PLENTY TO PLAY FOR
The Wolfpack are already planning for life in the Championship, as the signing of Warrington prop Ashton Sims shows – but coach Paul Rowley has some unfinished business in League 1.
The visit of Doncaster marks the final match of a memorable debut campaign for Toronto’s players, staff and fans alike.
The Wolfpack might have been promoted thanks to last weekend’s win over Barrow Raiders, but will still want to wave goodbye to the third tier of Rugby League with a victory.
Doncaster also need to win to be sure of claiming the last play-off place up for grabs, because if they are defeated, both Keighley Cougars and Newcastle Thunder could overhaul them.
The timing of the matches mean Keighley, who visit Barrow, and Newcastle, who go to York City Knights, will know the outcome of the Toronto-Doncaster meeting by the time they play on Sunday afternoon British Summer Time.
Toronto recorded their biggest-ever win, 82-6, at Doncaster back in April, but know it’s unlikely to be as straightforward this time.
The visitors are now coached by former Hull and Great Britain back Richard Horne, having parted company with Gary Thornton in May, not long after the Wolfpack came calling.
For Toronto, the target is a 20th win in 22 league games, for Doncaster, a certain top-five place.
It’s got all the makings of a tasty match-up.
Doncaster’s roots go right back to the First Century, when the Romans built a fort at a crossing of the River Don, which also flows through the sprawling city of Sheffield, 20 miles away.
But the Yorkshire market town, which now has a population of 110,000, owes its growth to its location on a line between London, 175 miles to the South, and Edinburgh, 235 to the North.
It became a stopping-off point on the Great North Road (later the A1) which in the days before motorways, was the primary route for all traffic between the capitals of England and Scotland, and also on the main railway line between the two countries (the proximity of steel, as well as coal production, made it a centre for locomotive and carriage building).
Both Doncaster and Sheffield are served by the Robin Hood Airport, which opened in 2005.
Nowadays, the town has a number of major distribution centres, including the Doncaster International Railport, which dispatches goods to Europe, and also hosts one of the largest signalling centres on the United Kingdom’s railway network.
Doncaster was once noted for the production of confectionary, in particular butterscotch and the building of farm tractors, and during the both World Wars, manufactured munitions on a large scale.
It is also noted as a manufacturer of wire rope, supplying the product to the stadium built in London to stage the 2012 Olympic Games.
DONCASTER RL CLUB
Sports fans in the town have plenty of choice, because as well as the Rugby League team, it also has clubs playing Rugby Union (Doncaster Knights) and both men’s and women’s soccer (Doncaster Rovers), as well as a renowned horse racing course.
The Doncaster Cup, first competed for in 1766, is the oldest continuing regulated horse race in the world.
The Rugby League and soccer clubs both play at the 15,000-capacity Keepmoat Stadium, which opened in 2007.
They had shared the soccer club’s Belle Vue base since the 1990s, when the Rugby League club’s Tattersfield ground was sold for housing development during one of a series of financial crises (the club has twice been re-formed since the original foundation in 1951).
The preceding 1994-95 season was the only time Doncaster, formed in 1951, played in the top flight, following a memorable promotion campaign under coach Tony Fisher.
Before that, the club had largely struggled, and in 1980, featured in a memorable TV documentary ‘Another Bloody Sunday’, which followed the eventually successful bid to avoid finishing the season without winning a single game (the now-defunct Huyton were beaten 6-3 for the only victory).
In more recent times, Doncaster have flitted between the second and third tiers, twice winning promotion from League 1 (in 2008, under the guidance of former Wigan, Leeds and Great Britain star Ellery Hanley, and in 2012) and twice suffering relegation from the Championship (2009 and 2015).
Fellow New Zealand forwards Fuifui Moimoi and Iafeta Palea’aesina will face up to each other on the pitch – but are good friends off it.
And at the end of the game, Wolfpack favourite Moimoi will surely be one of the first to shake hands with his Palea’aesina, who is about to hang up his boots.
As well as the 34-year-old former New Zealand Warriors, Wigan, Salford and Hull prop, Doncaster have experience in the shape of loose-forward Pete Green.
He has had two spells at Doncaster, sandwiched around a stint with Sheffield Eagles, and is assistant to coach Richard Horne.
Second row Jason Muranka is a Serbian international while prop Brad England has played for Salford and halfback Jack Miller for Huddersfield.
Jason Tali played for Papua New Guinea at the 2013 World Cup while his fellow centre Nick Rawsthorne is on dual registration from Hull, as is impressive French fullback Hakim Miloudi.
Doncaster have an injury worry over former Castleford second row Charlie Martin.
There’s no doubt Wolfpack skipper Craig Hall will be League 1’s leading points scorer – he currently has 414, but he and teammate Liam Kay are both aiming to finish with the most tries of any player in the division. Both have 24 so far, with Jonny Pownall third in the list on 21 and Quentin Laulu-Togagae fourth on 19.