Sheffield Eagles make much-awaited return to the Steel City

After playing home games at Wakefield’s ground for a year, the Sheffield Eagles are finally playing in their own city again.

The Olympic Legacy Park in the Don Valley area of Sheffield hosted its first rugby league match between Sheffield Eagles and Toronto Wolfpack yesterday afternoon.

The venue is the 11th home ground which Sheffield have played at, with the demolition of the Don Valley Stadium ahead of the 2014 season causing disruption.

Swapping between stadiums such as the Keepmoat Stadium and Wakefield’s must have been frustrating for Eagles fans who were not able to watch their team nearby.

Chairman of the Eagles, Chris Noble, said: ‘‘Our move to the new home of Sheffield Eagles is not going to be without fault or difficulties. Of this I am certain and so everyone will have to be patient as we rectify any problems that may arise.

‘‘Moving into a new stadium is a work in progress and over the next couple of years Sheffield United and the Scarborough Group are to create a full stadium with stands and all that goes with them.’’

While they have considered 11 grounds as their home, in total the club have played at 19 home venues since their formation in 1984.

Halifax, Leeds, Barnsley and Chesterfield have all been used in the past.

For long-term Sheffield fans, it must have felt like they’ve almost played at every place in Yorkshire.

Being able to secure a permanent venue comes as a welcome boost for the club, who have also had to temporarily play at Sheffield Hallam Universities Sports Park.

For the historic fixture against Toronto, a temporary set-up was in place with one seated stand being erected, yet the sense of anticipation in being back in Sheffield was certain.

The Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Anne Murphy, was in attendance for the special occasion.

Having seen their game against London Broncos postponed because of the snow, the wait for a game at the Olympic Legacy Park was delayed by seven days, with Toronto becoming the first away side to visit the ground.

On the pitch, Sheffield could not produce a performance fitting for the day however as they were comprehensively beaten 44-10 by their Canadian opponents.

It has been a dreadful start to the new season for the Eagles as they have now lost all five of their opening league games in the Betfred Championship, leaving them bottom of the table.

Despite the disappointing score-line, 863 spectators were in attendance, with plenty of noise being created from the seated fans who were in good voice throughout the game.

There is no doubt everyone connected with the club is delighted to be back in Sheffield on what was a great day for the club despite the result.

‘‘Make no mistake, today is a historic day after so much hard work over the past few months to ensure we are home in time for today’s visit of Toronto Wolfpack.

‘‘It has been quite a journey over the last four years, but we have never lost sight of our end goal which was to bring rugby league back to Sheffield,’’ said first-team coach Mark Aston.

The next match at the Olympic Legacy Park is on Good Friday as Rochdale Hornets travel to the Steel City, with eight further fixtures to take place at the stadium during the course of the 2018 season.