Hall to aim for in club’s new bow to an eternal Fame

Rich Hayes

Vic Yorke

Norman Fender

Basil Watts

First published in Diary York Press: Photograph of the Author by

RIGHT, we’re going to kick off the new season of York City Knights diary pages with long overdue news – a York Rugby League Hall of Fame is to be created imminently.

What’s more, readers of The Press are being asked to play their part in getting it up and running by delving into their memory banks and nominating players from the 145-year history of York Rugby League Club for inclusion.

A Hall of Fame has never before been initiated for the club in any of its guises, at either Huntington Stadium or the old Clarence Street ground, but in five weeks’ time, five, six or seven greats of the game in York are to be inducted into an inaugural list that will go down in official annals.

The first inductees will be decided by a committee comprising representatives from the supporters’ club, the Knights club management, ex-players, club historians and The Press.

And they will be announced at the supporters’ club’s big sporting dinner to be held at Bar 13 at Huntington Stadium on Saturday, March 16, at which ex-Leeds and Great Britain star Keith Senior will be the guest speaker. The inductees, or members of their family, will be invited to attend the event as special guests.

It is planned that one or two names will be added to the Hall of Fame every year.

Said club historian and statistician Stuart Evans: “After many, many years, including the club folding and starting up again, this is a wonderful suggestion, and I for one fully support it.

“Many clubs in rugby league have their own hall of fame with players inaugurated every year. York Rugby League Club has been going since 1868 and it's about time some of the great players from down the years – the 145 years – get this kind of recognition.”

He added: “So many people have so many memories about the game and the club in the city and this is a great way also for people to enjoy those memories again.

“I suppose it might cause some controversy with people debating who should be on the list but it will be a great talking point and a lot of happy memories will come flooding back, which can only be a good thing.”

The criteria laid down for inclusion in the York Rugby League Club Hall of Fame is two-fold.

Players to be considered must have played for the club for a minimum of four seasons and they must be retired for five years. All eras, from 1868 onwards, will be considered.

A quick breeze through old cuttings from The Press library suggests it will be a mighty tough decision to pick the first-ever inductees – although the good thing is players can be recognised for years to come given that names can be added to the Hall of Fame every season.

Stars from the glory days of the 1930s, which brought the club’s only Challenge Cup final plus two Yorkshire Cup titles, include Sep Aspinall, who played 163 times in six seasons, and Welsh dual-code international Norman Fender.

In the previous decade, when the club earned the nickname the Dreadnoughts and beat the touring Australian team of the time, much is written of J Betteridge and F Mirfield.

Fans of a certain vintage will never forget Edgar Dawson and Basil Watts gracing the Clarence Street turf in the 1950s on their way to Great Britain recognition. Those two heroes played 693 games for York between them, while Willie Hargreaves, another of the greats, set a club appearance record of 449 between 1952 and 1965, which still stands.

Also in the 1960s, Vic Yorke broke many scoring records, while Gary Smith played 406 times in the 1970s, being a star man in many of them.

Then followed the likes of Stewart ‘Corgi’ Horton, Geoff Pryce and Peter Phillipo in the 1980s, not forgetting Graham Steadman, who took York to within 80 minutes of Wembley in 1984, and the ever-popular Graham Sullivan in the 1990s.

In the modern era, local lad Rich Hayes played 239 times for York Wasps and the Knights, in a career comprising more than 400 professional appearances – a figure very few players get close to these days.

He was even named recently in former Wigan, Hull, Hull KR and Salford scrum-half Craig Murdoch’s ‘Dream Team’ of players he had played alongside – a list featuring luminaries such as Jason Robinson, Gary Connolly, Shaun Edwards and Andy Farrell – despite the fact Hayes never played in Super League.

Then of course Mick Ramsden stuck by the Wasps during their dire period and came back stronger with the Knights to help the club to promotion before hanging up his boots and joining the backroom staff.

So, who else should be considered? The above list is merely a taster to get the memory banks moving – but is not a definitive line-up of nominees.

Anyone with suggestions is asked to email peter.martini@thepress.co.uk or tweet @pmartinipress – and these names will be forwarded to the Hall of Fame committee.

Feel free to include reasons why you think they should be included and what stands them out, and throw in a few anecdotes, too. It could all be published in these pages in the coming weeks.

Don’t forget to snap up the last remaining tickets for the dinner in March – phone organiser Gary Hall on 01904 634902, or the club office on 01904 767404 – at which the inaugural Hall of Famers will be inducted.

It should be a memorable night.

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