Wednesday 28 November 2012

What would they be worth today?

Is this the best ever Yorkshire Junior team?

Yorkshire beat Cumbria by 65 points to 7 and Lancashire by 28 points to 20 to win the 1981-82 Under 17 County Championship.

How many members of the Yorkshire team went on to play for Great Britain?

Five members of the Yorkshire Under 17 team went on to play for Great Britain. They are Garry Schofield 46 caps, Roy Powell 19 caps, Deryk Fox 14 caps David Creasser 4 caps and Gary Divorty 2 caps. Vince Gribben, from the Cumbria team, made one appearance for Great Britain.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Kent Invicta Part Three

By November 1983 Kent Invicta was bankrupt and had to be taken over by Jim Thompson, the Chairman of Maidstone United soccer club. As the season continued problems with sharing the ground with the soccer club and wear and tear on the pitch meant that when Southend United approached Jim Thompson with an offer to take the club to their Roots Hall Stadium it was readily accepted. Kent Invicta disappeared from the rugby league scene at the end of the 1983/84 season
Sadly, Southend Invicta was also only in existence for just one season, 1984/85. Attendances at their Roots Hall  ground often struggled to reach three figures and for their final home game, against Huddersfield on 26th April 1985, the attendance was recorded at just 85 spectators.
If you are interested in reading more about Southend Invicta I suggest you look at Peter Flower's Southend Invicta website at Peter has done an excellent job of recording Southend's only season as members of the Rugby Football League.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Kent Invicta Part Two

The attendance for the opening game, on 21st August 1983, against Cardiff City was 1,815, a promising start. However, after that the only other attendances in four figures were 2,107 for the John Player Trophy game, on 6th November 1983, against St Helens and 1,643 for the Challenge Cup game against Castleford, on 11th February 1984.
After the opening fixture against Cardiff, attendances declined with the majority of League games attracting less than 700 spectators.

When the final game of the season was played on 12th May 1984, a re-arranged fixture against Rochdale Hornets, just 412 spectators were in attendance.
The Rochdale game should have been played on 25th March 1984 but was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch. Bob Fox, the Invicta secretary, is pictured on the programme cover below inspecting the pitch before the game was called off.

The team for the game against Barrow is listed below.

The Kent Invicta team included two current Super League club Chief Executives Steve Ferres and Gary Hetherington.

More about Kent Invicta in Part Three

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Kent Invicta Part One

On Wednesday 6th April 1983 Kent Invicta Rugby League Football Club was accepted as a member of the Rugby Football League and following a hectic few months of preparation played its first game in Division Two on  Sunday 21st August 1983.
The club was based at Maidstone United's London Road Stadium.

For the opening game the club had recruited a mixture of Southern based players and experienced Northern 'imports'.

There was no rugby league played in Kent and the nearest professional club was Fulham over forty miles away. However, despite the obvious difficulties of establishing a club in an area new to rugby league, many people in the sport were excited about the prospect of rugby league being played in Kent and thought that the club would be a success.

There will be more about what happened to Kent Invicta in Part Two

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Bridging the Gap Part Three

With a much greater loss than expected on its first season Mansfield Marksman responded by moving home games away from Field Mill. The club decided that hiring the soccer ground for home games with attendances in the hundreds was no longer cost effective.
In March 1986 the club moved operations to Alfreton Town FC, playing home games at the soccer club's North Street ground. Two years later the club moved to Kirkby in Ashfield to play at Sutton Town's ground. The final move for this nomadic club came in June 1989 when Nottingham's Harvey Hadden Stadium became their home ground. This move caused a boardroom split, the loss of sponsorship by Mansfield Brewery, and a change of name to Nottingham City.
For the next four years the club struggled both on and off the field. On the field Nottingham only won seven games over that period while attendances, at home games, were often less than 300. In the 1992/93 season Nottingham finished bottom of the Third Division. The Rugby Football League decided that it wanted to reduce the number of professional clubs and so Nottingham City, along with Blackpool Gladiators and Chorley Borough, were relegated to the National Conference League. After once season in the Conference Nottingham resigned from the League and went out of existence.

An article about Mansfield Marksman will appear in the November edition of Forty-20 Magazine

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Bridging the Gap Part Two

Mansfield Marksman in their application to the Rugby Football League presented what appeared to be reasonable projections on income and expenditure.

The club produced a balance sheet that seemed to address any concerns regarding the expected loss and how it would be dealt with.

The Directors make it clear, in the notes the accompany the balance sheet, that they were confident that the maximum loss would be no greater than £51,000 and that if the club had a successful season the 1984/85 deficit could be considerably less.

The first home game, on Sunday 9th September 1984 against Wakefield Trinity, produced an attendance of 2,291 but unfortunately, despite winning eight of their first nine games, attendances declined steadily. In the second half of the season there were often fewer than 500 spectators attending home games. The attendance against Rochdale Hornets was recorded as only 321.
Mansfield Marksman lost £90,000 in its first season, a much greater loss than had been predicted.

How did the club respond?

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Bridging the Gap Part One

The 1980s was a period of expansion for professional rugby league.
 Mansfield Marksman RLFC joined the professional ranks in 1984.

The Directors

The club had impressive plans

What happened to Mansfield Marksmen?

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Rugby League Challenge Cup

I would be very interested in hearing from anyone who has memories of Challenge Cup pro/am games they played in or watched. In particular, I would like to hear from anyone who has any information on the following Challenge Cup game:

Hensingham v Huddersfield
13th February 1926

If you have any memories you would like to share, or are aware of any sources of information about the Hensingham game, including match reports, please get in touch.

Thursday 6 September 2012

Rugby League in 1984

I found this interesting article in the Sheffield Eagles programme for their first ever league game on 2nd September 1984.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Huddersfield Old Boys

Huddersfield Old Boys was one of the Yorkshire rugby union clubs that continued to play during World War Two. The club also managed to produce a fixture card every season, below are the fixtures listed in the fixture card for the 1944/45 season.

There is much more in information about the wartime activities of Huddersfield Old Boys in 'Let Them Play By All Means'

Thursday 2 August 2012

Wartime Rugby - Ilkley

During the early months of World War Two a number of Yorkshire rugby union clubs that had closed down when War was declared managed to restart fixtures. Many of those clubs had fixtures planned for the whole of the 1939/40 season but very few completed their fixtures.
In January and early February 1940, Britain experienced one of the worst winters in living memory and the severe winter plus the increase in conscription were probably two of the factors that caused many clubs to close down for the duration of hostilities.
Ilkley was one of the clubs that restarted in September 1939 but was then forced to close down in early 1940.

Below are some extracts from the Ilkley club minutes
The club minutes show that in January 1940 "the bar in the clubhouse to be closed for the season, stock to be sent back. In view of the shortage of players due to recent enlistments the remainder of the fixtures to be cancelled." No further meetings were held until 10th September 1945 when a special meeting was called at which 14 people attended. At this meeting "it was decided to run a full fixture list for the 1946/47 season but in the meantime Otley be asked to run a 2nd XV on our ground using as many Ilkley players as possible and that "endeavours be made to run games when the boys were home at Christmas and Easter."
In April 1946 a special AGM was held attended by all those interested in restarting the club - about 40 people attended. In June 1946 the secretary was instructed to write to the English Rugby Union applying for clothing coupons so that new jerseys could be bought and in September of that year 18white jerseys were purchased (apparently without coupons) as it was impossible to get any in the club colours. 
I am grateful to Ken Barnard, from Ilkley RUFC, for providing the information above.

'Let Them Play By All Means'

Tells the story of how Yorkshire rugby union clubs responded to the tremendous challenges of playing rugby during wartime. Click the ' Let Them Play' tab for further details.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Rugby League in Doncaster

Below is an extract from an article that appeared in Issue 39 of Rugby League Journal.

When I first played at Bentley Amateur Rugby league Club, we changed at Tatters Field the Doncaster Rugby League Club’s ground in a block of changing rooms that had been built for both Doncaster and Bentley to use. The dressing rooms were very cramped and I remember we often struggled to find our way to the bath when the lights on the corridor were not working, something that happened regularly. I think in those days dressing room maintenance was not a very high priority for a professional club that seemed in constant crisis. Bentley was the strongest amateur club in Doncaster at the time, and a number of players from Bentley had played regularly for Doncaster. When the ‘Dons’ had a player shortage, Bentley players would often be asked to play. When our team mates did play for Doncaster, I was amongst a number of players from the club who would go along to watch them in action. Standing on the crumbling terraces at Tatters Field on a Sunday afternoon wasn’t a very uplifting experience. Doncaster usually struggled to compete on the field and for the guys we had gone along to support I imagine it was probably an even worse experience. In fact, the highlights I remember most were more to do with the banter exchanged between players and spectators when the teams were lining up for the kick off after yet another try had been conceded by the ‘Dons’. Some of the banter was good natured but there were the occasional threats issued by angry players who said that they would see whoever had abused them after the game. I doubt that the threats of retribution were ever carried out. Most sensible spectators in attendances as small as Doncaster’s  would only abuse opposition players who would be happily picking up winning money and after the game would have probably forgotten about any abuse they received from the terraces.

Doncaster now play at the Keepmoat Stadium, a modern facility at the other side of town. Below is a photograph of the overgrown 'brownfield' site where Tatters Field once stood. If you look closely you can see a bank on the left hand side of the photograph, all that remains of one of the terraces.

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Rugby League Challenge Cup

I am currently researching Rugby League Challenge Cup games involving amateur clubs, Welsh clubs and clubs based in London. I would be very interested in hearing from anyone who has any first hand knowledge of these games either as a player or spectator. I can be contacted by email please click on the contact tab for details.

Thursday 28 June 2012

Wartime Internationals

Many representative fixtures were played during the Second World War with the proceeds usually donated to wartime charities. In my book 'Let Them Play By All Means' I mentioned a number of these fixtures and was also able to include illustrations showing the programmes that were produced for the games.
Below is a programme for an England v Wales wartime International that I wasn't able to include in the book.

I would like to thank Richard Lowther for providing the illustration.

For further information on 'Let Them Play By All Means' please click on the 'Let Them Play' tab above

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Bramley Rugby

In 1971 Bramley Rugby Union Club had been in existence for 50 years. To mark to occasion the club published a pamphlet highlighting the events that had led to the formation of the club and some of events that had taken place during the previous 50 years. Below is an extract from that pamphlet.

The club continues to play at The Warrels but is now called Bramley Phoenix following a merger with a Bradford based club called Phoenix Park.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Rugby League Characters - Bob Fox

Bob Fox

I first met Bob Fox when I joined Bentley Amateur Rugby League Club in 1973. Bob, was an outstanding club secretary, he was well organised, kept meticulous records and made sure that everything ran smoothly off the field. As was often the case at amateur rugby league clubs in the 1970s the success or otherwise of the club depended upon the efficiency of just one man, usually the club secretary. Bob was the type of person who never left anything to chance. The very high administrative standards that he set would have been difficult to match, even in the professional game. Therefore, it was no surprise when, in the early 1980s, he was recruited by a businessman called Paul Fairies to work full-time in professional rugby league. Paul Faires had established a new professional club, based in Maidstone, called Kent Invicta. Bob left a secure job in Doncaster and moved to Kent as full-time club secretary. Unfortunately for him and his wife, things didn’t work out as planned and when Kent Invicta folded towards the end of their first season and re-appeared as Southend Invicta, Bob was made redundant. I believe that he did eventually return to Doncaster, working on the lottery at a number of professional clubs. I am sure that Bob was very disappointed with the way things turned out. He was the sort of person who could have been a big success as a full-time administrator but sadly it seems he chose the wrong rugby league club to work for.

Friday 1 June 2012

Winter Rugby !

Playing on the wing for Barnsley Rugby Union Club in the 1970s could be very frustrating. We struggled on occasions to dominate in the forwards which meant that we got very little ball coming out to the backs. We seemed to have players at stand-off who loved to kick the ball. This meant that with very little ball coming our way it was extremely frustrating to be chasing kicks all afternoon, especially when most of those kicks were going into touch. I was very grateful for shorts with pockets and I spent a lot of the eighty minutes of some games with my hands in my pockets. The lack of action meant that if you did get a running chance it was likely that, because your hands were so cold, if you didn’t get a good pass you were in danger of dropping the ball. The pockets in the shorts helped most weeks but were ineffective if it was wet as well as cold. I recall one particular game we played away at Rochdale on a freezing cold day in the middle of November. As well as the freezing temperatures it was also raining and sleeting. The team was going through a poor run of results and because of that there was very little enthusiasm for playing an expansive game. The first team pitch at Rochdale was fairly exposed and very muddy. As a consequence of our lack of confidence, the pitch and weather conditions we kept the ball in the forwards for most of the game. My only opportunity of any real action came in the second half when I chased a kick through and got to the ball first to touch it down for a try. The problem was that my hands were so numb I was not sure whether I had touched the ball. Fortunately the referee was up with play and he decided I had scored a try. The other fortunate thing was that nobody tried to pass me the ball, as I am sure I wouldn’t have been able to catch it. After this particular game it must have taken me over an hour to get warm again.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Selection Committees

How are sports teams selected?

During my time on the BARLA Executive in 1983/84 I was involved in the International Committee that selected the Great Britain under 19 team to play against France. Selection committee meetings for Yorkshire that I had attended previously had been fairly pleasant affairs. Players were selected following reports from county selectors and the whole process was very thorough and fair. International selection was very different. I drove to my first International selection meeting with Arthur Higgins, another member of the Executive, who had been an International selector previously. On the journey across to Lancashire to a hotel near Oldham where the meeting was to be held, Arthur warned me that we needed to be clear on who we wanted to be selected or we would not get any Yorkshire players in the team. This was despite Yorkshire having won the County Championship! The meeting was a real eye opener as the Lancashire and Cumbria representatives had obviously met earlier and decided who they wanted to be selected. Therefore, when it came to any votes we were beaten by Lancashire and Cumbria voting together. We did get a few players in the squad, but only because we got very angry and threatened to walk out. I was fairly shocked by the way in which men who were supposed to have young players’ interests at heart could ignore their conscience because it suited their purpose. I realised during the meeting that Lancashire and Cumbria also seemed to have agreed who to vote for when the prestigious Managers jobs were discussed. Some of the people on the selection committee seemed to be more interested in the ‘perks’ of the Managers job. The players appeared to be of secondary importance.

Is the selection process different today?
Is it better for representative teams to be selected by one person either the coach or the manager?

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Leeds Who?

Three extracts from Leeds Who? now appear on the excellent new Leeds website

Thursday 26 April 2012

Leeds Chirons 2012

 Leeds Chirons 1st XV in 1966
Five of this team will be attending the 2012 Reunion to be held at The Whitehouse, in Roundhay, on Wednesday 16th May

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Let Them Play By All Means - Review

A great review on

A Must read for Rugby Union Followers.6 April 2012
Bought for me as a birthday gift. Fascinating history of Rugby Union played through the war years. As a member of one of the clubs featured (BAILDON) added interest.However the main well written well documentated historical facts remain for me the true value of this book. An insight into the games played Union V League wartime fixture, another great feature. Great buy, pity not a hard back. Donald A. Clark. Northern Highlands.
Thanks Mr Clark

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Pocklington Schools Cup 1941

These boys had taken part in a schools rugby competition played at Pocklington Rugby Club during World War Two. This photograph appears in 'Let Them Play By All Means'. I think that the players' kit and the clothes the spectators on the photograph are wearing really reflect the 1940s.
I would like to thank Phil Gilbank from Pocklington Rugby Club for allowing me to use this photograph.

Thursday 5 April 2012

Rugby League in Rotherham

After Rotherham Rangers was formed on 5th April 1977 three friendlies were played, mainly to gauge interest. The club then began preparations of its first season in the West Yorkshire League.
The first official game played by Rotherham Rangers took place on 18th September 1977 at Thomas Rotherham College, it was a local derby against Sheffield Concord.

This is the team that represented Rotherham.

Back Row Left to Right
Ted Pickering, Kevin Parlett, Mike Mc Loughlin, Steve Wilmott, Dave Henshaw, Tony Lidster, Sam Mara, Kevin Ceaser, John Essex
Front Row Left to Right
Paul Mortimer, Fred Toyne, Jim Abrahams, Stuart Sheard, Alf Davies, Ray Bramham

Rotherham won the game 33 - 25

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Wartime Representative Rugby

Richard Lowther, who produces the excellent newsletter remembering Wakefield RUFC through memorabilia called 'Burglar Bill, sent me a copy of this programme.
There were many representative fixtures played during World War Two raising much needed funds for a variety of local charities. The provision of a mobile kitchen was obviously a priority in Harrogate.
The Catterick Garrison XV was one of the strongest Services XVs in 1940 and as you can see from the teams below Catterick was able to field a side that included international's from both codes.

Unfortunately, Richard Lowther obtained the programme after 'Let Them Play By All Means' had gone to print and so I was unable to use it in the book. I am therefore grateful to Richard for allowing me to use the programme in this article.

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Book Title

The title of my new book is taken from a announcement that Bob Oakes, the Yorkshire County Secretary, made  to the Yorkshire Post newspaper on the 13th September 1939.

'At the moment there is little that can be done officially, but if thirty people can find a football and a field then let them play by all means'

This positive announcement must have encouraged a number of clubs to re-start as by the end of November 1939 more than half the clubs in membership of the Yorkshire Rugby Football Union had begun to play regular fixtures.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Let Them Play By All Means

 Huddersfield Old Boys

Huddersfield Old Boys played right through World War Two. In 'Let Them Play By All Means' there is a section on the club and other photographs and documents from the period.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Tuesday 7 February 2012

This is the cover design for my new book

Available March 2012

Tuesday 31 January 2012

Leeds and District Rugby League Honours 1968/69

This is the final article about the Leeds and District Rugby League in 1968/69. The honours lists below indicate the geographical area covered by the League in the 1960s. Two interesting names feature in the list of players awarded County Badges. Graham Idle, who played for New Markets as a junior, had long career in the professional game. He began his career with Bramley and also played for Wakefield Trinity and Bradford Northern. Les Dyl, who signed for Leeds Rugby League Club, was a 'one club man' who during his sixteen year professional career also made twenty five international appearances and toured Australia three times with Great Britain.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

The Leeds Saturday League 1968/69

The Leeds Saturday League in the 1960s contained a number of clubs that were well established and are still in existence today. The League covered a wide geographical area with clubs from York, Keighley, Castleford, Dewsbury and Featherstone taking part in a Leeds League that had only eight Leeds clubs in membership. In the 1960s there were no amateur regional leagues and so clubs from West Yorkshire that wished to play Saturday rugby had to join the Leeds League.
Which clubs are still in existence today?

Wednesday 18 January 2012

The Leeds Sunday League 1968/69

How things change in amateur rugby league.
Only one of the clubs in membership of the Leeds Sunday League in the 1968/69 season is still in existence.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Rugby Union Characters - Charles Waller

Charles Waller, who joined Leeds Chirons in 1967, never played a game for the club, as when he first became involved he was past the state retirement age. His role was to look after the dressing rooms, run the bath, make the after match cups of tea and clean up after everyone had gone. Mr Waller was encouraged to take on the role of dressing room attendant by his daughter, who wanted him to have a 'hobby' that got him out of the house. The reality was that the hobby practically became a full-time job. Never addressed as Charles, Mr Waller took the role on from John Mason the former caretaker and groundsman at Roundhay School. John Mason had looked after the dressing rooms for a number of years until he retired in 1965. There was a gap of a year or so between John Mason retiring and Mr Waller starting as dressing room attendant. During this period players and club officials took on the role with very mixed results. Often the dressing room boiler would not be lit in time and so the water in the bath would be cold. The tea would not be ready after the game and the dressing rooms would often not be cleaned from one week to the next. When Mr Waller, who lived in a cottage in the school grounds, took on the role, apart from a few early teething troubles, things ran very smoothly. The early teething troubles were mainly to do with the temperature of the bath water. It took a while for Mr Waller to get used to the eccentricities of the coke boiler. After one week, when he had complaints about the water being cold, Mr Waller put the boiler on very early and so the bath water was scalding when the first Chirons player jumped in. He soon jumped out again, uttering expletives! After a few weeks Mr Waller got to grips with the ancient boiler and things began to run smoothly.

Mr Waller spent many hours in the dressing rooms every week, tidying and cleaning, and remained with Chirons until the club went out of existence. His role on match day increased over the years as he became responsible for preparing the after match food, which was usually pie and beans. His after match food became legendary, as did his tea. People would often wonder whether the fact that the tea was so strong was because he started brewing it on the Thursday before a game. I believe Mr Waller never watched the games, but he was always interested in the results. In the 1st World War Mr Waller was a horse handler and if asked he would, on occasions, talk about his experiences. Many former Chirons players and officials have very fond memories of Mr Waller. Over the years he became something of an 'institution', and opposition players often went out of their way to chat to him before and after the game. I am sure many clubs had people like Mr Waller, but the difference probably being that they were former players. To my knowledge Mr Waller, who was quite a small man, had never played rugby, he just enjoyed his 'hobby' and the people he got to know through the rugby club.

There are more stories about rugby union characters in Leeds Who? Available from

Friday 6 January 2012

Joining a rugby club

I wonder if joining a rugby club is as easy, these days, as it was in the 1960s.

I was encouraged to join Leeds Chirons by Cliff Bent, a teacher from my school who was the 'A' team hooker. The 'A' team at that time was mainly made up of men coming to the end of their playing careers. Results for the 'A' team were very poor and I imagine that by recruiting a number of young players from his school, Cliff was attempting to lower the age profile of the team and provide Chirons with some potential first teamers. I particularly remember three other boys from Matthew Murray School who joined Chirons, Chris Wingfield, Andrew Newton and Barry Stones. Chris Wingfield joined Chirons at the same time as I did, but didn't stay very long. Andy was the first of us to break into the first team and he looked to have a very promising future as a rugby player. He was selected for a Yorkshire Colts trial and established himself as a first team regular. However, Andy got the 'travel bug' and so, as a teenager, he set off to see the world. Although he returned to Chirons in later life he never really made the impact on the Yorkshire rugby scene that he might have done in different circumstances. Barry Stones was a tough wing forward who became a first team regular and stayed with the club for a number of seasons. For my part I made my first team debut at the end of my first season with Chirons and stayed with the club until 1969. I returned in 1979 and played a few games in the 1979/80 season. In all I played over 150 games for Chirons and scored 30 tries.