Doncaster RLFC ready to welcome Samoa and Rugby League World Cup after heartbreak of League One Grand Final defeat
Because on Tuesday, the Samoa national team arrives in the recently-established city to set up camp for the Rugby League World Cup which kicks off in just 11 days time.
For the likes of Carl Hall, chief executive of Doncaster RLFC and one of the chief drivers of the World Cup coming to this corner of South Yorkshire, the disappointment of Sunday must quickly give way to the bigger picture: growing the game in his adopted hometown.
"It’s massive to be bringing a world event to this city,” says Hall, who first moved to Doncaster from his native New Zealand in 1988, and but for spells with Hull KR, Leeds, Bradford Northern and Featherstone, has pretty much called this place home.
"You walk around Donny now and the whole place is branded with RLWC which is something I’m really proud.
"To have come here many years ago from New Zealand, I never thought I’d be walking around the town seeing the town branded in rugby league which I’m so grateful for.”
As chief executive of Doncaster RLFC, Hall got together with the local council four years ago to put a bid together to bring a World Cup game to the 15,000-capacity Eco-Power Stadium (formerly Keepmoat).
Doncaster won the right to host three games - France v Greece on Monday October 17, 7.30pm; Samoa v Greece on Sunday October 23, 5pm; and Papua New Guinea v Wales on Monday October 31, 7.30pm – and be a training base for Samoa.
“Everyone from the mayor Ros Jones, Jo Miller who was the ceo of the council and now Damian Allen, Rupert Suckling, and then Gavin Baldwin at Club Doncaster, have all bought into it, putting a lot of time and effort in,” said Hall.
"We put a lot of effort into the bid thinking we’d only get one game, but we’ve got three, which is huge. We’ve lived and breathed it for the last three years, even when Covid was around we still did things over Zoom with the schools. We’ve just cracked on, that’s the motto here in Donny.”
And the motto of the Rugby League World Cup, one that promotes inclusivity by giving the women’s and wheelchair tournaments equal standing to the men’s game, is social impact.
To that end, Samoa will play a key role in Doncaster. "We’ve got a civic reception for them at Mansion House on Thursday, and a lot of stuff organised in the schools and around the community for them, just like the Kiwis and Cook Islands players did here in 2013,” explained Hall.
"We’ve already seen it from the 2013 World Cup – I get kids of 18, 19-year-old coming up to me saying they did the haka when the Kiwis came to their school.
"They’re still remembering that, so Samoa will have a massive impact on our city. They’ll embrace us and we’ll embrace them.
"We’ve done heaps in the schools already, there’ll be a whole lot of kids here for the games. We’re trying to make it an event, we've invited the England band down to get a bit of an atmosphere in the stadium. We want everyone to come and enjoy it.
"Hopefully rugby league’s community game grows on the back of this world event. We want all the kids playing in five, 10 years time and we see the fruits of the labour.
"It would have been beautiful to give the city a Championship rugby league team as well as a World Cup, but we just fell short.”
Doncaster lost 16-10 to hosts Swinton Lions on Sunday, meaning another season in the semi-professional third tier of rugby league beckons.
The Dons were underdogs going into the League One Grand Final and gave Swinton – a team that had beaten them 32-12 two weeks earlier in the first round of the play-offs – an almighty scare.
"It was a brilliant effort, the boys had a real go,” lamented Hall. “It was just a toss of the coin that game, it was always going to be that way.
"I felt for the boys, I really wanted them to do it for themselves, they’re an absolutely great bunch. They were all saying we want to do it for you and the club, but I’ve had my day, I wanted them to do it for themselves.
"They’re brilliant lads to have around the club and we’re hoping to keep as many as we can. We’ve got the best two coaches outside of Super League in Richard Horne and Chris Plume.
"They’re really good coaches and take ownership. It really hit them the loss because they’re desperate to get the club winning and in the Championship.
"Continuity and consistency will be key for us going forward, but it’s difficult to maintain. We’ll do everything we can to try and keep the nucleus together.”
Tickets for the Rugby League World Cup at Doncaster available at https://www.rlwc2021.com/tickets