attacking fullback Joe Kilroy and forwards Cavill Heugh and Geoff “Wild Man” Robinson.
There was a long list of domestic signings too, with scrum half Gary Stephens joining from Leigh for a bargain £4,000 and goal-kicking fullback Colin Whitfield coming from Wigan for a club record £25,000.
Second-row forwards Paul Dixon, from Huddersfield, and Neil James from Castleford, were joined by Brian Juliff, from Wigan, and John Crossley from Bradford Northern.
Dick Fairbank signed from local amateur side Elland and former Halifax player Mick Scott returned to Thrum Hall from Wigan for £9,000. Finally, crowd pleasing winger Wilf George signed from Widnes for £13,000.
David Brook’s target for 1985-6 was a modest top eight place. Things started badly with a 12-12 draw at Oldham followed by three straight defeats at Widnes and Salford and at home to lowly Dewsbury. That left Fax 15th in a 16-strong division.
But suddenly the new-look Halifax started to click and the team strung together an impressive run of 14 unbeaten games – 12 wins and two draws – which saw Halifax rapidly climb the table. The highlights included a rare win over Leeds at Headingley, 22-20, followed by an epic 12-12 home draw against mighty Wigan, both in December, which took Halifax into the top three.
A 16-10 win at Swinton on New Year’s Day 1986 lifted Fax to second and four days later, faced with an icebound Thrum Hall, Halifax took their players and fans to Leeds and defeated St Helens by 27-18 in a “home” match played on the heated Headingley pitch.
That victory took Halifax to the top of the table for the first time and, apart from two brief dips to second place, stayed there for the rest of the season. In fact Halifax lost only twice more in the league, including at St Helens by 22-10 in March. The other defeat, in bitter January, was against Widnes, by 15-8, in a home match played at, of all places, Halifax Town’s Shay stadium, when exposed Thrum Hall was again icebound. While other clubs had built up a backlog of fixtures caused by the weather, Halifax had moved heaven and earth to get them played, a factor came to be seen as helping the club to win the championship.
In February Fax played another epic match against Wigan, drawing 6-6 in an astonishing defensive performance at Central Park in front of 19,102 fans. Then came the defeat at St Helens but after that Fax won six straight matches, hammering Hull KR and Castleford away from home and overcoming Swinton, Warrington, York and Bradford at Thrum Hall.
Halifax remained top of the table as the crucial final league match against Featherstone drew near at the end of April . . .
Score draw: the Thrum Hall scoreboard and part of the 7,465 crowd at the end of Halifax’s match against Featherstone Rovers. The 13-13 score gave Halifax the championship and saved Featherstone from relegation. Both sides scored two tries, two conversions and one dropped goal, so the Halifax goal tally should read 3 rather than 2. Left: crowds gave the Halifax players a hero’s welcome as they rde through the town centre to a reception at Halifax Town Hall
ss that led to his hich took the club to ley ground because