2015 in review: Thornton reflects on Doncaster RLFC’s ‘Mission Impossible’

Gary Thornton
Gary Thornton

Dons head coach Gary Thornton is no Tom Cruise lookalike but he shared the same 'Mission Impossible' role at the Keepmoat last season.

But whereas the Hollywood film star always wins the day things don't always work out the same in real life, and the club were relegated from the Championship.

“I certainly came with the mind-set that I could keep the club in the Championship, though I knew it would be tough." recalled Thornton.

“I didn’t come in thinking that we were relegated even though we’d lost all 18 league games.

“Obviously I was hoping for the ‘halo effect’ which new coaches often get.

“Unfortunately that didn’t happen but our first three fixtures were away at second-placed Bradford Bulls, in-form London Broncos at Castle Park and third-placed Featherstone away.

“We were also without prop Matt Groat, who received a three-match ban from the Bradford game, in two of those games, and he was a big loss.

“We set ourselves certain targets and it got increasingly more difficult as time went on and the more games we lost the challenge became ever tougher but, as captain of the ship so to speak, I had to remain positive in public.

“It eventually became a step too far and that brought its own challenges with players knowing that we were relegated with six or seven games to go and that was tough.

“Not least because certain players knew that they would be moving on at the end of the season.

“I’d like to think that the (eight) players we’ve kept, kept on going and gave 100 per cent as did some of the others I would like to have kept, such as Mike Emmett and Russ Spiers.

“It was disappointing to lose players I’d like to have kept, but we parted on good terms and the door will be open if we win promotion back to the Championship next season and they want to come back for the 2017 season.

“That includes Mitch Clark if things don’t work out at Bradford for him next season. Those players were good to work with."