Inside Sport - - IN HINDSIGHT -

It’s rugby league’s great­est mys­tery. How did the orig­i­nal World Cup go miss­ing for 20 years?

Australia had just won the 1970 World Cup and ar­rived back to its base at the Mid­land Ho­tel in Brad­ford. The orig­i­nal tro­phy – now named in honour of for­mer French rugby league pres­i­dent Paul Bar­riere – was on dis­play in the 19th-cen­tury build­ing. Then it got nicked.

Bri­tish sports his­to­rian Tony Collins has looked into it but couldn’t say how or why. “It dis­ap­peared some­time af­ter the team ar­rived back and were cel­e­brat­ing.

“Was it drunken hi­jinks or stolen by an op­por­tunis­tic thief? We don’t know.”

The police got in­volved, and the Rugby Foot­ball League put out some in­quiries. In an­other sport­ing his­tory quirk, the soc­cer World Cup also dis­ap­peared when it was in Eng­land in 1966. Los­ing tro­phies isn’t a new phe­nom­e­non for the Bri­tish.

Whereas the soc­cer World Cup was re­cov­ered in a mat­ter of weeks, the rugby league tro­phy dis­ap­peared for two decades.

Lo­cal man Stephen Ot­t­ley found it by chance in a ditch in Bin­g­ley, 10km north of the Mid­land Ho­tel.

Ot­t­ley didn’t know what he’d found and took it to the lo­cal news­pa­per. By chance, rugby league his­to­rian Trevor De­laney saw it men­tioned in the pa­per and told the RFL about the ar­ti­cle.

It seems un­think­able to take two decades to re­cover an iconic piece of sport­ing sil­ver­ware. Collins says peo­ple viewed the im­por­tance of sport­ing her­itage dif­fer­ently back then.

“The way that peo­ple viewed the her­itage of sport in the ’60s and ’70s was very dif­fer­ent to to­day,” he said. “It wasn’t that im­por­tant. Per­haps they [the RFL] thought that if they paid too much at­ten­tion to it, they’d un­der­mine their abil­ity to at­tract other spon­sors.”

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