Friday 27 June 2014

International Rugby League in Scarborough

Over recent years International Rugby League has been played in a number of towns and cities that wouldn't be considered to be in the 'heartlands' of the game. The 2013 Rugby League World proved through the attendances a places like Bristol and Wrexham that there is an appetite for International Rugby League in many parts of the country.
Sadly, the opportunity for International Rugby League to be played again in Scarborough has probably gone following the demise of the soccer club and the demolition of the ground where the 1983 Student International was played. Although, ironically,  two of the stands from the Athletic Ground still have a connection with Rugby League as they were bought by Featherstone Rovers.

The British Students team contained a number of players who featured in the teams that played against the New Zealand Universities when they toured the UK in 1984.

British Students Squad

Wednesday 25 June 2014

New Zealand Universities Tour Of Britain 1984

The New Zealand Universities team was the first representative student side to tour the UK. The tour began on 7th January 1984 with a game against Hull Colts. A further four games were played in England before the touring party flew to France for four games the final one being against the French Universities on 1st February in Limoux.
The climax of the English leg of the tour was a game against Great Britain Students at Headingley on 17th January.

The Great Britain squad contained a number of players who went on to have successful careers in the professional game. However, two of the squad are probably better known for what they have achieved away from Rugby League.  Martin Winter did play professional Rugby League for Doncaster but his main claim to fame is that he was the first elected Mayor of Doncaster. Dave Alred (his name is spelled incorrectly in the programme) also played professional Rugby League. He was signed by Sheffield Eagles in the summer of 1984 and played on the wing in the Eagles first game against Rochdale Hornets. Although being part of the first team to represent a new professional club is unique it is on the training pitch the Dave Alred is best known. Dave Alred is a very successful kicking coach and has worked with Rugby Union players like Jonny Wilkinson, Johnny Sexton and George Ford. His work on the training pitch has also extended to Golf where he has worked with golfers such as Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington.

Sunday 22 June 2014

Wartime Rugby

Below is an extract from an article published in Issue 46 of Rugby League Journal. The article is taken from the chapter on the relationship with Rugby League in my book about Yorkshire Rugby Union in World War Two called ‘Let Them Play By All Means’.
During World War Two rugby league players in the Services were allowed to take part in Services rugby union games against other Services teams and also against clubs but, were not ‘officially’ allowed to take part in club versus club fixtures.

‘Did rugby league players take part in club versus club games? I think almost certainly in Yorkshire they did. Pocklington was a rugby union club that welcomed the involvement of players from both codes; I hardly think they were alone. Many wartime fixtures were not reported and team lists were not submitted to a Governing Body. So, it is very likely that if a man appeared at a rugby union ground with a pair of boots and a request to play, he would be welcomed, with no questions asked, especially in the dark days of the war when the rugby union clubs that were still playing often struggled to find fifteen players.
Certainly in York and probably in other rugby league towns the reverse was happening and rugby union players were playing for professional rugby league clubs. York Rugby League Club was quite open about including rugby union players in its team. On 13th March 1943, W.E. Jones, a Welsh international who had played his club rugby for Swansea and Neath, was included in the York team that played at Leeds in the Challenge Cup. York lost the game but Jones made a good impression. The rugby league club was keen to include him the following week but he was required to be in Wales for a club fixture. Around this time, York were including a number of other rugby union players in their teams, reporting that fact in the local newspaper. Evidently neither they nor the players received any warnings or sanctions. There were many international rugby union players stationed in the North of England during the war and it is very unlikely that W.E. Jones was the only one who played for a professional rugby league club.’

Saturday 21 June 2014

South Yorkshire Development

The Junior Eagles club began operating shortly after Sheffield Eagles joined the Rugby Football League in 1984. The Junior Eagles developed into Sheffield Hillsborough Hawks which over the years has introduced many young people to Rugby League.
The Development work in the City has, unfortunately, not unearthed any International stars but a number of young men, who got their first taste of Rugby League through the Sheffield Eagles Development work or by their involvement with Hillsborough Hawks, have gone on to play professional Rugby League.

This article about the first Sheffield born player to sign for the Eagles appeared in the Rugby League Development News in August 1991.

Thursday 19 June 2014

St John Fisher v Hunslet Parkside

In the early 1980s St John Fisher and Hunslet Parkside dominated the junior rugby league scene in Yorkshire. There was fierce rivalry between the clubs and fixtures between the two were very well supported. As you will see from the team lists below many of the players who took part in the final went on to have outstanding careers in the professional game.

Hunslet Parkside won the game 14 - 0 with tries by John Sharp, Richard Francis, Mark Fox and David Creasser. Creasser added one goal.

 The winning team

Thursday 12 June 2014

Amateur Sevens

 A few years after their formation Bentley Amateur Rugby League Club began organising a very successful 7s tournament which was played annually on Tatters Field, the home of Doncaster Rugby League Club. The first tournament was held in 1968 when Birds Eye, from Hull, beat Ovenden, from Halifax, by 18 points to 3 to become the first holders of the South Yorkshire Cup.
The tournament always managed to attract some of the top amateur clubs and Bentley continued to organise the 7s right through to the end of the 1970s.

Beecroft &Whiteman, from Hull, won the 9th Annual Tournament beating their 'B' team by 21 points to 11.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Another Doncaster Memory from the 1970s

Ted Strawbridge, the Doncaster U18s coach, did a remarkable job in getting his team to the final of the Inter League Competition. Very few of the players had played Rugby League before being selected for Doncaster but Ted brought the best out in them and a number went on to have a career in the professional game.

The Castleford team, in contrast, contained a number of players who had achieved representative honours as juniors and went on to play at the highest level.
Castleford won the game 9-6 but the Doncaster team were competitive throughout probably helped by the Tatters Field mud!

I would like to thank Padraic McNeill for reminding me of the score and the mud.

Sunday 8 June 2014

Local Cup Competitions - The Doncaster Cup

Local cup competitions were always an important part of the amateur rugby league season. For many years the local cup in Doncaster was dominated by the Bentley club. Between their formation in 1963 and 1976 Bentley won the Doncaster Cup on no less than eleven occasions. The final of the competition was always played on Tatters Field, the home of Doncaster Rugby League Club. The final always attracted a good attendance and the money raised was used to support the work of the Doncaster Amateur League.
Below is the Bentley team that played in the 1976 Final against Selby Abbey Vaults.

Bentley won the game by  27 points to 7. Bentley's scorers were Tries: Ben Allison 2, Stuart Sheard 2, Stan Jinks, Kenny Barber and Kevin Gregory. Goals: Bunty Stokes 2, Kenny Barber 1

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Oakwood Rugby Union Football Club

Oakwood RUFC was formed as the result of the merger between Leeds Chirons and Kitson College Rugby Club.
The club struggled from the word go and and during the two seasons it was in existence only won two games.
Oakwood's fixtures and results can be found in 'A Forgotten Rugby Club'. Follow the link from the tab on the home page for the free download.

Oakwood played on the old Chirons pitch on Soldiers Field and used the dressing rooms at Roundhay School. The fixture list was similar to the one that Chirons had managed to put together the previous season. The Oakwood club played in red and white hooped shirts, bought with a grant from Leeds City Council. I imagine the 1988/89 season started with a great deal of optimism. Unfortunately, the initial optimism was short lived and the club struggled from the word go.
There was only one victory that season on 15th October 1988 against Airebronians Ex ‘A’. The rest of the season saw defeat after defeat, but the club was still managing to turn out a team on a fairly regular basis. A tour to London took place on the weekend on 4th March 1989 when Oakwood played games against a Wimbledon XV and a Hitchen XV and lost both games. The players to complete the weekend also watched an England rugby union International at Twickenham.  Unfortunately, after the tour the season appeared to go rapidly downhill. The club struggled to get a full team on the pitch for a number of games in March and April. For the final game of the season against an Otliensians XV, Oakwood only had thirteen players available and the game was lost by 72-18.
Despite the very disappointing first season, the club did arrange a fixture list for 1989/90 and began playing fixtures again in September 1989. However, just after the season began they got the news that Leeds City Council had ordered them to leave the dressing rooms at Roundhay School, as they were required for educational purposes. I can only speculate about why the club was asked to leave a building that had been used as rugby changing rooms since 1925. Leeds Chirons and Leeds E.O.S.C. before them had never paid any rent for using the building. I assume the Education Department had allowed the club to use the building free of charge because of its education connections. Perhaps it was because the Oakwood club had no obvious education connection that the City Council took the opportunity to reclaim the building. However, I can’t imagine it was ever used for educational purposes, as it had two rugby changing areas, a bath and a tea room, not really the type of facility required by a school in 1989. A few years later the building was demolished in order to create a car park. Oakwood continued to fulfil fixtures for the rest of the 1989/90 season using the Council changing rooms on Soldiers Field but, as was the case in the previous season, the club only managed one victory, on 4th November 1989, against Wetherby ‘B’, a game won by 26-6. The Oakwood club went out of existence at the end of the 1989/90 season; the last reported game being away at Otley Viscounts on 21st April 1990. Oakwood lost that game by 32-6. It must have been very difficult to keep players motivated at a club that achieved so few victories. Also the body blow of losing the dressing rooms must have depressed everyone involved. With such poor facilities and results, the Oakwood club was never going to attract the type of players who would raise standards sufficiently for the club to be able to join the Leagues. Possibly the players involved with Oakwood were happy to play at 3rd and 4th team level. Once the club really started to struggle for numbers on a Saturday I imagine that many of the players decided to move to more established local clubs who could turn full teams out regularly and had their own ground and clubhouse.
The Chirons name disappeared in 1988 and after the demise of Oakwood in 1990, rugby union was no longer played on the pitch that Leeds E.O.S.C. and Chirons had used for over sixty years.

If you played for Oakwood RUFC I would be interested to hear from you. Please get in touch.

Monday 2 June 2014

Newcastle Rugby League Football Club

Newcastle Rugby League Football Club joined the Rugby Football League for the 1936/37 season. The Pathe News cameras were out when Newcastle opened their home programme with a great fanfare. The match was attended by many dignitaries including the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, This first match, played against Huddersfield on 7th Sept 1936, resulted in a 12-33 loss. A piece of film, only about a minute and a half duration, exists and the clip is described as, “The Lord Mayor of Newcastle walking along with other officials to open first rugby league game. He runs a flag up a pole, it says 'Newcastle Rugby League F. C.' The Newcastle team run out onto the pitch, there are various shots of the crowd as Huddersfield run out and various shots of the match."
In their first season, 1936/37 Newcastle finished a lowly 29th out of 30 clubs, with only Featherstone Rovers below them.
In their second and last season,1937-38 they again finished second bottom 28th and last out of 29 clubs, this time with Bramley below them.
Newcastle Rugby League Football Club Club left the league at the end of the 1937/38 season.
Newcastle RLFC played at a stadium also used as a greyhound stadium. This was possibly Brough Park Stadium which at the time was already home to both greyhound racing and Newcastle Diamonds speedway team.
According to "the Grounds of Rugby League"(Trevor Delaney,1991) Newcastle RLFC played at Brough Park in the 1936/37 season. For 1937/38 the team moved to the new White City Stadium in Gateshead.
 Club League Record 

No of teams in league

The Grounds of Rugby League by Trevor Delaney