Glory days f Fax champi
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