Spotlight on Hemel Stags

Date published: Friday, May 10, 2013

CHAMPIONSHIP one rookies maybe, but don’t run away with the idea that Hemel Stags are wet behind the ears in terms of playing rugby league.

Scott Naylor’s Oldham travel to Hertfordshire on Sunday to take on a Stags outfit that has been building towards part-time professionalism in the sport’s third tier for the past 32 years.
Rugby league fanatic Bob Brown, an Australian, established the club in Hemel Hempstead in 1981 and he’s still there as chairman, running the club lottery and sometimes working in the kitchen on match days at the Pennine Way Sports Arena.
Across three decades Hemel have figured in various London and Southern England amateur competitions, gradually improving their facilities and their standard of performance on the field.
“We’ve always had a dream to be in Championship One, and now it’s been realised we are really enjoying it,” said Aussie coach Troy Perkins, once a member of a crack Australian Schoolboys side which also boasted future Test stars in Craig Gower, Brett Kimmorley and Nathan Blacklock.
Perkins has spearheaded the rise and rise of Hemel for the past eight years, travelling hundreds of miles each week from his Coventry home to take charge of training on three nights.
He draws his players from all over the South, many from London and some from as far away as Essex and Kent.
One to watch is scrum-half Mike Bishay who, after four rounds, leads the Premier Sports Championship One player-of-the-year rankings with eight points from Oxford centre Sean Morris (7) and North Wales Crusaders stand-off Andy Moulsdale (6).
Early days yet, but Oldham’s only player on the ladder is in-form Danny Langtree, who has two points.
Bishay, a Londoner from Feltham, played the lead role in the Stags’ opening three league wins at London Skolars (26-8), against Gateshead at home (21-20) and at home to Gloucester (28-8).
Their only league defeat was last week at Oxford when they went down 23-22 to a last-minute drop goal by Jonny Leather.
Bishay was only 14, and playing for Staines Titans, when he was scouted by Super League club London Broncos (then named Harlequins).
On his journey through the academy set-up at The Stoop, he was selected for the England Academy squad in 2011, and is now at the Stags on dual registration from the Broncos.
Perkins said of him: “His footwork is good; he’ll take on any defensive line; and he has solid passing and kicking games — all the qualities you look for in a good half-back.”
Hemel picked up injuries against Tony Benson’s Oxford.
Alex Ingarfield (head), Gareth Honor (ankle) and Ash Johnson (shoulder) are likely to miss out, while Chad Sharp is suspended.
Another four unnamed players face late checks.