The Self-Isolation Chronicles: Doncaster

1. Rangi Chase almost played in the NCL.

Doncaster made a huge signing in the form of Rangi Chase in 2019, following his return from a two-year drugs ban. The former England, Castleford and Salford halfback, known for his outrageous passing, joined the League 1 outfit and has since rolled back the years and displayed his off-the-cuff playing once again. Before the Dons lured him to the club, however, he was about to play in the NCL instead. Rumours circulated that Chase was heading for either Lock Lane or Cutsyke Raiders, but he later revealed he was planning to turn out for Normanton Knights. A phone call from Doncaster CEO Carl Hall changed Chase’s mind, having last played for Widnes Vikings in 2017 and then serving a ban for cocaine use. For another strange Chase-related fact, he is the cousin of New Zealand hooker Isaac Luke, whose wife Mickayela is the cousin of Sonny-Bill Williams.

2. The man who said ‘Another Bloody Sunday’ was a son of a founding member.

Doncaster were subject to an off-the-wall documentary in 1980, titled ‘Another Bloody Sunday’ following a famous quote from Doncaster stalwart Stewart Piper. He was asked who they were playing this week, when he said “Rochdale on Sunday. Another Bloody Sunday.” That would become the name of the documentary, which chartered the 40-game losing run that saw them enter the Guinness Book of World Records for the most consecutive defeats in any professional sport. That ended with a 6-3 win over Hyton, by the end of the Yorkshire TV Documentary, as nobody more than Piper wanted to see them back to their form glory. That was because his father had helped form the club in 1952. Piper now serves as Club President, as the family name holds great weight in the city.

3. They lured an Australian international to the Championship.

Cleary, with the acquisition of Chase, the club have a knack of luring big-names to the lower tiers. But this one really was a coup. In 2008, chaired by current agent and media personality Craig Harrison and coached by the legendary figure of Ellery Hanley, the club brought an Australian international the second tier. Chris McKenna had forged a reputation as an internationally-respected centre with Cronulla Sharks, following spells at Sheffield Eagles and London Broncos, as he made two appearances for Australia in 2002. He came to the UK to feature for Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls, before a shock signing at Doncaster. McKenna lasted only nine games at the club, and departed at the end of the 2008 season along with Harrison and Hanley, although the club won the National League Two play-off final against Oldham.

4. Their former stadium was subject to a planned arson.

In 1995, following the sale of their former stadium Tattersfield for housing development, the club ground shared with Doncaster Rovers at Belle Vue for the first time. They played their last game at Tattersfield in April 1995 and, in the same year, their new home for the duration was subject to a planned arson. A fire during one night in June 1995 caused huge damage to the stadium and, in a real shock twist, Doncaster Rovers chairman Ken Richardson was arrested for his involvement in the fire. He was taken away by police after a game against Fulham, and was subsequently sentenced to four years in prison. The man who started the fire, Alan Kristiansen was a former SAS soldier and had been paid £10,000 by Richardson to start the fire, along with two other accomplices. The fire was believed to be part of an insurance scheme. Doncaster RLFC played at the ground until 1996, and returned in 1998 following a brief spell at Meadow Court Stadium. They have ground shared with Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium since 2007.

5. Jamie Thackray had four spells at the club.

Completing an article thematic of seeing internationals drop down the leagues, former Great Britain forward Jamie Thackray clearly gravitated to the Dons as he joined them for a fourth spell in 2017. The 40-year-old, who turned out for Whitehaven at the start of this year, was part of the 2005 Challenge Cup winning side for Hull FC and featured in the Tri-Nations for Great Britain the same year. But Thackray has Doncaster to thank for a lot of his development, spending three separate spells on loan from three different clubs. He first came in 1999, playing four times as a 20-year-old from Hunslet. His second stint came in 2002, for a two-game spell from Halifax, while the third came in 2008 from Leeds Rhinos. He finally became a permanent Doncaster player in 2017, following spells in Wales, France, Australia, in all corners of England from Cumbria to London and even a spell in rugby union with Hullensians. What an illustrious career indeed.