Interviews

Amateur playing talent in the 1950s and 1960s

From the end of the Second World War to the middle of the 1960s, playing standards in British Rugby League were arguably at their highest. Between 1946 and 1962 the Great Britain national team beat the Australians in five out of seven Ashes series and won the Rugby League World Cup in two out of three tournaments. The remarkable depth of talent that was responsible for this run of international success can also be seen in the highly competitive nature of the sport at a domestic level. The Challenge Cup was won by 10 different clubs during this period and there were also seven separate winners of the League Championship.

Although some of the era’s biggest stars, such as Billy Boston and Tom Van Vollenhoven, came from outside Rugby League, most were produced by the amateur game. This meant that amateur players like Alan Bradford, brushed shoulders with many young men who were destined for greatness. Alan Hardisty and Keith Hepworth, who gained domestic and international honours as a half back combination with Castleford and Leeds, played amateur Rugby League at Glasshoughton together in the 1950s. Roger Millward, the great Hull KR and Great Britain halfback, found fame at a relatively early age when he starred for the Castleford inter-town junior team in matches that were screened on Independent Television in the early 1960s. The three Fox brothers, Peter, Don and Neil all began playing Rugby League at Sharleston School, where they each gained either county or international representative honours before making their mark in the professional game. Peter then went on to become arguably the game’s greatest coach in the 1970s and 1980s and, as well as winning the Lance Todd trophy Don represented Great Britain. Their younger brother Neil became one of the sport’s greatest ever players and after scoring a record 6,220 from 358 tries and 2,574 goals in 828 matches and winning a host of domestic and international he was inducted into the Rugby League Hall of Fame in 1989.