BEING a rugby league fan in South Yorkshire can at times make you feel like you’ve signed up for a rather unusual sporting diet.
Most people I know prefer to dine out at the Owls or Blades, even in the case of my drinking mate the Barnsley Reds (but let’s not stray into other minority tastes). To follow the Eagles or the Dons I like to think shows a determination to experiment.
The good thing is that Sheffield is big enough to offer quite a menu of sports – there’s more on offer than flavours of crisps. The trouble with all that choice is that indecision can be final.
You might be tempted by imported alien offerings like ice hockey (are there humans under all that armour?) and basketball. There’s rugby union but you’ll find it goes cold long before something happens and all those penalties are difficult to digest.
Might I suggest that for the rest of the summer you push the junk food to one side and go for a good hearty Northern offering of rugby league.
From this weekend the Championship starts with the Eagles at home to Swinton Lions. Ahead are 18 league games when the players (without spaceman helmets) will slug it out.
There’s not a better time to try a taste of the Eagles. In the past month the team has come through the half-world of the Northern Rail Cup finishing unbeaten and top of their pool at the end of the group stages. That kind of record would have earned Mark Aston the sack if he’d been coaching one of the city’s football clubs where it seems nothing fails like success in the eyes of the chairman.
The Eagles are issuing an invitation to enjoy a fast-action team game that mixes skill and excitement with the kind of physical challenges that would have a WWF wrestler running home to mummy. Rugby league sets out to dish up a good value serving that lasts a full 80 minutes. You will definitely see tries – in four Rail Cup games the Eagles scored 25.
The dream is to put Super League on the city’s sporting menu but they need an average attendance of 2,500 to make an application. Catch 22 – the Eagles would easily get 2,500 and a lot more … if they were in the Super League.
This week the club launched a promotional campaign including posters across the city to bring back old fans and attract new ones – particularly families.
Tickets in football terms are cheap and kids under 16 are being offered wristbands that give them free entry for the season. There’s family ‘carnival’ entertainment before Sunday’s game with bouncy castles, rodeo bulls and lots of other entertainment.
Give into temptation and bring the family to Don Valley Stadium, you will be welcome and it could change your sporting tastes.