Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Saturday's Coming: Mayfield

Does Rugby League get any more parochial than this? We’re sure that when Rupert Murdoch and Maurice Lindsay sat down to draft plans for a pan-European Super League played in major cities by regional teams like ‘Calder’, ‘Cheshire’ and ‘Manchester’, they didn’t envisage a 21st century Challenge Cup contest between two teams from Rochdale.

But it is with a sense of history that Hornets head to the other side of the river to take on Rochdale Mayfield.

The Mayfield: lost in the mists of time.
Mayfield ARLFC were formed in 1958 - named after the Mayfield Hotel on Albert Royds Street
where they were based. They rapidly grew into the pre-eminent amateur club in the town and, in their 70’s heyday, Barry Edwards became BARLA’s first ever international captain.

Around that time, Mayfield won the Pennine League 7 years in succession - and were allowed to keep the trophy (presumably to save BARLA time and money on engraving).

Having played at Balderstone Park and Springhill, Mayfield entered into a ground share deal with a struggling Castleton Moor cricket club in the mid-80s. When the cricket club folded in 1987,  Mayfield found themselves in possession of £2m worth of prime housing land. In 2005, they sold the ground for housing and bought the nearby Butterworth Park to ground-share with Castleton Gabriels FC (now Rochdale Town).

Mayfield today: buzzing with cup fever.
It’s a scale of Mayfield’s ambiitons that in 2011 they sought consideration for a licence to run a team in the RFL’s newly extended Championship 1. At that time Mayfield stated that it felt that the time was right “… to put the club where it rightfully belongs as the Premier Rugby League Club in the town…”. Speaking to Rochdale Online, Club President Barry Edwards said of the application: “Mayfield has shown that there are quality Rugby League players out there in the town… and, given the opportunity through quality coaching and the chance to play for the town, will develop and be a credit to the town team, Rochdale Mayfield.”

Indeed, we can’t even begin to imagine in our time the number of players to have worn both jerseys  - Andy Duffy, Steve Prime, Steve Turner, The Hilton Brothers, John O’Donovan, John Stapleton, The Corcoran brothers, John Cookson, Matt Calland, Sam Butterworth, Todd O’Brien - you could pick an all-Rochdale 13 to take on the best pretty much off the bat.

Mayfield have a bit of a Challenge Cup History having previously played Salford, Hunslet and - eight years ago - when they lost 30-10 to Barrow Raiders at Butterworth Park.

This year they have won 38-20 at Widnes West Bank in Round 1 and produced a come-from-behind shock to beat NCL Premier Division rivals Egremont 22 - 26 at Gillfoot Park - courtesy of a late, late try from Matt Calland, converted by Sam Butterworth. Behind 6-0 down early doors, and reduced to 12 men with the sin binning of Aidy Gleeson, Mayfield trailed the Cumbrians 16-8 at half time. After the break they outscored Egremont, by three tries to one to swipe the victory

Crosstown traffic: RL's shortest
away trip?
Key threat comes from Declan and Lewis Sheridan who weighed in with 31 tries betwen them last season - and from robust veteran Matt Calland who produced 15 of his own! Sam Butterworth remains lethal with the boot - 63 goals last season, and top points scorer with 154 (also the only player to feature in all 22 of last season’s NCL games).

In fact all the same four players accounted for 54% of all of Mayfield’s 720 points scored last season. These are the stats that matter, folks!

Which brings us to Saturday’s game. As with all these encounters, you can’t really win. As we learned at Kells last year, win convincingly and it’s what’s expected; win by 24 points and the amateur team claims a moral victory; win 20-12 and people will delight in telling you how crap you are. And you really don’t want to be on the wrong side of the big story in Monday’s League Weakly.

But that’s the ‘romance’ of the cup, we guess.

See you Saturday.