FEATURE: Looking back at the history of Rugby League side Mansfield Marksman

Mansfield Marksman RLFC.
Mansfield Marksman RLFC.

Are Mansfield Marksman RLFC the forgotten professional sports team in Mansfield?

The story starts in the 1980s when Rugby League was undergoing an expansion outside of its conventional northern setting.

Mansfield Marksman RLFC.

Mansfield Marksman RLFC.

Mansfield was chosen as an area in the heartland of the Nottinghamshire coalfields, with great access to Yorkshire and surrounding Counties and therefore a great contender for spectator sport.

In 1984 the Mansfield Marksman were born straight into the professional divisions.

With the Mansfield Brewery’s popular lager as the main sponsor it was thought that support would flood in and so planted roots at Field Mill.

Their pre-season games in the midst of the ongoing miners’ strike saw the team play the biggest names in rugby league including St Helens and Wigan, but suffered heavy defeats.

1985 Mansfield Marksman v Batley

1985 Mansfield Marksman v Batley

It was also reported that during the pre-season games, the most prominent names in the team were on holiday, creating opportunities for local players to take stage.

Already there was doubts that professional rugby league wasn’t being taken seriously in the town.

The first Division Two match for the Marksman saw an attendance of 2,291 against Wakefield in a 15-0 win.

When it mattered most the Marksman could pull off the results to keep media support rolling in even if it was scarce.

1984 Mansfield Marksman v Doncaster

1984 Mansfield Marksman v Doncaster

However, despite the Marksman success on the field, attendances declined weekly.

In the second half of the season when results weren’t consistent attendances dropped to just a few hundred.

Of course the slump in the Marksmen’s first season of existence had financial implications.

It was reported that the team had suffered a loss of a staggering £90,000.

In 1986 the Marksmen made the move from Field Mill to Alfreton Town FC, but then later moved to Sutton Town’s ground.

Finally the Mansfield Marksmen made their resting place at Nottingham’s Harvey Hadden stadium in 1989, but soon became Nottingham City RLFC.

Just how did it go so wrong for a team who had so much potential?

The move to an area where the sport is virtually non-existent was a great risk.

Much more could have been done make Mansfield more aware of the sport and educate people in what rugby league is all about.

Perhaps there was no room in Mansfield for two professional sports teams or perhaps it was just the wrong time to drop a team in Mansfield during a period of conflict in the area.

If there had been a thriving amateur scene in the area there’s a possibility it may have taken off better.

But once again rugby league is beginning to pick up interest in the town with the emergence of Sherwood Wolf Hunt RLFC.

This time rugby league may be here to stay.