FOR local rugby league fans of a certain age, Warrington’s bid at Old Trafford tonight to win the league title for the first time since 1955 will revive memories of that Maine Road day when Brian Bevan, Harry Bath and Co beat Oldham 7-3.
It took Oldham only two years to put that Maine Road defeat behind them when they finally won the league trophy two years later by beating Hull 15-14 at Odsal in front of a crowd of 62,217.
Oldham haven’t won the title since — and neither have Warrington, who can put the record straight tonight if they see off the challenge from Wigan Warriors in what has all the ingredients to be a fascinating and emotional Super League Grand Final.
Sixty-three years ago, when Warrington beat Oldham at Manchester City’s old ground , the game would be unrecognisable from Super League in 2018.
The official match programme on May 14, 1955 was on sale at 6d.
There were no substitutes and coach Griff Jenkins had the unenviable job of choosing his 13 from a training squad of 15
In the end he left out Etty and Watson and went into battle like this:
Stirrup; Barrow, Cracknell, Davies, O’Grady; Daley, Pitchford; Ogden, Keith, Jackson, Winslade, Little, Goldswain.
The final attracted a 49,000 crowd, but Wire won thanks to a Bevan try and two Bath goals against a first-half try for Oldham by scrum-half Frank Pitchford.
At the end of the regular season Warrington and Oldham finished first and second respectively in a one-division set-up of 31 clubs.
They each won 29 and drew two of their 36 games, but Wire had a marginally better for-and-against record.
The top-four play-off involved Warrington, Oldham, Leeds and Halifax with Wire beating Halifax and Oldham seeing off Leeds 25-6 at Watersheddings.
Defeat in the final was a bitter blow for Oldham fans, who had previously seen there ‘nearly men’ beaten by Barrow in the Lancashire Cup final and pipped by Warrington to the Lancashire League title, gain on points difference.
It was all to change though in the next few years with Lancashire Cup victories in 1956, 57 and 58 and that great championship win against Hull in 1957, the season they finished with four trophies on the sideboard.
Happy days but a long, long time ago.
A more up to date link between tonight’s showpiece at the theatre of dreams and the present-day Oldham side is provided by coach Scott Naylor.
In 2002, while playing centre for Bradford Bulls against St Helens in the Grand Final, he scored the fastest try in the Super League era when he went in after only three minutes.
St Helens went on to win 19-18 in a thriller watched by more than 61,000 fans.
Scott will again be in charge of Roughyeds next season when, as the club’s longest-serving team boss in the last 21 years, he will take command for his SEVENTH season.
It isn’t yet known what sort of a squad he will have to work with in 2019 but things should be much clearer by the time players and fans come together for the 2018 Awards Night at the Vestacare Stadium on Friday, November 9 (7.30 start).
Tickets cost £12.50, including pie-and-mash supper with extras, and they can be purchased on-line or over the counter at the Roughyeds office inside the Vestacare ground.
Anyone wishing to pay by cash or cheque at the office is advised to first ring Anne Kearns on 07811 988 426.
See you there, wearing your Roughyeds replica shirt. It should be a great night.