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Swinging 60s

by Alan Domville

Huddersfield had not won at Wilderspool for 40 years when they visited the stadium for the 1961-1 fixture. The Fartowners had suffered a lean time of things since their early post-war league and cup successes but they had suddenly come good again and in January that year they were pushing hard in the championship which they would eventually win, defeating Wakefield in the final at Odsal, and they would also reach the Challenge Cup Final where they lost to Trinity.

Warrington, meanwhile, were in turmoil.

Our unbeaten home record for that season had been surrendered to Oldham the previous Saturday and there had been a pith invasion at the end.

Two days later long serving club captain Albert Naughton had announced his retirement and all week rumours were flying around town that our legendary winger Brian Bevan was also on his way out the club.

Brian was not selected for the game and the rumours would, of course, prove to be correct by Easter.

Huddersfiels had endured seven postponed games before that match because of bad weather and it was freezing cold when they finally took the wild at Wilderspool. Wearing claret and gold jerseys were Frank Dyson, holder of all of the club’s goal-kicking records, the former Wigan prop Ted Slevin, Tommy Smales at scrum half and two fine wingers, Union signing Mick Wicks and Aiden Breen, son of the renowned Manchester Evening Chronicle rugby league journalist Jimmy.

The Warrington team were then managed by Ces Mountford’s successor Ernie Ashcroft who had joined the club from Huddersfield at the beginning of the season so he would have known many of the visitors’ strengths and weaknesses.

Warrington’s line-up also looked strong enough to hold the Fartowners with former Great Britain captain Eric Fraser at full back, another test star, Terry O’Grady, switching to the right wing and with Brian Glover coming in on the left. In the centres were Jim Challinor and Joe Pickavance.

World Cup prodigy Bobby Greenough and Jackie Edwards, father of Shaun, were at half back where they had formed a lively partnership. The front row comprised two great props, Charlie Winslade and Alistair Brindle along with hooker Paddy Lannon, one of the most successful number nines when scrums were always contested.

Harry Major and Joe Anders, making his, were in the second row while at loose forward was Laurie Gilfedder who was enjoying such a rich vein of form that season that he looked certain to be picked for the touring to team to Australia and New Zealand the following summer. He was duly selected along with Frasher and Huddersfield prop Ken Noble, the letter after having recovered from a broken jaw.

Unlike many of the free-flowing games between the two teams in previous years this was a torrid tussle with both sides holding the ball for long periods in an era of unlimited tackles and the outcome was in doubt until the final whistle.

Challinor scored a try for Wire and Fraser landed two goals while for Huddersfield centre Stocks touched down and Dyson kicked two goals.

So it ended in a draw 7-7. Huddersfield had failed yet again to break their hoodoo and it would be almost another 40 years, in July 2000, before Warrington’s proud record against the Yorkshiremen would come to an end.

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