Is the sporting landscape changing in Doncaster?

A crowd of almost 5,000 packed into Castle Park for the semi-final with Yorkshire Carnegie. Photo: John Ashton
A crowd of almost 5,000 packed into Castle Park for the semi-final with Yorkshire Carnegie. Photo: John Ashton

Just a little more than two years ago Doncaster Knights were scrapping away in the third tier of English rugby while Doncaster Rovers were rubbing shoulders with some illustrious names in the Championship.

How quickly things can change in sport.

Next season Rovers, whose remarkable rise up the leagues has suddenly been jolted into reverse, will be back in the bottom tier of the Football League. While Knights, a club that less than 30 years ago was playing in the Yorkshire League, could potentially be playing in the Aviva Premiership.

Those recent contrasting fortunes make for interesting analysis.

Rovers, under the banner of Club Doncaster, have nosedived. The spirit of the team that won League One in 2013 has completely evaporated, results have gone from bad to worse and attendances have gradually dropped.

Knights, an independent set-up, have thrived. Relegation to National One in 2013 only galvanised a close-knit dressing room, the decision to keep faith with Clive Griffiths has proven to be a master stroke, and there is now a very noticeable feel-good factor around Castle Park.

So are we at a point of a slight power shift in Doncaster sport?

A crowd of almost 5,000 were at the Armthorpe Road ground for Knights’ play-off semi-final second leg with Yorkshire Carnegie. Another good turnout is expected for the first leg of the final tomorrow night against Bristol. Were Knights to gain a place at the top table of English rugby their attendances could conceivably surpass those at Rovers for the first time ever.

Doncaster might always be a football town, and Knights president Tony De Mulder has conceded as much. But it is the Knights who are currently the talk of the town.

It is the Knights that I’m hearing people talk about in the changing room down at the gym. It is the Knights that my charity football team are watching, and it is the Knights who are the talk of the Free Press office.

While Rovers, following three relegations in five seasons, are battling to hold onto their fans, Knights seem to be making new friends.

The times they are a changing. And should Knights beat Bristol, the sporting landscape of Doncaster will do too.