Why Doncaster have added incentive for play-off final against Workington
The stakes are high for Doncaster RLFC but chief executive Carl Hall insists he wants play-off glory for his players first and foremost.
Victory at Workington Town in Sunday’s League One Grand Final would see the Dons return to the Championship after a six-year absence.
And it would be a very timely moment to secure promotion back to that level.
The Rugby Football League is currently in discussions about the restructuring of the sport and ‘Super League 2’ – a new 10-team division underneath a 10-team top tier – could even be in place by 2023.
The remaining 16 clubs would play in a third tier competition but could encounter funding issues.
Doncaster have made no secret of their ambition to reach the upper echelons of the sport but, ahead of Sunday’s final, Hall wanted to heap praise on the club’s players and not put extra pressure on them.
“They’re a really special bunch,” said Hall. “They’ve been a credit to our club over the course of the whole year in everything they do – on and off the pitch.
“They get everything they deserve because they work really hard.
“This final game I want them to do it for themselves because they’ve been immense.
“We’ve had some tough times and we’ve all stuck together. The coaching staff have been fantastic. It’s the best bunch I’ve had since I’ve been at the club.”
Hall added: “This game is really important but I don’t want to put that pressure onto the players. I want them to go and do it for themselves.
“In terms of the club it will accelerate where we want to get to, that’s for sure.
“With the way the game is at the moment, to progress you’ve got to be in that mix by the sounds of it. I think if you’re not in that Championship life’s going to be difficult.
“If we get into the Championship then we can assess and go from there and hopefully put Doncaster Rugby League in and amongst what they’re planning going forward.
“At the moment there is a lot of uncertainty. All we can do is do the best we can and hopefully put the club in the spotlight and in the frame to be considered for whatever changes they make.”
Whatever happens on Sunday, Carl Hall insists this season has been a success for Doncaster RLFC.
And he has hailed head coach Richard Horne and his assistant Chris Plume for their roles in ‘transforming the club’.
Hall said earlier this year that just getting through the season – after Covid virtually wiped out the entire 2020 campaign – would be a success for the Dons.
And, despite the carrot of promotion to the Championship now dangling right in front of the club, the Kiwi has not changed his outlook.
“With everything that’s been going on, and the way the world’s been, just to get through the season represents success,” said Hall.
“You’ve got to remember these boys didn’t play for over 12 months.
“To get through the year would have been a success. I would have taken all the bullets because the supporters’ expectations are quite high. I would have stood up for the boys if we didn’t get to this position.
“I think we’ve had a fantastic year regardless.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure to be in amongst the players and coaches and just to see the culture that Richard Horne and Chris Plume have brought to the club.
“They’ve transformed the club off the field and we’re slowly getting the rewards that they all deserve.”
Doncaster finished fifth in the Betfred League One table after an up and down season.
The Dons have since beaten Hunslet, North Wales Crusaders and Keighley in the play-offs to reach the Grand Final for the first time since 2012 when they beat Barrow at Warrington to complete a double after also winning the League Leaders Shield.
Following relegation from the Championship in 2015, Doncaster have been the nearly men in League One, repeatedly coming up short in the play-offs.
“We always planned to get this far,” said Hall.
“We’ve got there the last three years and we’ve always fell at the semi-final stage.
“We’ve made progression and now it’s a tough ask to go to Workington at the best of times but we’re going there in a final and I know for a fact the boys will give everything they’ve got.
“If we can get up it really puts the club in a great place.”
Horne was appointed Dons head coach in 2017. Former Leeds and Toronto coach Plume joined this year.