When organised rugby was first played in Wyke is a little obscure. But on August 22nd 1890 a gentleman named Ernest Ward who owned the Wyke coal mine decided, along with some friends and associates from the Robin Hood Inn, to form their own rugby club. Wyke were in those days a rugby union team; due to travelling difficulties which at the time was by horse and cart, fixtures were played on a friendly basis with neighbouring village teams
The first game was at home to Thornton which was played on the village green opposite the Robin Hood Inn. The players changed for the game in the stables adjacent to the Inn. Wyke were the victors by 5pts-2pts. They only remained on the village green for three years before being asked to leave by the church committee because of the damage they were doing to the turf. A short move was made to a new site of open land at the top of Wyke Lane, this was to be their home ground until 1946 when Wyke moved to their present ground in Worthinghead Road
When the Northern Union was formed in 1895, Wyke joined the Bradford League which had a mixture of senior clubs “A” teams, and leading junior clubs. Wyke’s first match was against old rivals Victoria Rangers, winning by 7pts-2pts. Their first trophy success was in 1902 when they defeated Halifax “A” in the Halifax cup final at Thrum Hall in front of three thousand spectators 15pts-5pts.
Such was the complicated transfer system in the professional game during these early years, in the late 1890’s many clubs, Bradford included, had what was known as an open register with all the local sides on their area. This meant that if the club so wished they could use these players at any time on a ‘loan period’ to see if they could fit into the team. Many players made one or more appearances then went back to their original club unless the Bradford club signed them up just to play for them.
Also there has never been any mention of any transfer fees or any money changing hands, if indeed it did. Many players who signed for Bradford were mostly from local clubs and all Bradford had to pay out was the registration fee of about Â£10 in those days. As any other club, Wyke had their share of players signing for Bradford, which included:-
R Findlow (half back) June 30th 1899 Played 2 matches
R Holt (forward) August 1896 Played 56 matches
J Patrick (full back) November 1897 Played 58 kicking 16 gls
R Robertson (forward) August 1895 Played 218 Tries 23
J Edmondson (forward) August 1895 Played 19
H Holden (forward) August 1895 Played 129 Tries 5
J N Fearnley (forward) August 1895 Played 111
S Neville (forward) October 1897 Played 9
R Blake (forward July 1899 Played 10
J Gower (centre) July 1906 Played 2
E Pickles (full back) January 31st Played 1
During the latter part of 1894, many players (some from Wyke) started to voice their anger at having time off from work in order to play for their club. By breaking time at work they were constantly short in their pay packets and wanted some sort of restitution to make up for their loss of earnings whilst players. Many amateur teams were in the same situation and sometimes found it hard to put out a strong team, as several of their players refused to play, saying they could not afford to lose half a day’s wages. Due to this, Wyke suffered at the hands of the Bradford, Huddersfield, Halifax and Leeds professional clubs because players were being paid for breaking off work.
After their cup success in 1902 Wyke joined the Halifax League and had many successes up to 1914, winning the Halifax cup and League championship on 7 occasions. Just before the first world war started, Wyke won the Halifax league and cup and reached the semi-final of the Yorkshire junior cup losing to Leeds ‘A’ at Headingley 12 pts to 0pts. During the war nearly half of the Wyke club were called up for army service, the leagues were decimated with some teams just playing friendlies whenever possible. After the war Wyke joined the Yorkshire Senior League, a semi-professional set-up.
Tragically, four of the 1914 team were killed in action during the war.
In 1919 Wyke again reached the Halifax cup final but this time losing to Halifax ‘A’ by 20pts-5pts before three thousand spectators. In the league Wyke finished fourth behind winners Rastrich. For the first time Wyke entered the Rugby League challenge Cup reaching the fourth round before losing at home to Featherstone Rovers 13pts-0pts. In 1920 Wyke reached the semi-finals of the Yorkshire Amateur cup eliminating:
1st Windhill Home 11-0
2nd Sowerby Bridge Away 19-0
3rd Rastrick Home 17-0
4th Leeman Wanders Home 10-6
Lost S/F Elland Away 5-4
In 1921 Wyke again reached the Yorkshire cup semi-finals losing to Leeds ‘A’ at Headingley by 8pts-0pts whilst winning the Halifax champtionship. In 1922 Wyke again entered the Challenge Cup eliminating 1st Rochdale St. Patrick’s Home 18pts-6pts.
2nd Heeley Adults Home 16pts-0pts
3rd Rastrick Away 6pts-4pts
4th Featherstone Rovers Away 11pts-2pts
5th B.O.C.M. Home 34pts-6pts
Away 14pts-0pts after drawing 5pts-5pts at Wyke
The next few years was a tale of near misses, with several players retiring and players signing for professional clubs. Wyke were having to rebuild their side and found that the Yorkshire Senior League was too strong for their young side, so in 1927 joined the Bradford League. In 1929 Wyke won the Bradford cup for the first time and finished runners-up to Victoria Rangers in the league. In 1934 the present Wyke side had virtually grown up together wince 1929 and this year proved that. After several near misses in the Yorkshire cup Wyke reached the final for the first time, beating B.O.C.M. from Hull 20 pts to 10pts at York, they also won the Bradford Cup, League championship and top four play off. Again the professional clubs were knocking on the door and several players signed professional, including D Fry, J Emmett, J Malone and K Whitehouse, all to Bradford Northern.
With virtually half the side turning professional Wyke were again having to rebuild their team and the club had two lost years until 1936 when Wyke again won the Bradford cup. Wyke’s next trophy success was in 1938, winning the Bradford Cup and League championship but the second world war was only a few months away.
As the war dragged on, more players were involved with the services. So a situation that appeared in the 1st world war reared its head again. Players were allowed to play for whatever club they liked if their club either did not have a game or did not need their services for a particular game, but most of the matches between 1939-1945 were played as friendlies.
In 1946 Wyke carried on playing in the Bradford League and the club had to move from Wyke Lane to Wyke recreation ground because the Wyke Lane ground was required for housing building. The Junction public house was where the players had to change and walk down to the Recreation Ground. In the first two years Wyke won the treble of Bradford Cup, Keighley cup and League championship and reached the fourth qualifying round of the Rugby League Cup. Club Captain Norman Hayley was signed by Bradford Northern and went on to play 198 matches as hooker for the first team.
In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s Wyke had a very good relationship with Bradford Northern due to the fact that Northern came down the road from Odsal and signed on Wyke Players and in return Wyke had the pick of Northern’s ‘A’ team players on permit. In 1952 Wyke obtained a player coach named Donald Ward, probably the best scrum half ever to play for Northern. Donald played a total of 232 first team League matches for Northern and for the next few years Donald led Wyke to league and cup successes and reached the semi-final of the Yorkshire cup in 1953. Wyke eliminated:
1st round Eastwood 54 pts-0pts
2nd round Victoria Rangers 8pts-6pts
3rd round Birkby YC 15pts-4pts
4th round Batley Carr 14pts-2pts
Semi-final Redhill Lost 13pts-7pts
In the 1950’s and 60’s Wyke had a very good youth policy with the teams playing at under 17’s and 19’s level which provided players for the open age side. These matches were mainly played on Sunday mornings and afternoons. In 1960 Malcolm Taylor rejoined the club from Clayton and for the next 17 years was a player, coach and secretary and through out the 60’s kept the club together single handed. In the 1960’s Wyke won the Bradford Cup, League championship and top four play-off. Throughout the decade the team showed very little change except for the odd junior player coming through the ranks and enjoyed its most successful period.
In 1969 over 2000 spectators witnessed the cup final with West Bowling which ended in a 9pts – 9pts draw. In the replay Wyke ran out worthy winners. After this final several of the older players announced their retirement from the game. As a result in 1970 the under 19’s team was disbanded as most of the players had moved up to the open age side. Due to the disbanding of the under 19’s several players chose to play for the Bradford Northern Colts which resulted in Michael Appleyard and Les Sellars signing for Northern in 1972.
In 1972 Wyke reached the cup final and suffered their heaviest ever defeat in a final going down 42pts – 2pts against Queensbury, this was due to Wyke being unable to field a full team due to injuries and suspensions.
In 1973 BARLA was formed and the Bradford League amalgamated with the Halifax and Huddersfield leagues to form the Pennine league. For the first two years Wyke was struggling for players and were playing in a very strong second division and finished bottom. During the summer of 74 Wyke were really struggling for players, only 8 players were attending training. With only 11 players to pick from Wyke lost the first match of the season, the following Tuesday evenings training session a stocky fellow with a flat cap was watching the lads train. After the session had finished this fellow came over to the lads and started shouting and bawling about how uselessthey were and that he had just been appointed head coach. His name was Bill Kenny who had played professionally for Halifax. Bill Kenny changed the club’s fortunes over the next four years, in his two seasons the club finished fourth in Division 3. The 1976-77 season was probably one of the clubs greatest achievements when the club won the division 3 title, winning all 22-league games and also winning the Bradford Cup at Odsal.
The following season Wyke finished 5th in division 2, but the following year third from bottom. Midway through the season Bill left the club to coach Doncaster with the best wishes from all concerned at the club.
The following two years Wyke lost several experienced players due to retirement and were duly relegated back to division 3. In the 1982 – 83 season the club appointed Ged Birkin, a graded coach and along with several new players the club finished second in division 3. In 1984 both the 1st & 2nd team lost in the Bradford Cup-finals and the 1st team was relegated back to division 3.
The yo-yo years continued when in the 1984 – 85 season the 1st team finished 3rd and were again promoted to the second division, while the 2nd team managed to reach the semi-final of the Pennine cup.
1986-87 season found the first team relegated to Division 2 of the Pennine League with a further relegation to Division 3 taking place. At this time the club was struggling for players, several of the more experienced ones having decided to leave and others retiring.
In 1987 the first team visited Maryport, Cumbria in the B.N.F.L. National Cup competition. They lost the match but a lasting relationship was formed between the two clubs which still prevails.
1991 saw the introduction of Under 10 and Under 14 junior teams both enjoying some success. Hopefully over the next few years the club will reap the benefit of its youth polcy and recapture the glory years.
In 1995 the club again started to promote junior rugby, forming an Under 17 team coached by Peter Walters and a number of those youngsters have progressed to the present open age teams.
Wyke have been fortunate to have had some dedicated people and players working for them too numerous to name that they have kept Rugby League in Wyke alive for over 100 years. These people are to be congratulated for their dedication and sterling loyalties to Wyke A.R.L.F.C