The Betfred Championship and League One fixtures are finally here, and as always, these two leagues will no doubt provide fans with 26 rounds of gripping entertainment, edge of their seat moments, and many twists and turns as the campaign progresses.
We’ve compiled five must-see rounds for fans to watch out for in 2024, as we prepare for the Betfred Championship and League One rollercoaster ride.
ROUND 1 (2015 REMATCH)
They’ll be no love lost between these two sides, as Wakefield Trinity, who will be looking to kickstart their season with a convincing victory on home soil as they adjust to life in the Betfred Championship, take on previous Super League high-flyers Bradford Bulls, in a fierce West Yorkshire derby on Friday 15th March.
2015 is a year most Bulls fans will want to forget, as their hopes of a quick return to Super League were crushed in dramatic fashion, when Scott Moore clinched a crucial win for Wakefield Trinity in the dying minutes of that year’s Million Pound Game. Keeping his team in the top flight, this sent a devastated Bradford back into the Championship, where the Bulls have remained ever since.
Although the Bulls suffered heartbreak at the expense of the then Super League’s survivors, Wakefield Trinity’s luck finally ran out in 2023, as their 25-year run in Super League came to an end and they succumbed to the drop – despite a short-lived revival later in the season.
Past encounters should be an incentive for the Bulls, as they will undoubtedly look to seek revenge when they take the trip to the Belle Vue fortress, this March. Wakefield Trinity, on the other hand, who have undergone mass change both on and off the field will be hoping to showcase these positive changes, and their new head coach Daryl Powell will settle for nothing other than a top performance and the two points.
Therefore, this Round 1 clash at the Be Well Support Stadium promises to be a blockbuster derby contest you don’t want to miss.
ROUND 2 (DONCASTER RLFC VS. SHEFFIELD EAGLES)
Sheffield Eagles will return to the Eco-Power Stadium in Round for their South Yorkshire derby clash against Doncaster RLFC.
This match is long-awaited, with Doncaster narrowly missing out on promotion to the Betfred Championship in recent years. Their time came in 2023 however, as despite a third place finish in the regular season, the Dons managed to secure promotion with a gutsy 18-6 win in the final against North Wales Crusaders.
Home advantage for Doncaster may not have such a significant impact however, as the Eagles are no strangers to the Eco-Power Stadium, having ground shared with their rivals on multiple occasions, most recently in 2021. Finishing a respectable fourth and competing in the play offs, Sheffield will be looking to ensure they secure another consecutive six place finish in 2024.
ROUND 8 (HUNSLET RLFC VS. KEIGHLEY COUGARS)
Over in Betfred League One, and Keighley Cougars will be adjusting to life in the third tier, as they were relegated on points difference from the Championship this year. Hunslet, who agonisingly missed out on promotion in the play offs, will be raring to go again this season, and will be aiming for the top spot.
A lot will be at stake in this game, as both teams will be seeking promotion and a top place finish in 2024.
Round 6 of Betfred League One will also see two clubs outside the heartlands hoping to make their mark in this campaign, as Cornwall RLFC host Midlands Hurricanes on Sunday 21st April. Both clubs were founded in 2021 – Cornwall rebranded from the disbanded Ottawa Aces, and the Hurricanes taking over Coventry Bear’s franchise.
These teams have since been finding their feet, finishing in 8th and 9th position in 2023. Both sides will be hoping to make improvements next year, and all eyes will be on this tie as these two expansion teams go head to head and look to grow the game in their respective areas.
ROUND 13 (PROMOTION WOES, FEATHERSTONE ROVERS VS. TOULOUSE)
After a devastating end to 2023 for both teams respectively, Round 13 sees Featherstone Rovers take the trip over to France to face Toulouse Olympique XIII. These are two sides that have had their fair share of painful promotion woes in recent years.
Pundits’ favourites once again, Featherstone’s eagerly awaited promotion hopes were crushed after a dramatic 36-26 loss to London Broncos on home soil, and they were consigned to yet another year in the second tier. This was despite finishing 12 points clear at the top of the Betfred Championship table and completely dominating the regular season.
While the Rovers will start to believe they are cursed in the play-offs for promotion, Toulouse will be looking to overcome this year’s Betfred Championship Grand Final heartbreak, where underdogs London Broncos clinched a famous win to secure their Betfred Super League status for 2024.
Could this fixture prove to be a decisive factor in league standings, where a vital two points could be at stake?
ROUND 16 (RETURN OF THE HEAVY WOOLLEN DERBY)
The Batley vs. Dewsbury derby clash has become a historic fan favourite, which was severely missed when the Rams were relegated in 2022.
But an incredible 2023 campaign saw then head coach Liam Finn confidently guide back his team back to the Betfred Championship, as a string of stunning performances sealed the Betfred League One title and promotion early on.
On their return to the Championship, the Rams will have their experienced playmaker and leader Paul Sykes, who has recently signed up to play an astounding 26th season of professional rugby league, who will play under and assist new head coach Dale Ferguson.
Batley, who are no strangers to contesting with the top teams of the Championship, most famously in the Million Pound Game against Leigh in 2022, will be ready for their local derby to return.
The two sides will first meet in March at the Flair Stadium before the return leg in July.
Fans can now look forward to writing this fixture back into their calendars, as the Heavy Woollen Derby should not disappoint. Be sure to watch out for this one in Round 16.