It's been a long road for Hemel Stags.
When they lost 38-nil to Walthamstow side McEntee on the 5th April 1981 wearing a borrowed amber and blue Leeds-style kit, it lit the touchpaper on one of Rugby League's most enduring odysseys.
On a journey that's taken in the Second Division of the South Amateur Rugby League, the London League, MASWARLA, the RL Alliance (playing other teams' 'A' Teams) and National Conference Leagues, they ended their time as a Conference side winning last year's NCL League 3 Grand Final at Featherstone 17-10 against Underbank.
|A stag, earlier today.|
But don't be fooled into thinking this is Hornets' first clash with Hemel. Back in 1991 Hornets 'A' Team played the stags down at Pennine Way - TLCRF0mins was one of half a dozen tragics who made the trip (Hornets won and the team, coached by Kev Lowe bought US a drink!) With us that day were Dr Dave, Pugwash and Silent Don, so it's good to renew acquaintances after such a long break.
As RL anoraks TLCRF80mins has seen a lot of Hemel over the last few years in our adventures in the Summer Conference (now NCL 3) - mostly in some bruising encounters with Underbank or Warrington Wizards.
Coach Troy Perkins has always played to his team's strengths. Last year in NCL 3 Hemel were a bit of a blunt instrument - a massive pack supplemented by an equally huge backline that bludgeoned its way to the top of the pile. We wrote at the time that the NCL 3 final was the ultimate test of brains v brawn (Underbank having the advanage on craft, Hemel just bloody massive). Brawn won in juggernaut style.
This year, the brains/brawn equation seems to have been balanced by the addition of MIke Bishay, Mason Caton-Brown, Shane Grady and Dan Sarginson on Dual Reg from the Broncos, and the shrewd signings of Austin Aggrey and Jermain Coleman who've always caused us lots of problems at former club London Skolars.
Indeed, Hemel have had an impressive start to life in the semi-pro ranks. Currently sitting second in the table with four wins from six games, they battered South Wales Scorpions by 52 to 24 last week. As a benchmark, they lost 30-12 to Oldham the week before.
Finally, don't forget that Sunday's game is the first ever clash of two supporter-owned Rugby League Co-Operatives at (semi)pro level in the UK (and, possibly, the world) and forms the centrepiece of a day of co-operation in the home of co-operation.
In a great initiative to maximise Sunday's attendance, Hornets are offering admission for just two quid - all you have to do is print out and bring the voucher below. Do it - and bring a friend.
|Download the voucher today - and a dozen for your friends!|