Next spring we hope to see our beloved Dewsbury Rams taking part in the 1895 Cup – 1895 was of course the year when our great game was born.
Rebel clubs from Yorkshire & Lancashire quit the Rugby Football Union to form the Northern Union which quickly became Rugby League.
Just recently I stumbled across a full set of results from the first ever weekend of our great sport.
Absolutely fascinating to see which of those founder members still exist & just as intriguing to see that only one of the venues used on that day still stages Rugby League.
7th September 1895 was the day when it all started & the results were:
Batley 7-3 Hull
Bradford 11-0 Wakefield Trinity
Broughton Rangers 0-9 Wigan
Leigh 3-6 Leeds
Liversedge 0-5 Halifax
Runcorn 15-4 Widnes
Stockport 0-5 Brighouse Rangers
St Helens 8-3 Rochdale Hornets
Tyldesley 6-5 Manningham
Warrington 5-4 Hunslet
2500 were at Mount Pleasant to see Batley triumph against Hull & that was the only ground used that day to still be in use. No luxury team bus in those days as the captains agreed to play two 30 minute halves to ensure that Hull got their return rail connection.
My last article saw me write about the three senior clubs that existed in the Spen Valley & here we see that Liversedge were beaten by Halifax before 2000 at Hightown.
Stockport took on Brighouse Rangers at Edgeley Park which nowadays is the long established home of Stockport County football club.That game attracted the biggest crowd on opening day with 9000 present. Prior to the opening of the AJ Bell Stadium there was a return of the oval ball when Sale Sharks Rugby Union club played at Edgeley Park.
Rail travel appears to have been the established mode of travel as the game at Knowsley Road kicked off over an hour late as Rochdale Hornets missed their train connection in Manchester on route to St Helens.
7000 saw a titanic battle at Wilderspool as Warrington edged out Hunslet with a late touchline conversion.
The city of Bradford saw two teams join in the raising of the curtain. Bradford defeated Wakefield Trinity but this was pre Odsal days & the game was played at Park Avenue – A superb venue for many years & like Headingley it was a double sided venue with much cricket history being created there.The other Bradford representatives were Manningham who were beaten narrowly before 2400 at Well Street in Tyldesley.
Manningham eventually quit the handling code & are nowadays known as Bradford City fc!
The Leigh v Leeds game took place at Mather Lane – The railway system gets a bad press once again with the late arrival of their train making the Leeds team miss the scheduled kick off time.
Modern day giants Wigan travelled to the Wheaters Field home of Broughton Rangers & 6000 witnessed their victory there.
Widnes crossed the Mersey to the Irwell Lane home of Runcorn with 4000 watching the home team triumph.
Two clubs missed the opening day :Oldham were otherwise engaged hosting a community sports festival at their Watersheddings ground whilst Huddersfield were out of action due to their Fartown ground hosting an important cricket game. Fartown being another double sided venue that were much the fashion in the white rose county.
So that was the opening weekend of our great game & a few consistent themes arise.The games were all low scoring close fought affairs & nearly all kicked off late due to the trains transporting the away teams being late – somethings never change !!
The opening two weeks of the season saw 21 games played & only three started on time.The only media was the regional & local newspapers – with no other form of media back then the printed press had the field to itself & covered the game in much detail.
Even with Dewsbury not being involved it is fascinating to think what the game was like back at the 1895 outset.