Monday 20 June 2011

Rugby League in Rotherham - the early days

Rugby league came to Rotherham thirty seven years ago. A ‘get together’ in the Charter Arms took place on 5th April 1977 and was the inaugural meeting of a rugby league club that after much discussion was finally called Rotherham Rangers. To get to this first meeting had taken a few weeks of articles in the local weekly newspaper the Rotherham Advertiser that attempted to drum up support. As a result of the articles a few people had contacted me. Tony Lidster was keen on playing and had a few mates who wanted to try the game. Harry Brooks was a rugby enthusiast, who although he was well past the age when he could have played the game, was very keen to see rugby league established in Rotherham. It was decided by Tony, Harry and I that we had to try to form the club or forget the whole idea.

After the first meeting training sessions were held and new players appeared. Three friendlies were played and it was decided to enter the West Yorkshire League. The League played its games on Sunday mornings and so on Sunday September 18th 1977 the Rotherham Rangers club played its opening league fixture against Sheffield Concord. The game was played on a pitch on the grass area in front of Thomas Rotherham College, on Moorgate, near to the centre of the town. Sheffield Concord was a very poor team and despite Rangers only having fourteen players they still managed to win 33-25. In those days rugby league teams only had two substitutes which certainly made it easier to get a full team out.

Wins during the first three or four years of the club were not that frequent, but there were a lot of players who joined and went on to form the backbone of the club. Roger Render, Mike McLoughlin, Howard Charlesworth, Bernie Hunter, Andy Tyers and Jon Cook were some of the people who made massive contributions during the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.

Rangers appeared in local cup finals on a number of occasions. They also managed to be promoted fairly regularly ending up in the 1st division of the West Yorkshire League. An ‘A’ team was formed in the mid 1980s and the Rangers also had an under 17 team for one season.

The club had a number of grounds during the 1970s and 1980s. Thomas Rotherham College was the base for nearly two seasons, followed by the Rotherham Co-op Club (now called Pitches) and then the Council sports ground -Herringthorpe Playing Fields. The club ended the 1980s playing on Herringthorpe with a team in the Yorkshire League, playing on Saturdays and an ‘A’ team playing in the West Yorkshire League on Sunday mornings.

In 2014 I am planning to produce a history of Rugby League in Rotherham that will trace the development of the sport in the town.

A Rotherham Rangers team from the 1970s 

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