Rugby League: Thrum Hall tradition ends after112 years
Dave Hadfield witnesses the final farewell of a rugby ground which yesterday closed its doors on the sport for the last time
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Monday 23 March 1998
A ground that has staged rugby for 112 years closed its gates for the last time after Halifax had won what was misleadingly billed as a friendly against Leeds 35-28.
There is no such thing as a friendly when such fierce local rivalries are involved and there was enough of the real red blood of the game to make this a suitable finale to that long history as the club shuffles off to share The Shay.
They laid on the tradition with a big shovel yesterday. The Todmorden Old Brass Band played "Abide With Me," sung by what was described as "one of Calderdale's top vocalists," not helped by one of Calderdale's less reliable microphones - itself something of a Thrum Hall tradition in recent years.
There was a parade of ex-players, with the loudest welcomes reserved for their record try-scorer of the 50s and 60s, Johnny Freeman, who still looked fit enough to play in an emergency, and for their oldest survivor, Hubert Lockwood.
Lockwood, now 89, played for the side he never could have imagined being called The Blue Sox on either side of the Second World War.
"It's a sad day for me and for anyone with a long association with the club," he said. "I played on a lot of grounds that are now gone, but I never thought that Thrum Hall would be the next.
"It's a sign of the times, because there's no room to expand here. I've been down to have a look at The Shay this morning and I can see the possibilities there.''
The only serious breach of tradition was that it should be such a balmy, spring-like afternoon, not at all the conditions for which Thrum Hall is justly famous. You could, however, collect a Certificate of Attendance at the turnstiles - a reminder of some of the afternoons and evenings in the past when you had to be certifiable to be there.
Halifax even wore proper blue-and-white hooped jerseys that looked from a distance as though they could be made of wool. They were also numbered from one to 13, although not necessarily in that order.
For all that, it was Leeds - the epitome of everything that Yorkshire town teams resent - who started as though they intended to make the most of the occasion.
Tony Kemp scored two tries and set up another for Ryan Sheridan as they raced into a 16-2 lead, before two outbreaks of fighting showed that there would be no concessions to sentiment and saw Martin Moana and Dean Lawford - who like "Fax'' Craig Dean was later carried off with a potentially serious ankle injury - sin-binned.
The introduction of first-string forwards like Karl Harrison, Paul Rowley and Gary Mercer from the over-populated bench revitalised Halifax and, by half-time, they were starting to enjoy their own party.
Fereti Tuilagi was the catalyst, taking Gavin Clinch's kick to send the former Leeds full-back, Damien Gibson, in for one try and then taking Chris Chester's pass to score himself.
Tuilagi also supplied the pass for Mercer to put Halifax into the lead, although Graham Holroyd went half the length of the field to keep Leeds in contention.
Gibson's second try, the sixth of Martin Pearson's seven goals and a drop goal from Rowley gave Halifax a nine point lead, but Paul Sterling and Holroyd brought Leeds back to within one point.
It would not have been inappropriate if Holroyd's try, in the corner where Freeman scored many of his 290 tries for the club, had been the last at Thrum Hall, because he is a Halifax lad, who grew up on the terraces at the ground before being lured to the big city.
Instead, the honour fell to another local product, the reserve hooker, Danny Seal, who went over from close range in injury time. It set the seal on a long and proud history; the future lies at The Shay, but the loss of Thrum Hall is still a shame.
Halifax: Pearson, Gibson, Tuilagi, Daio Powell, Bouveng, Chester, Clinch, Marshall, Seal, Clarkson, Baldwin, Gillespie, Moana. Substitutes used: Mercer, Hobson, Clark, Monro, Harrison, Rowley, Dean.
Leeds: Harris, Sterling, Blackmore, Godden, Rivett, Kemp, Sheridan, Masella, Lawford, Fleary, Morley, Farrell, Glanville. Substitutes used: Holroyd, Cummins, St Hilaire, Daryl Powell, Cantillon, McDermott, Carvell.
Referee: R Smith (Castleford).
Latest in Sport
Crystal Palace manager latest: Malky Mackay ruled out due to messy departure from previous club Cardiff
Sami Khedira to Arsenal: Midfield omitted from Real Madrid squad for Spanish Super Cup
Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
Angel Di Maria latest: Manchester United target is Real Madrid's 'best player', says Diego Simeone
Luis Nani exit: The curious case of the Manchester United winger
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 World peace? These are the only 11 countries in the world that are actually free from conflict
- 4 Nicki Minaj 'Anaconda': Singer finally releases predictable video
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women
£300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Digital/Ecommerc...
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...
£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply special educational ne...
£32500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Birmingham: European Social Fund...