ded the winners and losers of 1986
played, but the timekeepers, one each from Halifax and Featherstone, insisted there had been no error and in the end Wigan decided not to press the matter and, indeed, graciously praised Halifax for their title-winning achievement.
Four days later the Halifax players were given a hero’s welcome as they rode on an opentopped bus through town-centre streets lined with thousands of fans. Supporters, young and old, chanted “Champions, champions” as the bus made its way to the town hall for a reception given by the Mayor of Calderdale, Coun Tom Lawler. Even hard man Geoff Robinson admitted the occasion brought a lump to his throat.
For Halifax the championship win of 1986 was the start of a glorious period which saw them at Wembley the following year, beating highly fancied St Helens 19-18 in the Challenge Cup final in front of a crowd of 91,267.
A declining Fax team returned to Wembley again in 1988 but was thrashed 32-12 by a dominant Wigan side which went on to lift the famous trophy eight times in eight years.
Sadly that was the end of one of Halifax’s most successful periods and the end of a fine team with few stars. David Brook’s Aussie magic was wearing thin and as Chris Anderson and other imports from Down Under returned home they were replaced by lesser players on expensive contracts the club could ill afford.
Halifax’s champions slipped to fifth in 1987, then to eighth the following year. In 1989 Halifax ended up second from bottom and were relegated. With a strong following built up during the glory years Halifax were expected to bounce straight back – but they didn’t return to the top flight until 1991, by which time the club was in serious financial straits.
In the leaner years that followed Halifax did well enough to win a place in the revolutionary Super League when it was founded in 1996 and as Halifax Blue Sox managed to reach third place in 1998.
But in 2003 the Fax were relegated after a shameful season in which they won only one match out of 28 and lost even those points because of a breach in financial regulations. Fax have not been back in the big time since.
But the fans who witnessed the victory years – like those who watched the great Halifax teams of the 1950s and ‘60s – will never forget the thrill, the anticipation, the tension and the joy of those heady days.
For a handful of years in the 1980s Halifax’s success was the talking point of every pub, every workplace and many homes in the district. Fax inspired a buzz in the town that only successful sporting teams can create. The Fax faithful live in the hope that the glory days will one day return.