Comment: Why Doncaster RLFC should consider following Keighley Cougars’ approach

If Doncaster RLFC are ever to establish themselves in the Championship with a view to mounting a Super League challenge in the years ahead, they could do worse than follow Keighley’s example.

By Steve Hossack
Tuesday, 21st June 2022, 1:55 pm

The West Yorkshire side go into the second half of the Betfred League One campaign this weekend four points clear of the pack boasting a 100 per cent win record.

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They have looked the side to beat all season but they’ve not rested on their laurels and whenever a quality player within their budget has come on the market they’ve gone after him.

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Doncaster Knights in action at the Eco-Power Stadium.

A prime example of that was the capture of classy half-back Dane Chisholm who played a starring role for Championship big-hitters Featherstone Rovers in recent seasons.

They have recently signed veteran centre Junior Sa’u, who boasts both international experience as well as starring at NRL and Super League level.

His signing comes hot on the heels of another former NRL star Eddie Pettybourne, who also lists Wigan and Toulouse among his previous clubs.

Although both players are only signed on until the end of the season the likelihood is that they would remain at Cougar Park were the club to be promoted.

Although last season’s League One winners Barrow have proved something of a surprise packet in the Championship, not so play-off winners Workington Town who are currently propping up the table and looking set for a quick return to the third tier.

Even though they would admittedly be taking something of a gamble, clubs with ambitions of playing at a higher level next season, especially those likely to miss out on automatic promotion, would be well advised to start preparing in advance rather than waiting until they know their fate.

The reason for that is clear: a lot of the players required by promoted clubs will have already committed themselves by the time the second promotion spot has been decided on the last day of the season.

Were the Dons to go one better this year, and their prospects of repeating last season’s strong finish are set to be boosted by the return of some key personnel following lengthy injury lay-offs, including PNG star Watson Boas, they would need to bring in a number of quality players to bolster their squad.

Given the fact that parent club Doncaster Rovers have a policy of living within their means when it comes to signing players - something I fully support – the same criteria is likely to be the case as far as the Dons are concerned.

Although their central funding would increase following promotion, the Dons would still arguably need additional investment from the Club Doncaster board – though it wouldn’t be on anywhere near the same scale as that given to Rovers - to be able to attract new players.

With little chance of overhauling Keighley, the Dons best hope of getting back into the second tier is by claiming second spot which would give them home advantage throughout the play-offs.

Defeats for two of the top-four last time out has increased their chances of improving on fifth spot.

Wins at third-placed North Wales this weekend and at second-placed Swinton the following week would certainly give their top two hopes a further significant boost and give them the confidence to kick-on.

Defeats in both games, however, would make hopes of improving on their current placing that much harder and could put second spot virtually out of reach making their long-awaited return to the top flight they briefly graced back in 1994-95 even more unlikely any time soon.

Which is a shame because a successful Doncaster side playing in Super League at the Eco-Power Stadium would be welcomed throughout the game.