Interviews

The fall and rise of Bradford Northern.

With the incredible success of Bradford Bulls in Super League, it is hard to believe that just over 30 years before the summer era began the City’s premier Rugby League club had folded. But, after completing just 17 matches of the 1963-64 season, the original Bradford Northern club went out of business. The crowds for the last 2 fixtures at Odsal reveal much about the clubs demise. Only 324 spectators watched the penultimate game against Barrow, which was a record low for a match at the stadium which just 10 years earlier had housed 69,429 for a cup tie against Huddersfield, whilst 841 attended the final game which was against Leigh on 7th December 1963.

But by April 1964 moves to resurrect the club were already taking place. A meeting on the 14th of that month saw 1500 people turn out to discuss the formation of a new club, and those present promised a £1000 to help get plans for the new organisation underway. Amongst those who lead in these proceedings were former players Joe Phillips and Trevor Foster and the response from the Bradford public also secured the backing of the Rugby Football League. Also present was Earnest Ward, who had captained the club in the 1940s during its greatest period of success. He was called upon to make an impromptu speech and told those present, ‘It’s gratifying to see so many people here tonight and it is up to us to back these people on the platform’.   

Support for the proposed new club continued to build over the following months and, after continued fund raising, a squad of players was assembled and the tenancy at Odsal secured.
Then, on 20th July 1964, Bradford Northern (1964) Ltd came into existence. The club’s new side had been built for around £15,000 and included former International Jack Wilkinson, as coach, and Ian Brooke, a young player of great promise, who had been bought from Wakefield Trinity for £2,750. On 22nd August 1964 Hull Kingston Rovers provided the opposition in the Club’s first match and 14,500 spectators turned out to show their support, as Odsal hosted its first 10,000 plus gate for a Bradfrod Northern match since 1957.