Dewsbury Rams were delighted to have former head coach and 1973 playoff final winner Tommy Smales at the clubs 2018 awards night.
Smales was the first ever recipient of the Heritage award as fans remembered that glorious season back in 1972-73. Dewsbury were the last team to be crowned champions under the playoff system until it was re-introduced in the Super League era in 1998. It was also the 78th season of rugby league to be played in England since the game’s inception.
Dewsbury finished eighth in the overall league standings, however they negotiated a very difficult playoff campaign to be crowned champions at the end of the 1973 season. They defeated Leeds 22-13 at Odsal Stadium Bradford on 19th May 1973, as Smales, Stephenson, Bates and Agar completed one the greatest feats in the clubs history.
Smales spoke exclusively to dewsburyrams.co.uk saying how much he was enjoying being back at the club all these years later and he told the website about his time as head coach of the club.
On the awards night itself, Smales commented: “It was a bit of a surprise to start with to receive the heritage award, it was 45 years ago that we won the Championship. We were just invited to the evening and to get an award is great, it was a real shock I never expected it.
“When you think of the amount of people that have been involved in Dewsbury since I was last here 45 years ago, then it’s a great award to receive and I am over the moon with it.”
Tommy remembers one night in Hull that season very well, he said: “That night at Hull I could see the way we had progressed, we were on a roll and I didn’t think the players actually realized it. You could see from the touchline what was going on and how well they were playing. The players did everything we asked them to do, and when you get a roll on then the next match you continue and you gain that confidence.
“We were playing so well, and they had this great big long stand at Hull and the crowd are giving it all Hull, Hull, Hull. We quietened them down and they started to clap us did their fans. At half time we got the lads in and we were seeing to whoever needed to be patched up and then we gave them the talk just before we came out.
“As we came out I lined the players up with their backs to the crowd at the side of the pitch. The reason I did that was because if they were facing the crowd they’d be getting distracted from what I was telling them. That is one of the tricks of the trade, you don’t need a distraction when you are talking to the players. I could see exactly what they were doing, they were cheering and smiling and having all the joy and then I was just talking to the players.
“We did this in the final at Odsal, back in those days you couldn’t go inside the ground, there was no where to go and do a team talk so we just lined all the players up again at the side of the pitch. I said to the lads to get themselves sorted and then got all the players in a half moon circle shape with their backs to the crowd.
“I looked at the Leeds players and they were just walking about, their coach couldn’t get their players in for a talk. I got mine in a group, and I always did it whether out on the field or in the dressing room. I got them sat down and it was 10 minutes that I could have to talk to them. It is physiological because if your trying to get your point across to someone you don’t want them looking at someone else who might be distracting them like in a crowd.”
Smales also reminisced about the moment he and the team got the trophy and won the final at Odsal.
He said: “I had the feeling of elation when I got my hands on the trophy, all the feelings just drains from you. I just sat there and watched all the players and spectators on the field celebrating, it was brilliant. I had experienced that feeling before to some extent having played at Wembley, but you didn’t have the fans coming on to the pitch there. You have to drink it in as much as you can, but you can’t take it all in at at once.”
Smales received a huge cheer from the fans as he went up to collect his award and he insists it was nice to see one or two old faces again among the supporters.
He commented:”It has been nice to see one or two of the players and spectators again, it is nice after all these years, it was 45 years ago after all since we won it. There are a lot of people here that haven’t experienced that.
“I am not a legend, there are a lot of coaches out there that have played and coached a lot longer than me but I don’t think they’ve had anymore satisfaction than what I have had with my success with my players. A lot of these coaches have had full time international players, we had just three I believe in our team. Sometimes it’s easier to coach international players, it might be more down to man management and keeping their feat on the ground.
“In general life they were brilliant players that I had, they respected me, they respected the club and fans and they respected the way we played on the pitch.
“I love coming back to Dewsbury, I always get a good reception and it’s been brilliant tonight and I appreciate the invite and the award very much.”