pass.
“I’m very proud,” said Rovers coach Justin Morgan.
“It wasn’t just a victory, but very convincing, and the most points we’ve scored in a day. And to do it against the form team of the comp, with the added pressure of knowing we’d secure our Super League future, was a huge effort.”
Later that night, the club revealed to the press that they had signed Melbourne Storm forward Clint Newton, Wests Tigers pair Ben Galea and Daniel Fitzhenry, Wakefield’s Peter Fox and Briscoe from the black and whites to add to Jake Webster, whose signing from Gold Coast had already been announced.