Doncaster RLFC make community visit to Bentley ARLFC
Doncaster RLFC dropped in at Bentley to coach the Yorkshire League Premier Division side's junior teams.
The majority of the club’s players spent over 90 minutes going through training drills, joining in games and passing on tips to juniors in several age-groups as dozens of parents and family members looked on.
Assistant coach Pete Green, who came through the ranks at nearby Toll Bar, where he coaches the Under-12s side, welcomed the Dons initiative.
“It’s great to come down here and see all the good work being done by the coaches and have a bit of friendly banter with China (Dean Colton) who runs Bentley’s Under-12s team,” said Green.
“It’s not only China, but it’s also been nice to see some other former Dons and Sheffield team-mates in Chris Hemmings, Liam Higgins and Ryan Norling.
“I’m sure the Bentley youngsters have enjoyed being coached by players they watch playing for the Dons and it is something they’ll always remember.
“I remember when I played for Toll Bar juniors players like Vila Matuatia and Sonny Whakarau used to come over to where we trained on the pitch behind the scoreboard end at Tattersfield.”
Hemmings, who coaches the Bentley Under-8s, also remembers first-team players such as the above and Tony Miller and Carl Hall taking an interest.
“They were really big stars in the town in those days and players as youngsters that we looked up to,” he said.
“Although the club are currently in League One they’ve got some really good players and it’s great for the club that they’ve come down tonight and got involved with the grassroots.
“Things are going well at the club. We’ve got five junior sides and two senior teams and hopefully some of the players on the books will go on to play professionally.
“I think it would benefit the Dons in terms of crowds to have a few more local players in the team – former Toll Bar pair Kieran Cross and Zac Braham are both doing well.
“I think we’ve a couple of players who, with a bit more coaching and dedication, could possibly be good enough to make the squad.
“I’d like to see the Dons run a reserve team again so that there is somewhere for promising local players to go because it is a jump in class from amateur to professional level.
“That or an academy side. It would probably hit the grassroots initially but going forward I think it would be a good thing. I played in an academy team and I think it’s what Doncaster needs.”
Dons chief executive Carl Hall, who also travelled over to Bentley’s Scawthorpe base, said he was impressed with the turn-out from the host club and said the evening had been a great success.
“I think everyone has enjoyed it and we are keen to get more involved with the local community,” he said.
Second-rower Charlie Martin, who played his junior rugby in the Dewsbury area with the likes of Shaw Cross and Thornhill, also supported the Dons’ initiative.
“I started when I was five and during my time at Shaw Cross we had players such as Lee Gilmour come to the club and Paul March at Thornhill and you remember things like that,” he said.
“I think there’s too much focus on Super League these days and not enough on the grassroots.
“Potentially players good enough to play professionally in the future are being allowed to slip through the net and are lost to the sport due to a lack of funding for things like scholarships.
“If young players aren’t looked after as they come through the age groups, and given the right encouragement, then some of them are going to lose interest.
“Clubs like Bentley is where it all starts and the Dons should probably be coming here every couple of months or so.”