Interviews

Halifax pre war memories

There were peaks and troughs in the history of Halifax RLFC during the 1930’s. The decade began well for the club with a victory in the 1931 Challenge cup final. Under the disciplined leadership of Dan Jenkins, Halifax beat York 22-8 to record the club’s first success in the competition since 1903. But the victory was followed by four seasons of relative decline as Halifax drifted down the Championship table.

The club’s upturn in fortunes began in unusual circumstances. Towards the end of the 1937 season the Streatham and Mitcham Club - one of many attempts to launch Rugby League in London - folded after just one full season in the League. The club had made a number of high profile signings from the New Zealand All Blacks, including George Nepia arguably the greatest player in Rugby Union at the time. Halifax moved swiftly to sign Nepia, for just £300, along with fellow former All Black Charlie Smith. Although Nepia, who was by now at the end of his career, appeared in little more than a handful of games for Halifax, Smith played over 300 times for the Club. The team building continued and he was joined by Harry Beverly, for £850 from Hunslet, Harry Field, a test hooker, from York, scrum-half Jack Goodall and back-row forward John Chadwick from Keighley. As a result, in 1938, Halifax reached the semi-final of the Challenge Cup, after winning three replays on the trot, before they were knocked out by Barrow at Fartown in the dying seconds of the game.

But success came the following year when Halifax became the last team to win the Challenge cup final before the war. Harry Beverly lifted the cup at Wembley after favourites Salford had been beaten 20-3 in front of a record 55,453 spectators.