Interviews

Starting out at Bradford.

Phil’s boyhood ambition to play for Bradford Northern was stirred by the arrival of Willie Davies, the clubs great Welsh stand off half, to teach at Bingley Grammar School where he was a pupil. Davies had been a schoolboy international in Rugby Union and after making his senior debut for Swansea in 1934, he won his first full Welsh cap in 1936. When he first moved north in 1939 it was to take up a teaching position in Yorkshire and, initially, he continued to play Rugby Union, joining the Headingley club. But it not take Bradford Northern long to persuade him his future lay in the 13 a side code and he made his debut for the club in a match against Castleford on 26th August 1939 after signing for £1000. Although his career was initially hampered the outbreak of war, Davies went on to become a key member of perhaps the greatest side ever to play as Bradford Northern. He appeared in 5 Challenge Cup finals over the next 10 years, including successive trips to Wembley in 1947, 1948 and 1949, and was victorious on 3 occasions. The first trip to Wembley, in 1947, saw him win the Lance Todd trophy after playing a decisive role in the victory over Leeds. On the International front Davies played for Rugby League for Wales on 9 occasions and made won 3 caps for Great Britain. His career at Bradford ended in 1950 after 237 matches and 55 tries. But the full story of his contribution to the side cannot be fully told by statistics alone. In the first volume of his Gone North series of books, Robert Gate described Davies as

…an exquisite playmaker who seemed to skate or glide over the ground. Over the first 10-15 yards he was extremely swift and he could break through the tightest situations….Light on his feet, Davies’ probes would eventually find a weakness where none was thought to be and opponent might as well chase shadows. When Davies was in possession the crowd would be on tenterhooks for the only thing to be sure was that he would not kick….his passing of the ball was perfect, its release was precisely timed.