SUNDAY’S Grand Final against Barrow at the Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium marked the end of the Championship One campaign.
And what a campaign it has been for Doncaster Rugby League Club.
Not only did they finish top of the league for the first time in their history, boasting a 100 per cent home record in the process, but they also lifted the championship title with a thrilling 16-13 win over Barrow, who had gone into the game as slight favourites given the Dons injury problems.
The absence of key play-maker Paul Cooke added to the responsibilities on half-back partner Craig Fawcett’s shoulders.
“Paul has been outstanding all year and it was massively disappointing that he wasn’t involved,” said Fawcett. “But he’s also had a big effect off the field and his experience and professionalism has rubbed off on the boys.
“We could have done with having him out there on Sunday to add a bit of composure, but we managed to pull through.”
No small thanks to Fawcettt, recently named the club’s most improved player.
The schoolteacher had done his homework on Barrow, who finished runners-up to the Dons, and his performance on the day won him the coveted Championship One Man of the Match award.
He was the creative force in the Dons side and scored their third and final try to earn them a 16-7 lead midway through the second half, but admits the team could never afford to relax as Barrow pounded their line for long periods of the last quarter.
“We knew that Barrow were a really strong side having lost to them by two points a fortnight earlier so we always knew that it was going to be tough,” he told me.
“It was a tough game and we trailed 7-4 at the interval, but our team spirit helped pull us through. Everyone played their part and it was a massive defensive effort from all of the team,
“Workington Town are another really top team at this level and we managed to nil them in last week’s final and we carried that confidence from that defensive effort into Sunday’s final. The fact that we had kept Workington out certainly gave us confidence when we were under the cosh in the second half.
“It would have been nice to have kept a clean sheet in the second half but their pressure was probably always going to tell.
“We didn’t help ourselves at times by turning the ball over and I couldn’t get my clearance kicks to go where I wanted them to go and they built a lot of pressure.
“We were delighted to do the double because we’d spoken in the build-up about making sure that we doubled up because some people were saying that although we had won the League Leaders’ Shield that we weren’t champions and we wanted to show that we were the best team in the division and I think we’ve proved our point. Hopefully we can build on what we’ve achieved this season.
“We are under no illusions that it is going to be really tough in the Championship next season.
“But we’ve got a really good backroom staff and there is a really good team spirit around the place and a lot of the boys have already signed on for next season.”
Among the players to have put pen to paper on a new contract for 2013 is centre Lee Waterman, who extended his new club try-scoring record to 35 on Sunday.