Glory days f Fax champi

Halifax Courier - - Nostalgia - By David Han­son

FAX are cham­pi­ons! How sweet that sounded 25 years ago on that glo­ri­ous day in April 1986 when Hal­i­fax grasped the rugby league ti­tle for the first time in 21 years.

Fax’s tri­umph came at the end of a nerve-jan­gling – and con­tro­ver­sial – 13-13 draw with Feather­stone Rovers at Thrum Hall that con­firmed Hal­i­fax as cham­pi­ons and saved Fev from rel­e­ga­tion.

But it was so much more than that. It marked the re­vival of a sleep­ing rugby league gi­ant that had won pre­cious lit­tle since last claim­ing the cham­pi­onship by de­feat­ing St He­lens at Swin­ton in 1965.

Apart from a soli­tary tri­umph in the Play­ers No 6 Tro­phy in 1972 Hal­i­fax had suf­fered some lean times and in 1983 Hal­i­fax were rel­e­gated from rugby league’s divi­sion one with just five wins and a draw from 30 matches.

Fax bounced back the fol­low­ing sea­son but for the strug­gling club it was time for a change and it came in the form of Hal­i­fax-born busi­ness­man David Brook, who be­came club pres­i­dent in 1984. Short of money, Hal­i­fax had had to make cut­backs, but David Brook had one great idea – to bring in young, tal­ented but in­ex­pen­sive play­ers from Aus­tralia.

Brook found rich pick­ings in the rugby league cities of Syd­ney and Bris­bane. By the start of the 1984-5 sea­son re­build­ing had be­gun in earnest with a host of young Aussies des­tined to be­come house­hold names com­ing to Thrum Hall.

They in­cluded fu­ture in­ter­na­tional play­ers Paul Lang­mack and Martin Bella, plus Michael Ha­gan and Ron Ryan, join­ing Hal­i­fax’s home-grown play­ers un­der pop­u­lar coach and for­mer Hal­i­fax for­ward Colin Dixon.

The club signed 11 Aus­tralians and then, in Novem­ber 1984, David Brook con­tro­ver­sially an­nounced that the much ad­mired Dixon would be re­placed by vet­eran Aus­tralian in­ter­na­tional Chris An­der­son as player coach.

At 35, af­ter 15 years with Syd­ney gi­ants Can­ter­bury-Bankstown, plus a spell with Widnes, An­der­s­don had just re­tired from the Aus­tralian game and trav­elled to Eng­land to play briefly for Hull Kingston Rovers be­fore Brook of­fered him the coach­ing job at Hal­i­fax.

But at Thrum Hall un­happy Eng- lish play­ers be­lieved that Brook voured the Aussies and grow­ing feel­ing be­came a cri­sis when all English play­ers asked for transfe In the end a clear-the-air-meet was held which seemed to al­lay English men’s fears and brou peace to the dress­ing room.

The fol­low­ing year the Rugby Lea de­cided to limit the num­ber of overs play­ers to five per club. With Ch An­der­son and cen­tre Tony An­der al­ready at the club Brook de­parted Aus­tralia once more and re­turned w a trio of sen­sa­tional sign­ings, ex­cit

Cham­pi­ons: Hal­i­fax cap­tain Chris An­der­son holds aloft the cham­pi­onship tro­phy af­ter Fax’s 13-13 draw with Feather­stone Rovers in 1986. Be­low: the play­ers cel­e­brate af­ter win­ning the club’s first cham­pi­onship for 21 years

Tri­umph: Hal­i­fax’s Aus­tralian full­back, Joe Kilroy, right, is set to re­ceive the pas match-clinch­ing try in Fax’s vic­tory over St He­lens, 27-18, in Jan­uary 1986, wh the top of the rugby league ta­ble. The match was played at Leeds’s Head­ingl the Thrum Hall ground was ice­bound. In­set: Hal­i­fax pres­i­dent David Brook

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