DONCASTER coach Tony Miller hopes his side’s achievements this season has helped put rugby league back on the map in South Yorkshire.
They will compete for the Championship One Grand Final against Barrow Raiders tomorrow having already lifted the League Leaders’ Shield and dominated the competition’s awards dinner earlier this week.
Miller won Coach of the Year after helping secure promotion, Paul Cooke took the player award and Doncaster, after years of struggle, were noted as the best club in 2012.
“I think South Yorkshire has probably gone under the radar with rugby league for a while now,” Miller told the Yorkshire Post. “People speak about different expansion areas but the big challenge for the RFL is to expand rugby league here in South Yorkshire.
“It’s not too far from the heartlands, there’s a lot of schools play the sport as well as club sides and there’s a lot more to come from this area.
“I’m delighted both Doncaster and – in the Championship – Sheffield Eagles are competing on finals day. It’s testament to the hard work that’s gone on.”
Doncaster, who were on the brink of financial ruin five years ago and then blighted by the Shaun Leaf betting scandal last season, have overcome some tumultuous times to re-establish themselves.
Written off by many, they won 15 of their 18 league games to pip tomorrow’s opponents Barrow by a point to the title.
The Cumbrians defeated them 22-20 in the qualifying play-off but Doncaster swept past Workington 20-0 last Sunday to set up a re-match at Warrington.
Miller said: “At the beginning of the year no one really gave us a chance. Our goal was to finish in the top four and I thought we’d achieve that with the squad we had especially when we got Paul Cooke on board.
“I knew we had a chance of winning the league but our main focus was to get promotion. Once we achieved that we had the chance of the League Leaders’ Shield too but I thought we’d blown it when we lost at Whitehaven.
“It it shows the quality of the division, though, as we didn’t expect Oldham and Rochdale to beat Barrow and Workington on the same day. That put us back in the driving seat and I’m delighted we managed to get over the finishing line.”
That was Doncaster’s first silverware in 61 years but now they are looking for a swift second.
“It’s testament to how far this club has come and it’s fitting that we’re now in the final too,” added Miller. “The players deserve it after all the hard work they’ve put in and we’ll be giving our all to come away with that too but we know we’re up against a tough side in Barrow.
“Their main man is the skipper Liam Harrison. He’s had an outstanding year and is a real quality player while Andy Ballard at full-back is another attacking threat.
“It should be a great game and I think it is too close to call.”
Doncaster have been hit by the loss of Cooke with a fractured kneecap while stalwart Craig Lawton broke his collar bone against Workington in what became his final game before retiring.
They also have doubts over Kyle Keswick (shin) who slotted into Cooke’s stand-off role last week.