Steve Hossack on boost for Doncaster Knights, Doncaster Eagles' facilities envy, Wimbledon and rugby league crackdown

As usual I’m looking forward to the forthcoming Wimbledon Championships.

By Steve Hossack
Sunday, 26th June 2022, 6:00 am

I have been a few times over the years and the first time I ever sat on the iconic Centre Court, which I had seen so many times on television, was a surreal experience.

If you like watching tennis, and you ever get the chance to go, I would urge you to do so though be prepared for long queues!

The complex is at its pristine best on the opening day, particularly if the weather is good. However, you don’t always see the best games on the show courts early on.

Doncaster Knights in action at Castle Park. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

I have been lucky to get a centre court ticket on several occasions over the years but my wife and I, who were both members of Doncaster LTC for over 25 years, sometimes decided to take in some games on the outside courts. Especially if we had been sat in the shade on a sunny day.

You can often drop in on a cracking match between lower-ranked players away from the show courts where routine wins for the top seeds are often the order of the day at the start of the Championships.

I’ve seen most of the top players between the mid-80s and 2010 including John McEnroe, who didn’t disappoint most of the crowd by ‘losing it’ and having his trademark rant at the officials much like Nick Kyrios does now.

I regularly saw Doncaster’s Andrew McDougall on line duty during many of the big games on the show courts.

Centre Court at Wimbledon. Photo: AELTC/THOMAS LOVELOCK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

I also, literally, bumped into Anna Kournikova – slightly more photogenic than Andrew - as she made her way to Court 2 through a packed concourse.

Wimbledon gives the sport a massive boost every summer but I’ve often felt that it fails to capitalise.

For instance, how many of the people who flock to the park courts lose interest after a few weeks because they can’t get a rally going – not least because they are trying to replicate the serving and shots they’ve seen on TV? Might it help those people if someone from the local club was on hand for free basic advice/coaching during Wimbledon and for a couple of weeks after?

At the very least they’d be able to point out that novices of equal or similar ability can enjoy some decent rallies by either serving under-arm - as Kyrios does on occasions - or a very gentle standard serve and not being too ambitious with their shots. And make them aware of what their club can offer going forward.

*The news that Rugby Football Union and the Premiership clubs are considering lowering some of the requirements for promotion to the top flight of English rugby union is good news for the likes of Doncaster Knights.

During a time when both Doncaster Rovers and the Dons have not made the progress they would have liked, and indeed have gone backwards at times, the Armthorpe Road club have continued to fly the sporting flag for the city.

The club’s transformation over the last 30 years or so has been phenomenal.

Starting life in Yorkshire Two when league rugby was first introduced into the English game in the late 1980s, the club, who were simply Doncaster in those days, have grown in stature both on and off the field and are now rated one of the top 15 clubs in the country.

Thanks to a substantial Sports Council grant, and the backing of wealthy businessmen Tony de Mulder and Steve Lloyd – who have not done so for any personal glory – the club’s progress up the leagues has been matched by the improvements off it.

I, for one, would be delighted were their efforts to be rewarded with Premiership rugby at Castle Park in the next couple of years.

*Doncaster Eagles Basketball Club head coach Bob Martin must have been green with envy when he heard of plans to build a new sport complex at the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, with a capacity of 2,500, which will play host to Sheffield Sharks and Sheffield Hatters.

The long-serving Martin has campaigned for years for Doncaster Council to provide the club, which for many years hosted a top National League team, with a suitable venue which would allow the club the chance to try and recapture former glories and build solid foundations for the future.

I remember covering the club at the Dome and Adwick Leisure Centre back in the days when John Carr Doncaster used to hold their own with the top clubs in the country.

They may not have had the size of crowds they would have liked but those who did come certainly made their presence felt with the late Pete Jacques playing his part in raising the noise levels when carrying out his duties as match commentator.

*The Rugby League’s crackdown on high and dangerous tackles, which has seen players pick up ten-match bans in the most extreme cases, has proved an undoubted success.

Players running into defenders are now looking to get an offload away rather than trying to protect themselves from a high tackle and that is making for a more entertaining game.

This aspect of the game should have been tackled long ago as rugby is a tough enough game without such dangerous tackles.

The next thing I’d like to see change is full-backs given more protection when dealing with high kicks under pressure.

As well as protecting the player it would result in more full-backs being able to launch attacks from their own 20 again, potentially enhancing the entertainment factor of what I’ve always believed is the best spectator sport out there.

Sadly, judging by some of the crowds these days, not everyone would agree with me. The game is certainly struggling to compete with football’s Premier League which attracts huge media coverage and which is dominating the sporting scene.