Excitement and relief as fans return to live sport in Doncaster
There was a tangible sense of excitement and relief as fans returned to live sport in Doncaster for the first time in 14 months on Sunday.
Over 500 Doncaster RLFC supporters were back at the Keepmoat Stadium to cheer their side to victory against West Wales Raiders.
The Dons last played in front of a crowd at the Keepmoat on March 8 last year – also against West Wales.
Before the game fans spoke of their joy at returning.
Paul Nazimek, 67, from Rossington, has supported the Dons since the 1980s.
He said: It's good that we're reopening up again, I'm looking forward to it, it's been a long time. It'll be nice to watch the lads again.
“I've missed it a lot. I used to go down to the training ground and get to know the lads - it's something I've always done with my brother - but we can't do that now.
“It's nice to be back, see a few familiar faces and cheer the lads on.”
Stephen Stones, 58, from Armthorpe, changed his allegiance from football to start watching rugby league five years ago.
“It's wonderful to be back and I think most people here will be feeling excited,” he said.
“It just seems so long ago since everybody could go to live sport.
“I've been working and there's been nothing at the end of it. This is your treat at the weekend which we haven't had.
“It's nice to see people smiling. The big subject that everyone talks about is people's mental health and it's got to be good for that - getting out in the fresh air and doing something we all enjoy.
“It's a good day out and a nice way of socialising. There's a nice family atmosphere.”
Stuart Donkin 55, from Goole, said: “I’m just pleased to back after 14 months. There’s definitely a sense of relief coming back here.
“I’m used to going to lots of live sports events and this is obviously the first one this year so I’m looking forward to it. I’ve missed it, it’s been a strange time for everyone and time seems to have dragged.”
Matt McGlone, 28, from Cantley, has supported the club for 20 years and was delighted to be reunited with the Dons ‘family’.
“I'm excited. It's been a long time,” he said.
“The World Cup's coming here later this year and I'm looking forward to that but I was thinking are the fans ever going to be able to come back?
“So it's nice to see the start of it today.
“You miss the social side of it. All the fans at the Dons get on so well together or know each other and to be away from it, it's like you've missed your family or friends.
“It's nice to be back with everybody, you can see people have got smiles on their faces and it's nice to have that camaraderie back again.”
Later in the day fans of Sheffield Eagles, tenants at the Keepmoat this year while their new stadium is built, and Featherstone Rovers also descended on the venue for their league clash.
Mark Hughesman, marketing manager for Club Doncaster, said: “It’s such a great feeling to see fans back in the stadium, just to see how happy everyone is to attend the game.
"It’s been 14 months without fans and it’s just not the same. It’ll be great today to see and hear those fans cheering on the lads.
"The Club Doncaster staff have put so much effort in behind the scenes. Sam Ramsden our safety officer has put a lot of work in to prepare the stadium and staff have really pulled together to get things ready for the safe return of fans. All precautions are in place and the safety of our fans is paramount.”
Doncaster Knights will welcome fans back to Castle Park on Saturday for their final game of the season against Nottingham.