Friday, June 02, 2006

The History of Wakefield Rugby League Club

In 1873 a group of young men from the local Holy Trinity Church formed the Wakefield Trinity club. One of the initial forces in the game, Trinity won the Yorkshire Cup four times in nine years and was one of the initial 22 clubs to form the Northern Union after the acrimonious split from the Rugby Football Union in 1895.Trinity won the Northern Union Challenge Cup for the first time in 1909, beating Hull 17-0 at Headingley. The corresponding 1914 final saw the result reversed, with Hull winning 6-0, and proved to be an accurate guide to the teams pre-war endeavours, as Trinity lost four Yorkshire Cups in the thirties with a side that included club stalwart Jonty Parkin.If the pre-war years were austere then the post-war period was bright and bullish for the Dreadnoughts. The first Wembley final after the war produced a return to winning ways as Trinity, with names such as Billy Stott, Herbert Goodfellow and Mick Exley, pipped Wigan to the Cup 12-13. .The club was not destined to return to Wembley until 1960 and had to slake its thirst for silverware on two Yorkshire Cup and two Yorkshire League victories in the 1950's. Wakefield returned to Wembley emphatically with a record 38-5 win v Hull under the guidance of coach Ken Traill and loose forward Derek "Rocky" Turner.Wakefield won their third Challenge Cup victory two years later in 1962, running out 12-6 winners v Huddersfield. The successful defence of the Cup the next year iced a spectacular period in the club's history with three Wembley titles in four years. Further renown was arrested due to two Championship Final defeats in 1960 and 1962 v Wigan and Huddersfield respectively.One of Trinity's great servants, centre Neil Fox, who scored a record 6,220 points in his 23 year career (19 with Wakefield) was coming to prominence, however, in Trinity's up and coming side. The club were victorious in a dour 1962 Challenge Cup win over Huddersfield although the Fartowners went on to deny them the double a few days later in the Championship final..With a victorious defence of the Cup in 1963, their fifth Challenge Cup title, Wakefield had still not been able to achieve the league championship title. The Holy Grail would be achieved in the 1966-67 season when a seasoned, Harold Poynton led side that included Neil and Don Fox, Gary Cooper and Ray Owen, defeated Saints in a replay. They repeated the title feat the following year v Hull KR but were again denied the double when Leeds defeated them in the 1968 'water splash' final at Wembley.Wakefield absorbed a number of different coaches at the helm in subsequent years but did not return to Wembley until Bill Kirkbride's talented charges fell 12-3 to Widnes in 1979 in front of nearly 100,000 people.The ensuing decline was temporarily halted when 'the King' Wally Lewis signed up for a brief spell with the club. But even the presence of the mercurial Kangaroo five-eighth couldn't prevent an inconsistent Wakefield from fluctuating between the two divisions. Former player David Topliss stabilised the Dreadnoughts' ship in the late eighties. He won immediate promotion in 1988 and consolidated the clubs top tier status by acquiring the services of seasoned internationals like Steve Ella, Mark Graham, Brian Jackson as well as now former Wildcats' coach Andy Kelly and later John Harbin after flirtations with temporary coach Tony Kemp in 1999.Wakefield were reduced to lower division football with the arrival of Super League in 1995 but earned their place in the top flight on the back of their dramatic victory over Featherstone in the inaugural Division One Grand Final in 1998.
After years of struggling to keep up with the SL pace which saw the Wildcats finish next to bottom on most of there attempts they finally got around to making headway up the league, With the appointment of Shane McNally as head coach and Tony Smith as his assistant the pair guided the Wildcats to there 1st ever SL play off position finishing in 6th place in 2004 after a slow start to the season the Wildcats finished stronger than any other team in the competition giving the Wildcats fans some hope of a little glory at the club which had been missing for too long.
Away at the KC Stadium in Hull the Wildcats produced a remarkable performance and managed to beat Hull despite having two men sin binned. A highlight of a magnificent performance was Michael Korkidas's run at the start of the 2nd half which saw the Wildcats run out eventual winners in a close hard fought game.
The semis saw Wakefield visit Wigan away and there was real hope in the camp that they would make the elimination final play off and all looked to be going that way when the Wildcats led 14-0 but decisions went the way of the Wigan Warriors so it wasn’t yet to be but Wakefield fans will look back on these two games with fondness for many years.