This weekend, Midlands Rugby League champions – Sherwood Wolf Hunt – will take centre stage thanks to the Coral Challenge Cup and the Our League cameras as they look to topple National Conference League opposition West Bowling.
Sherwood were crowned Midlands Rugby League champions with a Grand Final victory over Birmingham Bulldogs in August, this added to their Midlands Cup and League Leaders’ titles earlier in the season.
The Mansfield-based club were only formed back in 2014 by Chairman Adam Bates but are already occupying their trophy cabinet at a rapid rate, running junior teams at Under 11 through to Under 15 and now competing for a place in the Third Round of the Coral Challenge Cup.
The Sherwood Wolf Hunt Chairman said: “I sat in a Midlands League meeting last week and I openly urged all of the clubs to aspire to get themselves involved in the Challenge Cup.
“I cannot quantify how this had benefitted us over the past few weeks. The attention is has brought to our club is fantastic and we have benefited financially from ticket sales and some brand-new amazing sponsorship deals.
“But, in terms of how it makes the club feel, it really is special. People are viewing our club in a completely different light; their ears have pricked up and they’re taking notice of Sherwood Wolf Hunt in the local area and further afield.
“I’d like to think after this Sunday those that visit us, or watch the game on Our League, regardless of the score, will go away knowing they’ve seen a well-run Rugby League club who are doing things the right way.”
Wolf Hunt shocked many with their Round One victory over London-based Wests Warriors in a repeat of the 2019 Harry Jepson Trophy Final, which they lost. Sherwood left it late to clinch the victory, but it was a day that all those involved will never forget.
Bates said: “As an event, our First Round fixture against Wests Warriors, was something we had never seen before in Sherwood.
“We had a crowd of over 400 people, which is four times more than our crowd for our average fixtures. We ran pre-match dining which sold out and the event really came across as being more of a prestigious occasion, as it should in the Challenge Cup.
“In terms of the actual game, I don’t think anybody could have asked for a better game of Rugby League. It was very nip-and-tuck.
“We took the lead early on before Wests fought their way in front, but we managed to pip them with the last play of the game, scoring a try in the dying stages before all hell broke loose with the celebrations.
“It was just a fantastic event to be a part of. From 9am right through to 9pm it was just such a fantastic day and something we’re hopeful we get the opportunity to do more in the future.”
CLUB NEWS 》The club are both delighted to confirm that all gate receipts from our upcoming Rd 2 @TheChallengeCup clash with @westbowlingrlfc will be donated to the fundraising initiative to support @leedsrhinos legend @Rob7Burrow!#RLFamily #Jointhehunt pic.twitter.com/6lyNitXL0f— Sherwood Wolf Hunt ARLFC (@wolfhuntrl) January 17, 2020
The 2019 Midlands champions will get the opportunity to showcase themselves on the national stage once more this weekend as they welcome Bradford’s West Bowling in Round Two of the Coral Challenge Cup, in a game which will be broadcast live on Our League.
Bates said: “West Bowling will come with a lot of credibility as an established National Conference League side.
“They play at a high standard and have two teams which mean they’ll have strength in-depth. We know they’ll play out-and-out Rugby League as oppose to some of our opposition in the Midlands who play Rugby League with some slight Rugby Union influences.
“On the flip side, I think our team has shown every time they get an opportunity to play on a bigger stage they perform.
“We’ve always had a desire to test ourselves outside of the Midlands region. The Harry Jepson Trophy provided our first taste of that against Devon Sharks and Wests Warriors, but this weekend’s game will offer our sternest test yet.
“I’ve always said I don’t think we’ve seen some of our players at 100% and we will only ever see that when we come up against opposition like West Bowling.
“We’re excited to see what they will bring to the table, but, equally, we are excited to see what we can dish up under pressure on the big stage.”
While Sherwood face a difficult task to topple West Bowling, they are fully aware that progress into the Third Round of the competition could see them pitted against a semi-professional League 1 outfit.
“We’re not looking too far ahead, but I’d be lying if I said we haven’t had a little look at the possibilities,” Bates said.
He added: “I used to be the CEO at Rochdale Hornets so I wouldn’t mind visiting my old club in the next round. I’ve still got a lot of friends there, so that’d be exciting.
“Also, we could potentially draw Coventry Bears from League 1 which would mean we could have an East v West Midlands affair. This would be great for the game in the Midlands.
“Every year in the Challenge Cup there is a fairytale story and by making it into Round Three we could be the fairytale story in 2020.”