In only their second season, Sherwood Wolf Hunt are progressing rapidly on and off the field as they bring the explosive thrills of rugby league to the locality.
In March 2014, they had four players at the very first training session. Now the club boasts a first team and development squad involving over 50 players.
They are also drawing three-figure crowds to their smart new home at Debdale Park in , after their inaugural year at Slant Lane.
Wolf Hunt’s progress is being hugely aided by a link-up with Super League giants Lees Rhinos as one of their Ambassador Clubs.
Co-chairman Richard Tempest-Mitchell said: “We have been very lucky so far, on all fronts.
“The move from Slant to Debdale Park has been a big factor in our relatively quick development this year. The move to such fantastic facilities helping to attract players from far and wide.
“We must say thank you to Woodhouse Giants and Mansfield District Council for the help they gave us at Slant Lane last year. Indeed we have quite a few of the Giants players doing excellent work here for us.
“Debdale has given us arguably the best facilities in the Midlands League. In my experience of rugby in Yorkshire, Lancashire and RU abroad, I know they match anything in the north and elsewhere at this level of rugby.
“The link with Leeds Rhinos has been invaluable so far and helped us develop a very good coaching team, with Carl Hardwick leading. Chief executive, Gary Hetherington, who originally launched Sheffield Eagles, has been fantastic for Adam and I as we develop the club.
“Being able to get help and advice from the World Club Champions’ set-up, as well as their Community Foundation is worth its weight in gold. I am sure this has added to the appeal for players and coaches.
“We have been up there three times in the past few months, once to see a game and twice to networking and coaching events. We are planning a trip to two Super League games, in addition to attending coaching seminars and having the Rhinos Foundation team down to run coaching sessions at Debdale.
“We have been very lucky with sponsorship also, gaining overall club sponsorship from Bristol Street Motors and Scorpion Sports supplying our kit. We are adding sponsors each week, and are looking for the right sponsor of our new Development Team kit.
“Many thanks go to all of our sponsors who can been seen on the Pitchero website, Sherwood Wolf Hunt ARLFC, Twitter and Facebook accounts”
Wolf Hunt lie fifth in the Midlands Premier Division, in Midland Rugby League, its second season overall and first at the higher level. Having played six and won three, the Wolf Hunt are on track for a successful first full season.
The club, named after the famous Wolf Hunt Cottage in Sherwood Forest, the home of the King’s Wolf Hunter dating back to Robin Hood times, play in Nottinghamshire colours and are proud to represent the Sherwood Forest area in the middle of the forest in Woodhouse.
The club was the brainchild of co-chairmen, Adam Bates and Richard Tempest-Mitchell. Both from the rugby league heartlands of Rochdale and Bradford respectively they have brought the sport back to North Nottinghamshire and seem to have brought relative early success.
They are looking to develop slowly but surely over the next five years, with eyes on moving up through the ranks to the National Conference.
The club recently penned an National Ambassador club partnership with Super League club and former World Club Champions, Leeds Rhinos, sister club to the Yorkshire Carnegie.
The link with the Rhinos is helping head coach Hardwick and his team to tap into Rhinos’ coaching resources and experience, bringing much needed assistance.
The Ambassador status is just one piece of the jigsaw, in what has been and continues to be a well organised, but swift development of a club from scratch. Now, everyone has a job, structures are in place and the club is reaping the rewards with 35 players regularly training at Debdale on a Thursday night.
Now the club has four dedicated coaches, a management team and numerous sponsors including Bristol Street Motors, Scorpion Sports along with 20 individual player sponsors.
The developments have come about because of the great interest in rugby league in North Nottinghamshire.
Nottinghamshire is of course no stranger to rugby league, there being several clubs playing in the immediate vicinity historically, with likes of Garibaldi RLFC, Mansfield Storm, Shirbrook and of course Mansfield Marksman, which developed into what is now Nottingham Outlaws.
With interest coming from the whole of the Sherwood Forest area, the Wolf Hunt is quickly getting a reputation for developing good rugby union players into great rugby league players. Just this past week, the club gained 10 new players, several of who had never played a game of rugby league.
So far the club has approximately half its players being rugby league players with the rest being either new to rugby or local union players from Mansfield RU, Ashfield RU, Worksop RU, Woodhouse Giants and Sheffield Eagles and elsewhere.
All have quickly fitted in and accounted for themselves very well on the pitch. The mix of players has brought a buzz to the rugby scene locally.
Joint chairman Adam Bates who played for Rochdale Mayfield before moving to Nottinghamshire several years ago, is delighted with the club’s development, saying: “We started off with around 25 players last season and played six games in the Merit League.
“We came second on points and so stepped up the much more challenging Premier League. We are now playing well established clubs such as Northampton, Telford, Coventry and Birmingham, along with other local clubs such as Derby and Nottingham Outlaws.
“So far we have had over 30 players representing the Premier Team. More recently we held our first double header game day, when our development squad had over 30 players in the squad in a game against Derby City second team.
“From that we have since gained over a dozen players. That day we had a total of 50 players wanting to play in the two games.
“Our medium term goal, is to put out a regular development squad, to bring on younger players and inexperienced players from our local rugby union scene.
“The next stage is a junior set, here at Debdale Park, where we have had excellent support for the club, seeing over 100 supporters several times so far this season.”
Coach Hardwick said: “The focus for the club is now about consolidation, with a view to starting our junior section fully, next summer. The Premier Team are competing in the league, but in reality finishing the season above the bottom spot would be a bonus.
“So far we are on course for that. The adult teams are our main focus for now and with nearly 60 players signed we are very pleased to say the least.
“My coaching team are dedicated to getting the best out of all of our players. Rugby League is about people, as well as sport and we aim to do our best for everyone on and off the park.
Leeds Rhinos head of customer experience and Rhinos Foundation Sian Jones says: “Leeds Rhinos have introduced the Ambassador Vision to bring together community clubs and all Rhinos Fans locally, nationally and internationally, with a view to fundamentally bring together like-minded people who just want to sing the good word of rugby league and the Rhinos.
“In Sherwood Wolf Hunt RLFC, we feel we have a valuable asset and partner outside of the heartlands.
“It’s about bringing the club closer to the fans and providing a sense of community, and helping to develop good community rugby clubs.
“The Ambassador clubs receive coaching and benefits from the Rhinos in return for promoting matches/Rhinos events – usually offering a special Rhinos Ambassador price.
“Sherwood Wolf Hunt are one of our first in the National Ambassador group which proves there is plenty of rugby league and Rhinos fans outside the Leeds area who we wish to link with.
“We are impressed with the development of the Sherwood Wolf Hunt outside of the heartlands and wish them every success moving forward. We are keen to aid their development in any way we can.”
The Wolf Hunt are playing a double header this weekend at Leamington Spa who are currently seventh in the Premier Division.
The club will take 50 players to Leamington to play a development squad game at 12.30pm, with the main event kicking off at 3pm. The double decker bus will leave Debdale at 9.30am sharp and return around 7pm.
On 27th June, Debdale Park hosts a Wolf Hunt comedy night, with professional comedians. Tickets can be bought for £15 from Debdale or the rugby league club contacts. The price includes a Pie and Pea supper. Doors open at 7pm.
The club is also planning a trip to the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final on the August bank Holiday. Details of that trip will come out soon. Tickets to the game and the bus will cost £40.
Anyone wishing to get involved in the club, on playing, coaching or sponsorship level is very welcome.
As Adam Bates said: “The Sherwood Wolf Hunt is a new club with a long term focus. We are on the hunt for success in the future, and are very happy to welcome anyone that can add value to our club.”