The word “legend” is often trawled out nowadays and over the years has lost much impact.
In Sheffield, sporting legends trip off the tongue: Derek Dooley, Johnny Fantham, Alan Woodward, Tony Currie, Sebastian Coe and Jessica Ennis-Hill.
Would many folk mention the name Mark Aston as a sporting legend? To me, this man epitomises the very essence of what a sporting legend is all about.
As an 18-year-old player Mark joined the fledgling Sheffield Eagles Rugby League Club in 1985. Within four years “Tubby” as he is affectionately known, was an integral part of the Eagles side that secured the impossible dream of promotion to rugby league’s First Division. International honours followed and Mark became one of the best half–backs of his generation.
From there he was the architect in the Eagles’ “against all odds” RL Challenge Cup Final win over Wigan Warriors at Wembley in 1998, he was awarded the Lance Todd Man of the match trophy for his part in one of sport’’ greatest ever upsets – his status in Sheffield folklore now truly secured.
Then within 12 months, the unthinkable happened.
In 1999, due to financial difficulties the Eagles merged with Huddersfield to form the Huddersfield/Sheffield Giants RLFC.
One player refused to go along with the move – Mark Aston. “Tubby” would not let the Eagles die! Within 12 months of that day beneath the Twin Towers, Aston cobbled together a team and backers to re-launch his beloved Eagles.
It is said Aston remortgaged his home to finance the formation of the new Eagles.
The new Eagles (wearing borrowed kit), were born. In his new role as CEO/coach/scrum half/chief cook-and bottle-washer, Mark Aston dominated the game and Eagles were back!
When DVS closed the Eagles faced an uncertain future.
Owlerton Stadium is their temporary home and much hope now lies in plans for a new stadium built on part of the old DVS site.
If this is built at least one of the new stands surely must be named The Mark Aston Stand?
“Tubby” you were a legend on the field, off it mate, you are the Messiah.