Trevor Foster

Bradford rugby league 'legend'

Trevor Foster died just three days after the launch of a book celebrating his life,
Trevor Foster: the life of a rugby league legend. His was a legend that continued to grow long after the end of his playing days, as he remained a positive and inspirational influence within the game into his 10th decade.

Trevor John French Foster, rugby league player: born Newport, Monmouthshire 3 December 1914; MBE 2001; married 1949 Jean Unsworth (one son, two daughters, and one daughter deceased); died Bradford, West Yorkshire 2 April 2005.

Trevor Foster died just three days after the launch of a book celebrating his life, Trevor Foster: the life of a rugby league legend. His was a legend that continued to grow long after the end of his playing days, as he remained a positive and inspirational influence within the game into his 10th decade.

Born in Newport and brought up in the pub run by his parents, Foster played rugby union for Newport Hibernians and Pill Harriers before being offered trials by the town's senior club. He had just one full season with Newport before he followed the path blazed by so many of his fellow countrymen and went north to play rugby league.

Initially, he turned down approaches from clubs including Wigan, feeling he needed to look after his blind father and also hoping to win a Welsh international cap before considering switching codes. The closest he got to that ambition was travelling as reserve for an international in Swansea and, in 1938, Bradford Northern persuaded him to sign for them.

Foster, a marauding wing-forward in union, became a mobile second-rower in league and was an immediate success in his new game. Like many of his generation, he found his progress interrupted by the Second World War, although he played plenty of rugby during those years, including wartime league internationals for Wales and Services rugby union sides as the ban on rugby league players was temporarily relaxed. He was stationed in Yorkshire as an Army PT instructor and in constant demand from both codes.

He was 31 by the time his war duties finished, although he had followed the not uncommon practice at the time of knocking off a couple of years off his age for Bradford's benefit - a fiction he felt obliged to maintain until he was nearly 90. It was almost as though his rugby league career was not starting in earnest until that relatively advanced age, but he made up for any lost time over the next decade.

Foster had re-established himself as one of the leading forwards in the game in time to be selected for the first post-war Lions tour in 1946. He was described as the most popular of all the tourists who embarked on board the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable, on the six-month trip to the southern hemisphere. A knee injury prevented him from playing in any of the three Tests in Australia, but he made his Test début against New Zealand in Auckland.

On the domestic front, Foster was a cornerstone of the impressive side that Bradford had put together, after spending the whole of the inter-war era in the doldrums. That team showed its quality by the unprecedented achievement of reaching the Wembley final of the Challenge Cup three years running, from 1947. In that first year, Foster scored a late try as Leeds were beaten 8-4. He was also in the line-up that lost 8-3 to Wigan in an equally tight contest the following year and scored again as Halifax were beaten 12-0 in 1949.

For a forward in his era, Foster was a prolific try-scorer, recording 130 of them in 432 games he played for Bradford before his retirement in 1955. Apart from his Wembley exploits, he appeared in five Championship finals and six Yorkshire Cup finals. He made two further Great Britain appearances in 1948 and played 16 times - seven of them as captain - for Wales.

He had been universally regarded as one of the very finest and fairest forwards of his generation. His durabilty was underlined by the rare achievement of continuing to play after his 40th birthday and even made a comeback in the A team to help Bradford through an injury crisis in 1957.

By then, however, his main focus had switched to coaching. As early as 1949, the Rugby League had appointed him as its first national coach. He gave that up because of the difficulty of fitting it in with his playing commitments, but he later became Bradford coach under the management of Dai Rees. He resigned from that and his other role as a director of the club in 1960. The following year, he became first-team coach at Leeds and, even after they chose to replace him, continued to coach the reserves. Remarkably, considering the present animosity between the two clubs, he combined that with helping to revive Bradford after Northern folded during the 1963-64 season.

The club had been in decline and under increasing financial pressure since the retirement of Foster and his contemporaries. Now he was in the forefront of desperate efforts to resurrect it by rallying public support, efforts that succeeded when a "new" Bradford Northern side reappeared for the start of the 1964-65 season. The Bradford Telegraph and Argus went so far as to say of his role that "but for his enthusiasm last winter, it is doubtful whether the club would exist today".

That was not the end of Foster's work for the club and the town. Apart from his latter career as an education welfare officer, he was an indefatigable worker for the Police Boys Club, where dozens of future sportsmen passed through his care, and a range of other charitable causes.

His involvement with his beloved club continued after its re-invention as the Bradford Bulls in 1995. Foster became its official timekeeper, a capacity in which he acted as recently as the game at St Helens on Easter Monday. Unlike many old players, he relished the modern game.

Always a proud Welshman, he was an energetic campaigner for the game's Challenge Cup final to be played in his homeland and, with perfect timing, Bradford delighted him by winning the trophy when it was first staged in Cardiff in 2003.

Dave Hadfield

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Life and Style
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

PMO Manager (Portfolio Management, ExCel, Cost Benefit Analysis)

£450 - £500 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: PMO Manager - 6 month co...

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Functional Consultant

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A Microsoft Dynamics CRM...

Senior BI Engineer (BI/MI, Data Mining)

£60000 - £65000 per annum + Bonus & Benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior BI Enginee...

Retail Promotions Manager – TV and Film Catalogue

Up to £171 PAYE per day (equal to 40 – 45K ) : Sauce Recruitment: This is a te...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on