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How it Started

This is brief introduction to the history of the Sheffield Eagles, we'll be adding more over time until there is a full record of the Club

The Sheffield Eagles played their first ever game on Sunday 2nd September 1984 against Rochdale Hornets, winning 29-10. Below is an extract from the book "Against the Odds - The First Decade of the Sheffield Eagles" to act as a starting point for a history of the Club. We'll be adding more as the project progresses.

The Origins

Gary and Kath Hetherington established the Sheffield Eagles to create a new club with new ideas. It took three years of hard work and setbacks along the way from Gary’s initial idea before the first game on 2nd September 1984 when Sheffield Eagles beat Rochdale Hornets 29-10 at Owlerton Stadium.

Against the Odds

"Against the Odds - The First Decade of the Sheffield Eagles" was written by John Cornwell and Richard Pepper published in 1994. It provides a comprehensive insight into how the Club was formed, the challenges faced and the details of each of the first 10 seasons. Below is an extract from the book's introduction.

Against the Odds - written by John Cornwell and Richard Pepper

Launching the Dream

Shortly after four o'clock on the afternoon of the 2nd September 1984, on one of these glorious early September days that often mock an indifferent English summer, the final whistle went signalling the end of the Eagles' first ever league match, with a 29-10 points victory over Rochdale Hornets. Before more than a thousand spectators, an attendance rarely to be bettered for the next five years, the Eagles had produced a spirited and at times skilful display, with loose forward Paul McDermott scoring a hat-trick of tries.

Sheffield Eagles v Rochdale Hornets, 2nd September 1984


The spectators at Owlerton that day included Sheffielders curious to see this alien game. A game which so excited the passions of other Yorkshire people in the old East and West Ridings, let never penetrating the southern corner of the county, where two of the most famous of soccer clubs dominated the winter sporting scene. They were joined by Rugby League exiles, often long resident in the city, whose loyalties lay with the established teams of their youth based on either side of the Pennines. They were exiles who had come to the match out of support for their game, even if they were uncertain the new venture would flourish and survive.

The Obstacles

Already many of the public knew that the Eagles had overcome obstacles that would have blocked the ambitions of many ventures. That aspirations to enter the Second Division in some considerable style, playing home matches at Bramall Lane, a ground that would have been the envy of every club in the Rugby League. backed by substantial sponsorship that would enable the starting line up at their first match to include some established star players, had been dashed in the months of preparation before a ball had been kicked in earnest. A desperate realism had become the Eagles' style.

The Team

Their team that day was constructed of young tyros, who were playing their first ever league match, alongside old pro's in their final years in the game. Even an American footballer who had played with the Vikings and the Jets graced the Owlerton turf, alongside former Wembley Cup finalists recruited to boost the league's newest team.

The squad list from the first ever game

The Club

The club's organisation off the field existed in outline only. Volunteers covered the vital posts that make up a professional sports club, with everything run on a shoe-string budget and co-ordination dependent on enthusiastic goodwill. The realism and the ambition were encapsulated in the article in the match day programme by the late Dr. David Durie, then club doctor and one of the directors. He wrote a feature called 'watch this space', whose words read prophetically with ten years' hindsight, but at the time were perhaps just the brave words any new club would offer.

Dr. David Durie, Club Doctor and Director when the Club was established

Sheffield Eagles are still fledglings, one day they will be high flyers. This club will be a testing ground for new ideas - we do not accept hierarchies between directors and players, Sheffield will be a friendly club; we want it this way, and we believe we will attract better players when this is known. You can buy success or sell it - but you cannot buy team spirit - we shall start as we mean to finish, playing good rugby. The rest will follow.
Dr. David Durie

The First Ever Programme

Thanks to Vicky Brooks for sharing her copy of the first ever programme.

Sheffield Eagles v Rochdale 02/09/1984

Full footage of the first ever game

The Heritage Project was contacted by long time Sheffield Eagles Fan Dean Palmer to let us know he has a digital version of a VHS tape of the first ever Sheffield Eagles game. We're delighted to be able to share it, but also make sure it as archived for the future. Dean's parents were both at that first game and had a VHS copy of the game that was digitised. Dean's parents helped run the Eagles Colts team in the late 1980s with Dean playing for them and the original Hillsborough Hawks team.

Commentary on the game was by Martyn Sadler now the editor of the League Express - at the time he was a lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University.

As you can imagine the picture quality isn't what we're used to today - it's transferred from an almost 40 year old VHS tape. It does capture the occasion though and the historic first appearance of the Sheffield Eagles.

Sheffield Eagles v Rochdale Hornets, 2nd September 1984

Share Your Memories

Were you at the first game? Did you watch the Eagles in the first season? Share your memories here.


John Cornwell and Richard Pepper, from Against the Odds.