Workington Town RLFC - The History

Workington Town RLFC was formed in December 1944 at a meeting held in the Royal Oak Hotel, Workington (now the Labour Club) and in attendance was Mr John Wilson the then secretary of the Rugby League. It was decided at the meeting that the club should be registered as a business and that an application for membership of the Rugby League should be submitted. From those in attendance at that meeting the first Board of Directors was formed and the application for membership of the senior section of the Rugby League was agreed at a meeting held on 23rd January 1945 at the Grosvenor Hotel, Manchester.

The rise to the top was nothing short of miraculous as within six years of the first win, at home to Broughton Rangers in front of 4,100 fans, Town had risen to the pinnacle of Rugby League Champions when they defeated Warrington in the final at Main Road Manchester on 5th May 1951. The following season they then went on to defeat Featherstone Rovers at Wembley on 19th April 1952 to become Challenge Cup Winners. No other club, before or after, has lifted both these trophies within such a short period of their formation. But it did not stop there, they also appeared at Wembley on two more occasions, in 1955 vs Barrow and 1958 vs Wigan. Unfortunately both of these matches were lost, but nevertheless they were great achievements for what was still a fledgling club.

But things did not always go their way as in their first season they attained the status of being defeated by an amateur side, a very rare occurrence in those days. This defeated came at the hands of Sharlston Rovers in the fist round of the Challenge Cup. Fortunately for Town the first round was a two leg affair, and they were able to make amends in the return leg and progress to the second round, but it gave the club a stark reminder that it was not always going to be easy.

After the successes of the fifties, the shortage of silverware during the sixties would lead those looking back to think that Town had gone down in strength, but to many the opposite is the fact as, while the only trophy to be won was the Western Division Final in November 1962 it was during this period that Town attained the reputation of other sides fearing the journey over Dunmail Raise to confront one of the most fearsome packs in the league. If several of the first choice players were out through injury, or the like, the replacements were just as formidable.

The early seventies brought demise of Town as a power in the game and the fans dropped off making it very difficult for the management to come up with the cash to bring in top class players. Indeed the wealth of talent which was still in the Cumbrian scene were being enticed out of the county to other clubs, and the rise back to the top only came when a top class team consisting mainly of home grown player started to bring back glory to the Town by appearing in a Lancashire Cup Final in October 1976 and although they were defeated by Widnes on that day, in winning their way to a Lancashire Cup Final, this team had achieved what the great sides of the fifties and sixties could not. And it did not stop there, for they appeared in a further three finals in consecutive season winning the trophy by defeating Wigan in the 1977 final.

Again, this great side was broken up and Town went into decline, and while there were some small successes, the eighties were the lowest era in the clubs history as it saw Town mainly as a yoyo side going in and out of the first division but mostly wallowing half way down the second. During this period, the fan base practically disappeared altogether, and as the nineties arrived it was a third division rugby which they found themselves in. This was the low point and things had to change, which they did quite dramatically as by May 1994 Town were again amongst the trophies as they lifted the Second Division Leaders Trophy and went on to defeat London Bronco's in the Second Division Premiership Final at Old Trafford, having also appeared there the previous year and going down to Featherstone Rovers. These were very exciting times to be a Town Fan as the buzz around the town and the number of coaches going to every away match was phenomenal and reminiscent of the fifties. This was just the start of things, as the following season Town achieved the status of being a founder member of the newly formed Super League and while the position was short lived, it was great while it lasted. 

1996 - 2011 :Summer Rugby and Super League

When the Super League was set up, it was proposed that Workington merge with Barrow, Carlisle and Whitehaven to form a Cumbrian Super club to be based at Workington. This was, however, resisted and an unmerged Workington took part in Super League but went on to record only two wins all season. They finished bottom of the table and were relegated to the Northern Ford Premiership with significant debts.

In 2002 Town dropped into National League Two as a result of losing to Dewsbury in what was the fore-runner of the NL2 Grand Final. Billy McGinty took over as coach on 25 May 2003.

In 2003, Ged Stokes was in charge of the New Zealand A-team on their tour of England, at the end of the tour, he was offered the vacant coaching job at Town. Workington were at a low ebb and had only seven players in their squad. Ged however had some excellent contacts through his experiences with his country and brought with him the multi talented Lusi Sione, influential hooker Jonny Limmer and blockbusting prop John 'JT' Tuimaualuga who went on to become one of the most feared props in the division after a slow start.

A Challenge Cup game against Leeds brought a bumper crowd that allowed the club to clear their debts.

The club prospered and went through a full home campaign without losing a game as some scintilating attacking play usually with the elusive Sione at the fore saw Town a dominant force at Derwent Park.

Ged Stokes left the club and eventually ended up coaching up the road at Whitehaven and whilst in the UK his son Ben took up cricket at Cockermouth C.C and is now a full England International all-rounder!

Assistant coaches Craig Barker and Les Ashe took over and led the team to the Elimination Semi-final but they were defeated by Oldham. A few weeks after Town's 2007 season had come to a close, Town appointed Whitehaven coach Dave Rotheram as their new coach.

In Rotheram's first season in charge Town finished 8th in National League Two with only six wins from their twenty two games and were eliminated in the first round of the play-offs at Keighley.

Following a poor start to the 2009 season, with Town only gaining two wins up to that point, Dave Rotherham decided to step down. He was replaced in July 2009 by joint coaches Martin Oglanby and Gary Charlton.

2011 was a much better year with Town reaching the 2011 Championship 1 Grand Final by defeating Keighley Cougars 19–10 away in the elimination semi-final before ultimately falling short losing the promotional final to the same opponents 32-12 which saw club stalwart Neil Fraser cap his final appearence in his beloved blue & white with a late try.

2011 - present will be updated shortly.

Joe Holliday.

Information also provided via Wikipedia

Honours

Rugby League Championship
Winners 1951
Runners-Up 1958

Rugby League Challange Cup
Winners 1952
Runners-Up 1955, 1958

Western Division Championship
Winners 1962/63

Lancashire Cup
Winners 1977
Runners-Up 1976, 1978, 1979

Division Two Championship
Winners 1993/94

Division Three Championship
Runners-Up 1992/93

Divisional Premiership
Winners 1993/94
Runners-Up 1992/93

Club Records

MATCH RECORDS

Highest Score - 94-4 - v Leigh 1995

Tries - 7 - Ike Southward v Blackpool 1955

Goals - 14 - Darren Holt v Gateshead 2011

Points - 42 - Dean Marwood v Highfield 1992 & Leigh 1995

 

SEASON RECORDS

Tries - 49 - Johnny Lawrenson 1951-52

Goals - 186 - (inc 3 fg) Lynn Hopkins 1981-82

Points - 438 - Lynn Hopkins 1981-82