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Top Five sides to never play in the Super League

Here, we look at five of the best sides to have not played in the top division during the Super League era.

Featherstone Rovers

Liam Finn played a big part in Featherstone winning four straight League Leaders Shields. Credit: News Images

Featherstone missed the cut by just two points from Oldham to take part in the inaugural Super League season. That meant Rovers were shafted into Division One ahead of the inaugural summer season back in 1996.

When the Championship moved into a playoff method in 1998, Rovers reached the first ever grand final, but they were beaten 24-22 by Wakefield Trinity in Huddersfield.

They also consistently made the playoffs in Division One and then the Northern Ford Premiership, until 2003 when they finished seventh.

Rovers were back in the playoffs a year later, but were relegated in 2005. They would get promoted back to National League One in 2007.

In 2008, Featherstone appointed Head Coach Daryl Powell, who led them to their most successful period outside the top flight.

Before taking charge at Castleford, Daryl Powell led Featherstone to four straight League Leaders Shields. Credit: Mark Cosgrove/News Images

In 2009, they were just one game away from another grand final, but they were beaten 36-30 by Halifax at The Shay.

A year later, they won the League Leaders Shield, but were agonisingly beaten 23-22 by Halifax after extra time in Warrington.

They won the League Leaders Shield again in 2011, and won the Grand Final after thrashing Sheffield Eagles 40-4. Two tries from Liam Finn and others from Tim Spears, Ian Hardman, Ben Cockayne, Jonny Hepworth and Tom Saxton sealed the win.

However, because of the licencing period in the Super League, they would not win promotion.

Featherstone won a third straight League Leaders Shield in 2012, but Sheffield managed to grab their revenge in the playoff final, by recording a 20-16 win.

It was four straight League Leaders Shields in 2013, but they just missed out on the playoff final after an extra time defeat to Batley Bulldogs.

Then, the Super League moved into the Super 8s era, with Featherstone qualifying for the first time in 2016. However, they failed to win a single match.

They qualified again a year later, and did manage to record a win against Halifax, but were still well short of a Million Pound Game place.

Featherstone missed out by a point in 2018, but then qualified for the new playoff system a year later. They reached another playoff final, but were beaten 24-6 by Toronto Wolfpack.

Keighley Cougars

Keighley were the League Leaders in the second tier at the time of the reorganisation, and would have otherwise been promoted to the Super League.

They stayed in Division One, and were up there once again, but were six points behind Salford at the top of the table.

With two teams coming up in 1997, Keighley finished disappointingly short as they were nine points behind Huddersfield.

They then spent a few years in midtable, but came right back up in 2000, as they finished just one point behind Dewsbury Rams at the top of the table.

The Cougars then dissolved in 2001 after previous debts proved too big to overcome. They fell into National League Two as a result. They had invested a lot of money for getting into the Super League, and it didn’t materialise.

Keighley almost went under for a second time in 2009, as the club was served with a winding up petition over an unpaid tax bill. However, a new company was founded to stop them from being wound up.

They were relegated after a nine-point deduction proved too difficult to overcome. However, they managed to bounce back straight into the Championship and make the playoffs, although they were beaten by Halifax.

In a sense of Deja vu, they were victims of another reshuffle in 2014. Despite only being one point off the playoffs, the Cougars were relegated back to League One. They haven’t been back up since.

Batley Bulldogs

Just two points behind Keighley in Division One,  Batley would have also felt as they would have had a shot at the Super League.

However, they ended up staying in Division One after London Broncos were fast-tracked into the Super League. It was a decision said to have cost Batley £500,000.

That proved costly for Batley, as they slipped into Division Two following the first summer season in 1996. They came back up ahead of the 1999 season, when they finished in midtable.

Batley then qualified for the playoffs in 2002, and were just one game away from the final, but they were  beaten by Leigh Centurions.

They survived relegation by the skin of their teeth in 2005, as they beat heavy woollen rivals Dewsbury Rams 28-26 to stay in the Championship.

Batley were then back in the playoffs 12 months later, where once again they were one match away from the final, but were beaten 30-0 by Whitehaven.

The Bulldogs then spent a few years around midtable, before making the playoffs once more in 2011. However, they were knocked out by Halifax in their first game.

It was a similar story in 2012, as they qualified for the playoffs, but were beaten 50-12 by Sheffield Eagles in their first game.

In 2013, they reached the playoffs again and raised some eyebrows with two extra time victories against Leigh Centurions and Featherstone Rovers.

The Bulldogs then faced Sheffield again in the final in Leigh, however they lost 19-12.

For the third year in a row, Batley lost in the playoffs against Sheffield in 2014. This time, it was 16-0 in the First Round.

After struggling in 2015, the Bulldogs were back in playoff contention in 2016, this time, in the Middle 8s as they competed for a place in the Super League.

However, they only won one match. A Dom Brambini drop goal gave them victory over Featherstone.

This would be the last time Batley would qualify for the playoffs. They have been operating around midtable since.

Dewsbury Rams

Richard Agar scored the drop goal that seemed to secure Dewsbury a place in the Super League in 2000. Credit: News Images

At the beginning of the Super League era, Dewsbury were performing at around midtable in the First Division.

Then in 1998, Dewsbury managed to finish third, and qualify for the first playoff campaign in the new division. However, they lost both of their playoff matches against Hull KR and Featherstone.

12 months later, they claimed the League Leaders Shield, finishing two points clear of Hunslet, Widnes Vikings and Leigh Centurions. However, Hunslet beat them in the final.

Then in 2000, they went one step better. Dewsbury claimed a second straight League Leaders Shield, and then beat Leigh in the playoff final. Richard Agar scored the deciding drop-goal.

However, in a cruel twist, they were denied promotion as their stadium did not meet requirements. The Rams had proposed a stadium share with Sheffield Eagles while their stadium underwent work, but this was rejected by the RFL.

Following that, they started to suffer, as their best players started to leave. They went from first to sixth in 2001. They lost in the first round of the playoffs against Hull KR.

It culminated with their relegation in 2003. They wouldn’t play in the second tier again until 2007, that only lasted two seasons as they went back into Championship One. Dewsbury came back up in 2009.

They made the playoffs in 2013, but they were beaten by Sheffield Eagles in the Preliminary Semi-Final.

Dewsbury were just one game away from the final in 2014, but were beaten 32-22 by Leigh Centurions.

Since then, the Rams have been operating around midtable. In 2019, they were just three points ahead of Barrow Raiders in the final relegation spot.


Hunslet offered to groundshare with Leeds Rhinos while they got their stadium up to standard. Credit: News Images

Unlike the others, Hunslet didn’t get their shot at the First Division until 1998, and they only missed out on the playoffs on points difference.

A year later, they shot up to second, and were only behind Dewsbury Rams by two points at the top of the table. They went on to beat the Rams 12-11 in the playoff final in Leeds. Jamie Leighton scored the winning drop goal.

However, their hopes of playing in the Super League were dashed after their stadium didn’t meet the requirements. It was hoped their move to the South Leeds Stadium would have been enough, they even offered to groundshare with city neighbours Leeds Rhinos, but it was rejected by the RFL.

Their star players started to move away, and they suffered as a result. They went from second in 1999, to 15th in 2000. Hunslet were then relegated in 2002, as part of the reshuffle to the National Leagues. It took them eight years to get promoted again.

However, they couldn’t make their mark, and were relegated again in 2013. They remain in League One to this day.

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