Interviews

Early Years at Bradford

When Len Haley signed for Bradford Northern in 1950 he joined a club that was enjoying one of the most successful periods in its history. An unprecedented array of honours had been won during the previous decade including, the Challenge cup in 1944, 1947 and 1949, the Yorkshire cup in 1940-41, 1941-42, 1943-44, 1945-46, 1948-49 and 1949-50 and the Yorkshire league title in 1939-40, 1940-41 and 1947-48. The era was spanned by the careers of Earnest Ward and Trevor Foster, two of the greatest players of this or any other generation and, although nearing the end of their careers, they both made a big impact upon Len.

A classy centre, Ernest Ward was signed from Dewsbury Boys Club on his 16th birthday in 1936 and spent the following 17 years at the club. Amongst many other highlights, he Captained Bradford at Wembley in three Challenge Cup finals, represented Great Britain in 20 Test matches and went on two Ashes winning tours to Australia; the first with the ‘Indomitables’ of 1946 and the second in 1950, when was given the honour of captaining the Lions. He played 391 games for Bradford Northern, scored 117 tries and kicked 538 goals in amassing 1,427 points.

Trevor Foster’s remarkable association with Bradford began in 1938 when he signed from Welsh Rugby Union club Newport. He went on to serve the club for over sixty years, acting as player, coach, director, timekeeper, President of the Supporters Club and Chairman of the Floodlight Fund. Although interrupted by the war years, his playing career at Odsal spanned 428 games, in which he scored 128 tries. In addition to a wealth of honours won with Bradford, he also appeared 3 times for Great Britain, accompanying Earnest Ward on the 1946 Lions tour, and 16 times for Wales. Although his playing career finished in 1955, Trevor Foster is also remembered with equal affection for his devotion to the club in the years which followed. Perhaps most importantly, he played a central role in resurrecting the club after its resignation from the RFL in 1963, due to financial difficulties. He continued to work for the club into the Super League era and as timekeeper in the 2000 Challenge Cup final was able to savour the moment when the trophy came back to Bradford for the first time since he played in a final 51 years earlier. His outstanding contribution to the sport was recognised with the award of an MBE in the 2001 New Year's Honours List.

Len’s arrival at Odsal also coincided with the signing of New Zealand All Black Rugby Union Internationals Joe Phillips and Jack McLean. Both men proved to be popular and highly successful additions to the side, before their departure in 1956. Mclean scored an amazing 261 tries in 221 games, including a club record 63 in the 1951-52 season, and Phillips kicked 661 goals in six seasons.