Rugby League: Amateur clubs hope for World Cup boom

Former Dons star Craig Lawton is now a junior coach at Toll Bar.
Former Dons star Craig Lawton is now a junior coach at Toll Bar.
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England may have failed to regain the Rugby League World Cup late last year but the competition still proved a huge success.

As was the case with the organisers of the 2012 Olympics, RFL bosses are hoping the tournament will inspire more people to watch the sport and to play it in 2014.

With the domestic season not kicking off until next month it is too early to judge whether average attendances in both the Super League and the Championship will rise.

But if amateur clubs like Doncaster Toll Bar are anything to go by, the hoped-for boost to sport at grassroots level will be realised.

Former Dons star Craig Lawton, who coaches what will be the club’s under-12s team next season, reports a big influx of newcomers in 2013.

It’s a trend he hopes will continue when youngsters report back for more pre-season training this month.

“I don’t think it was just the World Cup - there are other factors – though it has played a part,” said Lawton.

“The World Cup as a whole was brilliant.

“It was just a shame about England suffering a last minute defeat in the semi-final.

“We had a World Cup day at the club that day and the open-age players came down and we had a big junior coaching session and then watched the game.

“We also had the Cook Islands squad come up to the club just prior to the start of the tournament and they coached all the junior teams.

“The kids absolutely loved it and they had someone they’d met to cheer on in the World Cup as well as England.

“All the lads in my team acted as ball boys when the Cook Islands played New Zealand in their friendly at the Keepmoat.”

Craig’s son Kieron, who plays stand-off, is one of the stars of what was the under-11s team last season.

And the former Dons captain hopes he too could go on to play professionally one day.

“I think he’s got a chance,” said Lawton.

“He’s faster than I was and he’s got all the skills.

“He can already kick goals from 30 metres out.

“But he’s just one of a number of promising players at the club and the number of juniors has boomed recently.

“We’ve had around 25 kids training in just my age group.

“We’ve even had some girls come down and we are hoping that we can get some more down training this year.

“We’re hoping to form a girls’ team as they can’t play in the same team as boys after under-11 level.”

For more information about Doncaster Toll Bar RLFC visit www.pitchero.com/clubs/doncasterarlfc or follow the club on twitter @Donnytollbar.