Crowds up as Pirates treasure their victory

DONCASTER Knights' crowd figures for the first three matches of the season are 45% up on the same period last season - a reflection of the growing interest in the National League One club and their successful start to the new campaign under Clive Griffiths.

A 1,500 crowd last Saturday on the first of the season's designated Family Days was very encouraging - especially as the Cornish visitors numbered no more than two dozen.

The immediate aim is to see 2000 plus crowds on a regular basis - a number considered essential to support a top-of-the-table team and its backroom staff.

The community work, which is bringing in ever increasing numbers of children, is one strategy.

A new strategy is the arrival of Gary Hodder on a part-time basis as commercial manager. Gary has been commercial director of Leicester City and CEO of Northampton Town soccer clubs and will bring his experience to bear in getting the message of match day attraction to a wider audience. Nothing stands still at Castle Park these days!

One new addition to the facilities is a TV gantry beside the old stand. Last Saturday saw Sky present and highlights of the Pirates match can be seen both tonight and tomorrow on Sky Sports.

Television cameras will again be at Castle Park on Sunday to film England's youngest ever qualified referee taking a junior game.

Leuan Davies qualified as a Yorkshire Society referee last spring, aged 11, and regularly acts as touch judge for the club' s A team as well as refereeing juniors on Sunday mornings.

The "Total Rugby" programme makers heard about this and have been keen to do a feature on their show about Leuan. We believe it will be shown next week on Sky.

Last weekend's disappointing defeat against the Cornish Pirates was all the more galling when Plymouth lost at Exeter. A Knights' win would have seen them top of the National One league table.

Instead Rotherham leapfrog both to head the table with the Knights now in fifth, but only three points off the lead.

Brad Hunt and Simon Bunting both picked up leg injuries in the game and are doubts for this weekend, as are Luke Gross and Dave Scully who pulled hamstrings during Monday night's training session.

The physio's table has been a busy place this week and there are doubts about all four for this weekend. On the positive side, John Rawson is back in training, and both Anthony Carter and Jon Benson came through the "A" team's 24-8 win at Scunthorpe last weekend, Carter scoring two tries in the process.

Sheffield Eagles' flier Rob Worrincy is now in camp too, following his two tries in the Eagles' National League Two Grand Final win over Swinton at Warrington last Sunday.

Worrincy scored two tries, one a length-of-the-field affair that showed the TV audience what pace he has. It shouldn't be too long before he figures in Clive Griffiths' plans.

Fijian newcomer, Netani Talei, watched last week's game whilst still getting over jet lag, but has impressed in training this week.

He can cover all back-row positions and may make his debut as a flanker, given Glen Wilson's current superb form at No 8.

Another new face at Castle Park this week is Rhys Jones, the 19 year-old son of former Doncaster director of rugby, Kingsley Jones.

Rhys is the Wales Under-19 fly-half, and a prodigious goal-kicker. He is on the books at Sale where his dad is coaching, and has played in their Academy side understudying England star Charlie Hodgson.

Sale are looking to place him with a National One side where he can develop and the connection to Doncaster is an obvious one. He has initially come here on a one month loan but that could be extended if both parties agree.

This Saturday sees Coventry come to Castle Park (2.30pm) in a game both sides will be desperate to win.

Lying in tenth place, Coventry suffered a surprise home defeat last week against London Welsh and, like the Knights, will be looking to get back on a winning track.

The game is being refereed by Welsh referee, James Jones, on international exchange and who, coincidentally, took the Knights' pre season game at Aberavon.

Clive Griffiths liked his refereeing that day, something he hasn't often said so far this season with the English referees he has seen! Perhaps it's an omen.

The game will be preceded by a Ladies' match between Yorkshire and Essex (12.30pm) to which spectators are welcome.

At half-time there will be an Under-10s game of contact rugby between Doncaster and Wheatley Hills, marking the start of a rugby development programme by the Knights aimed at improving rugby throughout Doncaster.

As demand for junior rugby continues to grow through the schools' programme, and Doncaster's junior section operating now pretty much at capacity, the Knights' community team is aiming to see new youngsters taking up the game at other local clubs as well.

It's the start of something that all concerned hope will just grow and grow.