SPORT MATTERS: The changing face of Doncaster Knights

Doncaster Rugby Union Football Club - Brett Davey 2009/2010
Doncaster Rugby Union Football Club - Brett Davey 2009/2010

A NEW era is dawning at Castle Park - but the same old problem could be on the Knights’ horizon.

Lynn Howells departed last month after watching his side come within a whisker of gatecrashing the Championship play-off semi-finals.

Doncaster Rugby Union Football Club - Chris Planchant 2009/2010

Doncaster Rugby Union Football Club - Chris Planchant 2009/2010

His team finally clicked during the closing stages of an otherwise inconsistent campaign.

They built up a real head of steam - only to eventually fall just short in their last game against losing finalists Cornish Pirates.

And then the revolving door at Castle Park swung wide open - and new boss Brett Davey was left to pick up the pieces.

No sooner had Howells ended his four year tenure at Doncaster, the club were announcing the departure of half of their entire playing squad.

Doncaster Knights new signing Michael Keating.

Doncaster Knights new signing Michael Keating.

It’s a recurring theme in domestic rugby union, a sport starved of financial resources in which one-year playing contracts now seem to be the norm.

And it might happen at most professional clubs up and down the land, not just Doncaster.

But I find the whole thing to be incredibly frustrating, almost unsavoury - because everything seems to revolve around money.

Okay, so players have a short career and want to make as best a living out of the game as possible.

Royce Burke-Flynn

Royce Burke-Flynn

If they are offered a better deal elsewhere, it’s hard to keep hold of them.

But for a sport which prides itself on respect and professionalism, there seems to be a chronic lack of loyalty to any particular club.

There are exceptions of course.

The likes of Steve Boden, Stuart Corsar and Glen Kenworthy have all given magnificent service to Doncaster Knights.

Doncaster Rugby Union Football Club - Tom Davies 2009/2010

Doncaster Rugby Union Football Club - Tom Davies 2009/2010

But they are becoming a rare breed, replaced by ‘one-season wonders’.

And that constant turnover of players makes it incredibly hard for any director of rugby trying to build a winning team, trying to build for the long term.

As last season proved, it takes time for players to gel, to develop an understanding and to build a team spirit.

If you’re starting from scratch every summer, it’s almost an impossible job.

Davey certainly hasn’t wasted any time in recruiting 11 new players to date - with two more to follow.

He’s used his contacts in the game to good effect - and the word is that he’s picked up a few cracking prospects along the way.

A big thing for Davey has been to find lads who genuinely want to come and play for Doncaster - who can see the potential of the club when they walk into Castle Park.

But I can’t help thinking that before contracts are agreed, the question to a player should not be ‘how much do you want to come and play for Doncaster?’ - it should be ‘how much do you want come and stay at Doncaster?

Can we find players who are ready to commit to the Knights for two or three years at a time?

Only when we can find them will the most promoted team in English rugby union genuinely challenge for a place in the Premiership.

n A quick word on this season’s Football League play-offs - wow!

Monday’s Championship final was a fitting end to a compelling set of matches from the lower leagues.

And I was absolutely delighted to see the stylish Swans winging their way to the Premier League.

Swansea’s pass-pass-pass style is the template for Doncaster Rovers, and it’ll be fascinating to see whether they stick to their guns against English football’s elite.

I think they’ll surprise a few people in the big league, and unlike Blackpool they know how to defend.

Swansea’s success should also persuade Rovers to ditch the more direct style of play we saw last season.

It’s a style that served Barcelona rather well on Saturday night too - but give me the Championship over the Champions League any day!