The halcyon days of rugby league

Rastrick Rugby League Club - 1967
Rastrick Rugby League Club - 1967

The history of Rastrick Rugby League Club started as many sporting clubs initially start - by a few friends getting together. In this case at the White Swan, which is now the town centre branch of Lloyds bank. Many of them were already playing for other clubs in the Huddersfield and Halifax leagues.

While the enthusiasm was there, they had no ground to play on and no team manager. Some of the lads knew that the ground on Carr Green Lane was not being used and might be available. Others suggested approaching Joe Cocker, a name known to all the lads because he had run a number of Rastrick teams in the past.

Joe agreed and he even supplied a set of brand new kit for everyone. It also soon became apparent that after some negotiation the Carr Green ground would be the team’s new home ground. With almost everything in place the friends left their respective clubs to make this fresh start.

The players’ experience was soon having an impact on the local league, particularly against some of the more established teams. In the team’s first two seasons the silverware soon came its way with two trophies.

Sadly the team’s time on the Carr Green ground did not last too long with the land being sold for housing development. This saw the team come to an end with some of the players retiring and others going back to join teams in the Huddersfield and Halifax leagues.

It was some of the remaining players who helped to re-form Brighouse Rangers rugby league team, with the Rangers’ new home ground being Wellholme Park.

During the club’s short but successful history the team took part in many of the keenly fought ‘Workshop’ competitions. These matches attracted spectators in their hundreds.

One major incentive for the spectators was the rules allowing each team to have one professional player. This saw some very familiar names turn out on match days: Billy Banks, who won caps for Wales while at Huddersfield 1949-1953 and won caps for Great Britain; Rob Valentine, who won caps for Great Britain while at Huddersfield and was also capped by Scotland rugby union while at Hawick RFC in 1963.

Then there was Tony Fisher, a familiar name up at Bradford Northern. He was a Welsh professional rugby league player of the 1960s and ‘70s, and coach of the 1980s and ‘90s.

With names like these three it is understandable why the rugby league fans turned up in such numbers.

Those were the halcyon days of local rugby league when the opportunity of a young lad seeing his hero play locally are now long gone, with players now being full time professionals.

Returning to this week’s featured photograph, which was taken at the Carr Green ground. Pictured are, back row from left: Mel Green, unknown, Peter Kelly, Mike Shaw, unknown and Brian Hinchliffe.

Front row from left: Gwyn Merrifield, Alan Carter, Robin Slater, Peter van de Gevel, Ernest Smith, Malcolm Broadley and David Martingale.

Absent from this photograph are: David Horton, Geoff Watmough and Bill D’Arcy, who joined the team not long after this photograph was taken.

Thanks to Peter van de Gevel for the loan of the photograph and many aspects of the story.