To use a modern term, for all their dominance in the period between 1953 to 1956 Halifax could have been described as “chokers”.
Ok, so they won the Yorkshire Cup in 1954/55 and 1955/56 and won the Yorkshire League in 1953/54 and 1955/56 but were also runners up in the championship finals of 1953,1954 and 1956 and the 1954 and 1956 challenge cup finals in addition to the above. That double of champions and cup winners was so elusive.
In a game of fine margins though things could have been different, especially in the championship final of 1956, a game brought to mind by the recent death of Colin Hutton.
This took place on Saturday May 12th of that year when Hutton (whose status in the game is such that he is a member of the RFL Hall of Fame) kicked a penalty goal for Hull two minutes from time to win the game 10-9 for the Airlie Birds.
It was a brave decision by Warrington referee Charlie Appleton to penalise Halifax with so much at stake but perhaps he thought that it had been such a miserable day for kickers that it wasn’t certain that Hutton would land the goal.
This is the game in which Fax scored three tries to two but stand-in fullback Peter Briers couldn’t convert any of them and also missed a penalty. Briers was playing instead of the injured Tuss Griffiths and the debate lasted for a long time as to whether or not the latter would have kicked some of those goals had he been available. Hutton fared even worse as, although he kicked the one that mattered when it mattered, he had previously missed four other efforts.
The Halifax side that day watched by 36675 spectators was Briers, Arthur Daniels, Tommy Lynch, Geoff Palmer, Johnny Freeman, Ken Dean, Stan Kielty, John Thorley, Alvin Ackerley, Jack Wilkinson, John Henderson, Derrick Schofield and Ken Traill.
Those three tries came from Daniels, Palmer and Freeman as Halifax recovered from being 8-0 behind early in the second half to be winning 9-8 as the game reached it’s climax.
Perhaps it was no surprise that those three players were on the scoresheet as that Halifax threequarters scored no fewer than 139 tries between them in that 1955/56 season with Daniels leading the way with 34 of his own.
It was the last game for the club for Lynch. The former All-Black (his signing for £5000 had been sensational) was going home after four memorable seasons at Thrum Hall. His departure would obviously be a loss but the pill was sweetened by the fact that local youngster John Burnett was waiting in the wings. You couldn’t get more local than Burnett either because he’d signed from amateur club Pellon.
The other thing that strikes me about this time is how experienced a unit it was.
These days we see it as a notable landmark if a player achieves 100 appearances for a club. There are fewer games these days of course whereas in 1956 there would be 36 league games plus Yorkshire Cup and challenge cup ties.
In that team at Manchester nearly 61 years ago, Kielty went to set a club record for appearances for Halifax of 482 which is unlikely ever to be surpassed but Daniels (377), Freeman (396), Dean (394), Palmer (208), Thorley (262), Ackerley (396) and Wilkinson (252) also all had lengthy careers at Thrum Hall.